Jubilee Assembling -- Fifty Years of Correspondence/Mail Art: 1962-2012





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Published on Jul 25, 2011

36 participants
Anna Banana (CA) Vittore Baroni (IT) Keith Bates (GB) Guy Bleus (BE) buZ blurr (US) Carl Chew (US) Ryosuke Cohen (JP) Daniel Daligand (FR) Ko de Jonge (NL) David Dellafiora (AT) Dogfish (US) Emerenciano (PT) Franticham (Francis Van Maele, IE & Antic-Ham, KR) Hans Ruedi Fricker (CH) György Galántai (HU) John Held, Jr. (US) Birger Jesch (DE) Hendrik Liersch (DE) Ginny Lloyd (US) Oskar Manigk (DE) Graciela Gutiérrez Marx (AR) Mogens Otto Nielsen (DK) Rea Nikonova (RU) Jürgen O. Olbrich (DE) Clemente Padin (UY) Pawel Petasz (PL) Tulio Restrepo (CO) Tomasz Schulz (PL) Klaus Staeck (DE) Andrej Tisma (RS) Vincent Trasov (CA) Chuck Welch (CrackerJack Kid, US) Lutz Wohlrab (DE) Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt (DE) Keith A. Buchholz (US)

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Mail Art is postal communication through art. It is still a very lively phenomenon and open to everyone, even though it had its most critical phase in the time of détente from 1974 to 1989. Crossing borders, at least via mail, was a major incentive for many mail artists on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Especially in the Eastern Bloc and in the right-wing dictatorships in Latin America, it played an important role for the international exchange of ideas and images. The basic rule of mail art is simple: No jury, no return, documentation to all participants. A mail art project brings a lot of joy, but is a lot of work as well. An exhibition and documentation are rewards for the participants. The entries, however, remain with the initiator, which results in a collection, the mail art archive. Collecting is a legitimate motivation for mail artists, even better is a desire for exchange, contacts and communication. Mail artists are artists, who give away (parts of) their work for free, which did not increase their popularity with others. Therefore, they were often not taken seriously within the art scene, because they played with laymen and even waived their copyright, as "mail art knows no copyright." Mail artists believe that the market-proven, one-sided relationship between the artist and the viewer/collector should be extended to a receiver = sender principle. After all, in the eyes of mail artists "Everyone is an artist" (Beuys).

Ray Johnson (1926-1995) founded the New York Correspondance School of Art in 1962, the same year, George Maciunas invented the magic term FLUXUS, which provided a significant contribution to the art of the 20th century. Johnson's "school" is not a real place, because he sent out his mail from home, but with a call to add to it and then return it or pass it on. His correspondence activities lead to the first address lists. With the help of the Canadian groups Image Bank (with Vincent Trasov and Michael Morris) and General Idea (with FILE magazine) mail art became more popular. Jean-Marc Poinsot coined the term "mail art" in 1971. For his project "mail art, communication à distance, concept" the French art theorist asked avant-garde artists of the 1960s to send him an artistic contribution via mail.

This Assembling is based on personal invitations. It is a small extract from the network, but in a slightly larger format, which not all the participants kept - that is mail art as well. It includes a postcard in an envelope, perforated artist stamp sheets, works of different reproduction techniques and contributions of a diverse nature. Rea Nikonova colored each sheet, Keith Bates, Mogens Otto Nielsen and John Held, Jr. stamped them by hand. Guy Bleus made many different sheets, which together give a good account of his work as a mail artist. Many sheets are related to projects of the contributors. That suited the idea that first gave rise to this assembling, namely to collect material for a mail art exhibition in Berlin in 2012. Fifty years of Correspondence Art should be represented by 50 mail art approaches. That's the concept. The thirty-six contributions to this assembling is a start. I would be happy if they were shown around the world, where these boxes are now going via mail.

Lutz Wohlrab


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