January 19, 2014
Mail-Art: Motico And Fluxus
In a previous installment, we looked at the concept of mailing something that was neither a bill payment nor a letter to Santa. (And by “we,” I mean that I wrote and you, my three readers, slept through the lecture.) We also looked at the postcard, the simplest form of mail-art.
But what if you are a bit more prolific? Your restless creativity won’t fit on a puny postcard (even one the size of a box of Cheerios)? Or secretive? (Not all art involves people with clothing, after all.) Then stuff an envelope with any combination of the following.
There is the Collage. Whether you physically cut pictures out and paste them on a piece of paper, or use the cut & paste feature on your computer, or some other variant (I have put items on the glass of my photocopy machine, for instance). This has a history going back to Pablo Picasso’s 1912 Still Life With Chair Caning, but so simple that grade school children do it.
Related to this is the Add-and-Pass. Think of a collage put together by a number of people. I make a page with, say, my profile picture. I make ten copies and mail each to a different recipient with my address and a “return when complete” note on the back. However, be prepared that your initial art may (will) be altered. This variety is the most common, as you may alter/add as much or as little as you like. Think of it as a chain letter that is actually worth something.
Artistamps are homemade stamps, similar to Easter Seals, sometimes pre-perforated, sometimes pre-sticky. They are usually made to imitate actual postage stamps, but from fictional countries or nations that no longer exist (Narnia, Lilliput, Ruritania). Perforated artistamps are often placed on the envelope, beside the legitimate stamps.
In addition, you can fill your envelope with assorted things like confetti, comic strips, swatches of fabric, those spice packs you get with your spiral ham, salt ‘n’ pepper packets and unused medical tape. Remember that the Post Office frowns strongly on the inclusion of flammables, explosives, alcohol and body parts. (I think hair and nail clippings are permitted, if a little creepy.).
Basically, if you create it and mail it to someone, then it’s mail-art.
Where did this idea come from? Most likely, its seeds were planted in the Dada and found-object art of the 1910s, although its current form really gelled with Ray Johnson in the 1950s-1960s.
How do you contact these intriguing folk? Although mail-art purists sniff at using the dubya-dubya-dubya, there are those who post their jolly receivables online. Some slightly dusty lists can be found at http://www.iuoma.org/malinks.html and http://iuoma-network.ning.com/group/mail-art-projects. Another masochist, er, organizer is the Bellingham creator known as PJM, to be contacted at [email protected].
While the interwebby net has cut into personal correspondence and paying of bills, there is nothing like getting a surprise gift in the mail. Christmas arrives every week for a mail artist. As the old Life Cereal commercial used to say, “try it, you’ll like it!”
Image Credit: Thinkstock