P~O. BOX 3692
1. Carol Stetser, Guy Bleus,
John Held and Friedhelm Schulz
Deutsche Übersetzung, translated in German
2. Letter to To:Prof Olgierd Blazewicz
Introduction by John Held:
I received the following letters from Guy Bleus and Carol Stetser on the same day (March 29, 1991), and
they seemed to encapsulate a dichotomy that is prevalent in Mail Art; namely the contradictory positions that the
phenomenon should or should not, become historified, preserved, and unhinged as a free and unencumbered
creative act very much in the tradition and spirit of Dada.
As I have frequently written about Mail Art, I take criticism as Carol Stetser puts forth to heart. Besides
writing, I have lectured on the subject and amassed a substantial reference archive.
I have acted as if I want Mail Art incorporated into arthistory, and I do. It's important to me and a lot of other
folks on the planet that have labored long and hard under its yoke.
We see Mail Art as having opened new avenues in a global approach to
thinking about art and life, an in
breaking down the boundaries between artists and nonartists (and exploring what the definitions and/or
differences are). By acknowledging its rightful place in the progression of twentieth century avant-garde tradition,
more people will be exposed to the medium and become aware that the thrust of progressive contemporrary art is
not the commodification of the art object, but towards the elimination of boundaries between people of different
cultures, an understanding that we possess a great many more similarities than differences. This is true no only in
the practice of international Mail Art networking, but of ist practitioners as well.
But above all, this is art that is fun, pure and simple. Mail Artists
enjoy looking forward to the postal
encounter every day and we all want to keep it that way. The question boils down to: will all this selfexamination
ruin the joy of Mail Art?
I say no. Mail Artists have been their own curators, critics and archivists.
We have set outselves up as an alternative to the mainstream and have progressed on a parallel course. No
one tells the Mail Art story better than Mail Artists. We are being ignored by the establishment that profits from
artistic gain. They perceive us as weak and ineffectual, posing no threat to the status quo of art as commodity and
Artists say that boundaries are made to be crossed. Just as the lines
between artist and non-artists are blurred,
so is the notion of a quality art object. Who dares set himself up as judge?
In Mail Art all contributors participate on an an equal footing, their progress only measured by the energy
They devote to posting letters and communicating within the Eternal Network. The power of Mail Art is the
energy one receives in return from the energy expended.
The essays by Stetser and Bleus represent a fortuitous convergence that encapsulate two divergent viewpoints
I believe in the "correspondences" which occur in the mailbox.
--John Held Jr.
WHERE A MAIL ARTIST DELIVERS THE MAIL
I've written about my travels all around the world, but I've never written
anything about my experiences in
mail art. I guess its because I'm still doing it. As Colette wrote somewhere, "mYou can't write about love when
you're making love." But I can tell you the hows and why I got started.
In July 1978 Umbrella reviewed one of my self-published photography
books. The periodical contained lots of
interesting information, so I subscribed. I had no idea what the frequent references to mail art meant.
By January 1979 I still didn't know what it meant but I took a leap
nonetheless. I can still recall my excitement
when I mailed a postcard of a Martian umbrella into Judith Hoffberg's Umbrella Mail Art Show. And when I
received the catalog full of so many wonderful images and such playful exuberance -- I was hooked. I knew what
Mail Art was, but I couldn't explain it.
At that time I lived in a rebuilt ill tin shack that was once a miner's
cabin in the small town of Oatman, Arizona
in the Mohave desert. Wild burros still roamed the hills and the coyote trail passed in front of our house. Summers
we had rattlesnakes on the front porch and scorpions in the bathroom. The water pipes froze in the winter and the
asphalt roads melted in the summer heat. The human population numbered 200 and consisted primarily of retired
people and bums. I had no telephone and no TV. The closest gas station was 15 miles away, the supermarket was
25 miles. But in this "authentic Western ghost town" of Oatman was a post office where I worked for several
years. And in my mailbox was mail from all over the world.
In a small town you spend a lot of time discussing the weather, the
potholes in the road, who is sleeping with
whom, and who got drunk last night. The gossip bonds a community together and helps pass the time, but it does
have its limits. My correspondence had no limits. Mail art opened the world to me. It brought me information and
stimulation and friendship from all over the globe. It gave me hope and kept me from becoming as crazy as my
Mail Art also taught me the relevance of my own life The artwork I received
fed my brain but the personal
notes fed my heart. I loved receiving pictures of my mail art friends, their families, their studios, their home.. I
liked to hear about their vacations, their jobs, their moods, their likes and dislikes. And I finally realized that my
correspondents liked hearing about my life too; that I was as interesting to them as my artwork. Mail art radically
changed my perceptions of myself as well as this world we all share. As the world became smaller, it became more
open and more free at the same time. Mail art is truly communication among friends. That's why I continue to
participate in the eternal network.
Carol Stetser 12 Feb.1991
At Leavenworth Jackson's suggestion, I wrote the above article about
my experience doing mail art and mailed
a copy to Chuck Welch for his book. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder about the motives behind
this sudden urge among mail artists to become historians. Those of us participating in the network know why
we're doing it. We don't need to read a definition of mail art --we know what it is. We don't need to hear a lecture
on its aesthetics, on the original of its terminology, on its future direction. As practitioners we are already engaged
in its present and its future.
So why this need for exposition? Who are these books about mail art for? It looks to me like mail art is
being pachaged for consumption by the art market. Mail art is being turned into a commodity. And turning art
into a commodity is what we're all fighting against in the first place.
I'm also concerned about the need for chapters dealing with mail art and feminism. Participation in the
network is limited only by your ability to pay for portage. Mail art by nature is color blind and sex blind. Are we
now going to need chapters on mail art and homosexuals, bisexuals, Latinos, Blacks Tongans and Filipinos? Is
mail art being codified as His Story the way mainstream "art history" has been? Will we hear while mail/mail art
stars ask "Why are there no femail artist.?"
There are as many stories about mail art as there are participants.
The pathways of communication are infinite.
How can anyone presume to write a "history" of this netwok?
Carol Stetser, 27 March 1991
THE ADMINISTRATION CENTRE -42,292
1. Archives are cemeteries of memories, activities and curiosities.
They file the present for posterity. The
Administration Centre - 42,292 is a living archive of "comunicationism", of the postal rituals and
communicative gestures of the Mail-Art network, It is based on the democratic principle that "every" piece of
mail (envelopes,postcards, letters,...) is meaningfull in the socio-cultural context of the Mail-Art circuit So
every artist or non-artist is treated with the same care. The idealistic purpose was and is to store up the entire
narration of what happened by classifying "all" the received results of mail-activities from the Eternal
Network, But every archive will tell the true story of its own web.
2. 1991' the whole collection comprises original works and/or information of (plus or minus) 2000
networkers from 50 countries. The classification is in alphabetical order and per country. Every artist has one
or more files and/or archiv-boxes (if a lot of works are present) Individual numbers refer to an accurate index-
system, so that everything can be found easily.
3. The Administrative Archive is divided into seperate units: artistamps, artists' books, artpaper,
assemblings, audio-art, catalogues, computer arty, copy art, fax art, graffiti, magazines, mail-art,
performences, postcards, posters, rubberstamp-art, small-press publications, video art, visual poetry, ect.
4. Over the year a lot of mail-artists and those interested came to Wellen for a visit at the Administration
Centre. From abroad there were artists such as Banana, Baroni, Bloch, Dudek-Durer, Formentini, Graf
Hauffen, Held, Janssen, Olbrich, Pernecsky, Ruch, Skooter, Stake, Küstermann, Lorenzi, Van der Hoef, Van
Dijk, etc. Several students used documents of the Archive for research.
5. Since the foundation of the Administration Centre in 1978, a lot of exhibitions with works for the
Archive have been realized at different place, e.g. "Mail-Art-Party" Gemeentehui, Leopoldsburg, 1979;
Gallery Ruimte z, Antwerp, 1980 (with emphasis on indirect correspondence and Mail-Art by children);
I.C.C., Antwerp, '80; VUB, Brussel, etc.
6. Attention: Don't throw it away. Problem to store your superflous Mail-Art related things (old or new
envelopes, postcards, documents, magazines,ect.) Don't burn it. Send it to
(old or Send it to:
The Administration Centre -42,292
P.O. Box 43
WHAT IS THE QUESTON? THERE ARE CERTAINLY NO ANSWERS
The problem is this: Will the examination of Mail Art rob it of its
power? The beauty of Mail Art is the
mystery it can evoke. Every visit to the mailbox is an adventure in a brasve new world. There is an unseen
friend around a corner we didn't know existed. Peeking around those unknown corners (of the planet, or of
the mind) is what holds us to our chosen medium. If we delve too much into the reasons of the mystery, we
run the risk of its power.
But I find that the deeper I investigate the medium, the more wonder
I find. This is not shallow groundt
after the formation of the New York Correspondance School of Art by Ray Johnson, Mail Art has attracted a
vast array of people who have given generously of their time and talents. Each has a story to tell, and together
they point to directions toward which the progress of artistic, cultural and social history is moving. I find it a
fascinating parade. By ignoring it we miss a rare opportunity to examine not only the beat to which we
collectively march, but our own reaction to it.
John Held, Jr.
-John Held, Jr.
Art-Strike, Word-Strike, Denk-Strike
Friedhelm Schulz c/o Mail-Art-Museum
An der Kirche 12, 37574 Einbeck, Germany
18. September 1998
It's a long time ago, I heard something of yours. I hope you are OK!
But whenever I see your
name onna list somewhere, I see your nice portrait with the both pigtails and I have your
beautiful photobook in reminder, which I keep in my behalf private. You are private, I'm
private, and nobody is private. We are all listed and calculated, we are all members of an
official language, nation, town, family and its history.
This times I heard something of yours either only indirectly across a statement by John Held
with your letter about Mail-Art.
But, if you like to read my essay " art as a signal of my existence" you see, I understand Mail-
Art like you in the main as a private communication. I wrote this essay for a book about Mail-
Art between East- and Westeurope.
My Mail-Art archives became destroyed. All archive-boxes - about 150 or more, they stood at
shelves, - were poured out outside, tramples down, carriages drove about that and I needed six
months, in which I fetched every three days a plasticbag full with documents in my roomful
and cleaned and dried each piece . Mostly it was impossible to establish the date or the
names. I packed all in thirty big Chinese carrier-bags with zipper.
herefor I renovate at present my house and I instalate the museum in a new way - now with
the topic, "philosophy in Mail-Art" or "Mail-Art as a philosophy"., and I am just thereby, to
translate the blue slip of John Held into German (with his, yours and Guys essays about Mail-
Art), because I see there not a contradiction, as John, between Administration Center and
Carol Stetser, on the contrary, I see this as philosophy as the man's main problem. To explain
this I should start with Adam and Eva in Paradise, - but I put this nice Genesis-story at the
You should be happy, not to speak German because you would have to read some hundred of
pages with very complicate text about it; I could never translate it into English, and I didn't
find somebody of the students in the nearest University of Göttingen, who could translate it, I
could pay. So the corresponds about it will be mostly in German language.
But I will try to , to execute the keystones - the cogitation's with my simple words so good as
I can speak English.
ith it my Mail-Art museum is actually a virtual one and a museum of its own as a presentation
of its own problematically.
The Mail-Art-Museum will have two contrary pole. The first one I call "The Skyline of Mail-
Art". There I stress all directions of sentiments, wishes, ideas, intentions, political directions,
such as they are at this moment on my desk, - but with the idea, that the real Skyline is
outside wherever Mail-Art takes place at the world. The other pole is one special room, it is
called »Museum zur billigen Erstarrnis« ("MUSEUM TO THE APPROVE GROW STIFF" or
"MUSEUM OF THE CHEAP STIFFNESS") (in suggestion to the dadaist Carl Einstein;)
among of the room dances a life-size female doll made of wood, iron, electric engines,
Relays, magnets, lamps and much wire .It's the names "PAROXISM DE LA DOULEUR" (in
suggestion of the dadaist Francis Picabia, who has painted such a picture "Proxime de la
Douleur".) And there will be also a prokrustebed.
So the contrary of this conception it is not live and cemetery, such as Guy Bleus feels these,
but on one side: live (to it belongs as well the latter ends) and on the other side: the "grow
stiff" as each form of ISM as dogmatism.
'm trying to understand these contrary with the example "language and grammar". Our species
has spoken 1 million years, unknowingly oddly grammar. A child learns the language in three
years - without to be aware something of grammar such as subject, predicate, object, - - and
the child speaks better, than I do with my English after six years school and plenty of learning
And after one million years the human being discovers the grammar (Aristarchos of
Samotrake -217 to -145 .Chr. and Aristophanes of Byzantion -180 .Chr. substantiate the
scientific grammar); and after a normal child can speak, it learns at school and the teacher
teach: "To speak it is only possible, if you know the grammar".
One might say, to speak is private. Grammar is an official law with the criteria wrong and
true; and at school even in terms good and vicious! (if a child speaks wrong , one calls it
vicious.) one could say, "I do not need no regulate and commandments how I like to speak.
One could say: "grammar means control and the end of the freedom to speak, as I want to,
and it is a cutoff and disruption from the root, from which the language came into being."
Indeed on the face of it of both: the comparison from law of nature with the rules of grammar
as well as the named arguments against a grammar seem to be absurd, and it is absurd, but
they show clearly at a still nonunderstood problem of each culture and civilisation, each
religion and science - as well the science of arts.
And it is true, after mankind found the grammar, it had to leave a paradise of a certain
freedom for ever. After the languages in Europe found their respective own grammar, they
were going to be separate for ever in English, French, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian,
Swedish or German etc. They went into a prison of their languages.
and it is true, the equal phenomenon exists with the foundation of the
science with their
criteria of wrong and right of any structures, without forms we can't realize a contents. But
where we try to ascribe the contents at the form, or to identify contents and form, such as the
French structuralism, it is superstitiousness.
The same phenomenon we have with the theology with the ethics of good and bad and the
science of art with the aesthetics criteria with beautiful and ugly or good and bad. With all
these we have to leave a paradise of freedom and unbiasedness.
I started with Mail-Art 1983, as and because I was once again in big troubles in Berlin: my
studio became more than six times broken open, destroyed and desolates, there became put
fire and the fire brigade destructed my pictures with water. I lost my family and all friends, I
lost my job. The hoop of my car were pierced, the brakes were cut through. the screws of the
wheels were loosened, and one wheel knocked off at the motorway. it's been psycho terror
and I had to learn the feeling of panic.- I've had big fortune, that I hasn't met with an
accident.. At that time it was impossible to make an exhibition for me of my images. I didn't
understand real at that time, what happened. It was, because I published critic about a dirty
deal of the Berlin government. They've to kill me and they've to make me untrustworthy and
to disturb, to check and to publish furthermore this dirty affair. All this belonged still to the
pathological outgrowths of the cold war in West-Berlin.
Then I started my first Mail-Art action mainly to find friends or for
minimum to find some
public. I got even more than thousand letters onto my Mail-Art question "What is belief,
knowledge and fantasy." and I was very thankful. I couldn't answer all, because I hadn't any
more money. With the last money I made a large Mail-Art-exhibition in New York and then
in Berlin. But yet in Berlin I got again difficulties. From six rooms, which were promised to
me for the exhibition, I got only three. The German television rolled up, but in the last
minute, my name became eliminated by the reportage. But already before that a German
Mail-Artist made me clear: "You can't simple start Mail-Art, you have to start small, you've to
make a special way of sexuality and Mail-Art isn't for Christians." But I replied: Mail-Art is
free like jazz: The Jackson can sing "Oh My Lord" and Armstrong can sing "Ice-cream" or
what ever you want, if you don't discriminate somebody.
But these are already two contrary regulate of Mail-Art inside of Mail-Art. You see the devil
in the paradise: and he's not the face of this or the other rule, the problem is absolutely
basically: because even if you say, "no rule!" so is this already a rule. And you know, that
even the chaos and the entropy elapses according to determines. The very complicated
phenomenon begins, if you give a name , whereas the reference and difference of name and
term on one hand is simple and on the other hand contains the whole problems to understand
human existence. It is like the grammar.
But for me both belongs to the skyline of Mail-Art. If a French or Italian Mail-Artist provokes
me: "I want to fuck your wife" it belongs to the skyline of Mail-Art, but sure, it is not the
whole skyline of Mail-Art .
If several grasp to make Mail-Art towards an ideological sect, it is not the complete Skyline
of Mail-Art, but it belongs to. If Guy Bleus registers all this tendencies in Mail-Art, I think it
is very important. The "Administration Center" belongs to the Skyline of Mail-Art and your
manifesto, Carol, belongs to the Skyline of Mail-Art on a good place (with a translation into
You see, on my behalf this Skyline of Mail-Art I relate with the language, with the normal
live; the CHEAP STIFFNESS I compare with the grammar, with science, theology and
science of art.
But this is not yet the philosophy of Mail-Art. (have no trepidation, I'm not going to talk about
any ideology or tendency of Mail-Art as it should be, or as live or art should be, but I will talk
about "PAROXISM DE LA DOULEUR" and "THE PROCRUSTEBED" in the "MUSEUM
OF THE CHEAP STIFFNESS."
I am not an adversary of science, theology and science of art, and I am neither an enemy of
language or the grammar. I would like to know the English grammar much better as I do. I
think grammar is correct and useful. What my teacher taught me at school about subject and
predicate for instance in the sentence "This is a table." It is correct. I have read a lot about the
language. I know, the American philosophers are leading in the analytic philosophy of
language. But I know, that my teacher did not understood, what it means subject and
predicate. and I fear, there's no philosopher either in USA, who understands and could say,
what it means: subject and predicate in the sentence "This is a table." And the little bit, which
mankind know or guesses about that it is so complicated, that a normal human being and
more than all not a child, if it begins to learn the first conversation, would not understand it.
The simple rules I learned in the school, they are OK, they are right and useful, but they are
only simplifications, approximations of the function of language. But even the language itself
and all the words are only a grammar of my thinking and only an approximation of my
thinking and what I would like to say. In the same way all science, all theology and all science
of art are simplifications and only approximations of men including its thinking, feeling and
what he is; in the same way as of the world.
I asked in Mail-Art and I asked many German philosophers: "Were are the colors?" without
answer. Nobody knows.
Would you accompany a bird, which flays in fifteen minutes over all borders of Germany,
France, Luxenburg, Belgium back to Germany, you could think perhaps, that all languages,
nations and whose cultures are nothing but artificial names and definitions. But you know, it
is not thus just like that: so as the laws of nature indicate or become absolutely something
real, and one can make with its help both arms as well as tools , so is certain the different
nomination of people as French, German, Belgian etc the why and wherefore for 2000 years
endless wars, as on the other hand the grammar means the possibility, to translate the one
language into the other.
The rules of grammar, of scientific, theological or arttheoretical knowledge are correct and
useful and necessary, they are OK and right and useful. But certainly, naturally and
doubtlessness all these regulate and even all words become wrong, if I dogmaticate or if I
believe them. You know, the German Nazis and nearly all Germans believed in the last war in
science and Darwinism and they loose with that their humanity, the feeling of esthetics and
the basic of civilization. If human beings realize a law of nature for instance the function of a
human beings in society or in the nature - not only the motion of an arm - it is necessary to
think and to understand this, but to take and believe this as the truth, that is a mistake, if they
do not reflect, that such human grammar of language as well as of nature is always only
human knowledge and always only approximation, it means -and this is particularly for
Germans an important distinction - you have to think and to understand but not to believe it -
then it could and will become a moloch and an embarrassing catastrophic superstition,
because I would see human being like a robot or a machine in the one way, and in the other
way, if my doing or making art or thinking about others is made more automaticly withot
feeling and respond like the reaktion of a real robot;. And - please don't see this not as
blaspheme - in the same equal way can become not only science, but also theology ( as we
find today much in the fundamentalist Islam) to a automatic -religion (theology is not
religion!) and even science of art can led to an equal social illness, and imaginable are still
more worse derailments as we saw in this century. But I'm optimistic, I like science, theology
and science of art and it should be operated still more and intense.
And this is not yet the gist or the main object of my museum.
With the application or with the doing and realizations which based upon of such modern
knowledge the modern civilization and the modern art made a bifurcation, it means, they
went two different ways or directions.
Science, theology and science of art
all they are nonart and they are
going to the object.
Mail-Art and modern art are going the
direction of subjectivity.
In simple words it means: With Science we built machines, we made polities,
laws, justice, schools, class books and artificial social services for instance money, boss,
employee and worker in firms and administrations etc. With theology we made different
churches and denominations and their criteria for good and vicious, with science of art we
made museums, galleries, schools of arts and art-marked. All this, I think, it is good, it is our
civilization and cultural infrastructure we can be proud about. And - even if all this would be
ideal without mistakes and inequity, without war and without discrimination against human
rights, all this would be our prokrustebed, if it becomes a doctrine I have to subdue me and if
I had to stop or to deform my thinking and feeling in this artificial structure. And even if there
would be an artificial Carol Stetser, perhaps more pretty, more sexy, more intelligent and
strong as you, ( I would buy it) but as your dress your protective covering or your fig you'd die
in it, you would be not you and not Eva, not the truth and not the real life. All that I call
nonart in its intention. The big question behind this is "What we are doing, if we chance the
whole world in this way? How far a machine is a special form of dogmatism, if I have to obey
an instruction of it? (I don't have and there is not another simple answer about the difference
between socialization and indoctrination, between culture and "THE CHEAP STIFFNESS",
between education and dressage as my own freedom, independence, autonomy or sovereignty,
but all this words are even only settlements and I love the biblical genesis, you may read at
the end of my letter, because it demonstrates, that already the early civilizations of
humankind in Egypt and Ur 5000 years ago understood, that the beginning of language and
science is a fundamental problem of mankind and a loss of the paradise and the
The modern art - starting on Manet and Cesannes and particularly with DADA and even Mail-
Art went an other way of realization and action. This I call modern art. These distinction of
art and nonart is little bit another differentiation and more radically perhaps than the one of
John Held. He means something inside of the art-business and art-discussion. These other
direction in modern paintings, in jazz and in Mail-Art try to find again or to keep the own
subject behind all doctrine of school, of arts, behind the doctrine of seeming truth or likeness
or quality, but as well behind the state and his logic, behind the technics, behind church's,
behind the morale, behind the language and the artmarked and all official forms (you could
call it grammar) of languages and ISM. It is an intuiting reaction. By DADA it has been a
reaction against the official logic of the 1. world war. Millions of people in Berlin and Paris
queued up and were exalted to kill each other.
But modern art is not against old art or against civilization or language
or grammar or an
enemy of the sciences or the technics, it is conflicting mixed with the sentiments by the
enlightenment; modern art is no opposition against the state; and modern art is shiftless and
impatient to correct the deficit in the language, in science or in the religion, because it would
be otherwise only another language, another science, another state etc. with the same
The difference you may feel if you compare "science of art in a museum" and the thoughts of
an artist in front of the empty screen: any science, science of art and in the same way
grammar based on pictures or on language on something, which already exists and it is always
destined by something foreign . The normal reaction of a human beings, if he talks as well as
the situation of an artist in front of the empty screen based not on the intention, to make
something, what already exists. One makes something new, own and self-determined. (???)
In the equal way simplifies another comparison, but it is better to demonstrate the difficulty
of such distinction if you distinguish:
1. of a motion by a machine (with engines, electricity, switches and softwaresystems as my
Doll "Paroxism De LA Douleur") and
2. to move your arm, if and how you want it .
(1.)The motion by the machine is determines to a hundred% by laws from the physics.
(2.)The motion of your arm (in the same for me to write this letter) it is to a hundred% self-
determined, because you want it (because I want it). It is assured. But at the same time also
the motion of your arm is a hundred% determines by laws of the physics, of muscles, bone,
sinews among other things (just as the machine) .... but not only this. For instance my letter to
you, to Carol Stetser, it is in the same way to a hundred% determinate by you, because of your
letter to John Held. So it is to 200% destined by something foreign, - more than the machine.
Everybody know naturally , that the answer about "to be free" is still much more difficult as
only this antinomy by law of nature and freedom in all our doing, (what could be not
understood by science, philosophy, theology and arttheory until today : the question for
instance if the individual style of an artist is determines by the nature of the artist - in
opposition to his freedom -, whose evidence is still the main criterion of quality on the trivial
art market;) against what it is even the complexity and the multitude of the values and
responsibilities in a free society, which determine the quality of a culture widely much more
than those 200% and which would be according to such simple reckoning even much more
than thousand% - if you take into consideration only the ten commamdments without the
thousand other reason, »why« a human kind find to a free decision.
Therefor more than ever my answer and my definition can only be a simplification of Mail-
Art and DADA and any free doing of mankind.
But I think, modern art and DADA has been only a first intuiting step. A next step of
realization may be Mail-Art. Nobody needs any complicated theory to make Mail-Art. You
can't do anything wrong. I would be happy, if everybody in the world would know this
possibility to ask something or to get friendship, kindliness and answers. Mail-Art is in some
way like a paradise. I understand very well your anger, if you fear, we will lose the paradise
and we will lose the paradise of communication as friendship, if we try, to understand Mail-
Art as a part of the modern intention in the art. But you can't stop the thinkingness of human
beings. There are hundreds of books about Mail-Art. You can't prohibit to think, and you can't
prohibit to read these books - in the way, as the catholic church prohibits to read certain
books, or as Hitler burnt certain books, or such as the former communist part of Germany has
forbidden certain literature and music etc.. Mail-Art would become a goal and an abnormal
curiosum, - a doctrine. And I think Mail-Art can bear this.
The closest step of modern art can only be to understand the understanding,
if we don't want
to become only the reproduction (as a machine) to follow and to repeat the actions of our
grandmothers and grandfathers by DADA and by the expressionism e.g. or by the first Mail-
Artists, but as an understanding in this other direction.
But like a child, you don't have to know the grammar to make a real Mail-Art.
I heard a lot of good jazz in Berlin, in Copenhagen and in Casablanca. In common with John
Held I say, it is fun. Never I heard one of the famous stars. Only a few of them were world-
wide known. This is not the sense of jazz. But the intensity, to become famous exists as well
in jazz, - and certainly as well in Mail-Art. Mail-Art can tolerate it.
Well then to the finalisation: the relation of knowledge and belief correspond in many wise
with the relation of arttheory and art, of science and life, of theology and religion (faith), but
it is not complementary - because it not to separate.
Perhaps you could say: in contrast to a life which is dominates and overgrows by science,
technique and theory and strangulated by thousand rules, laws and social constraints there is
only the happening of art itself a complementary to it, as a reaction, perhaps as a mirror, or as
a seismograph to the background of the danger to become a doll or a prokrustebed, - modern
art and particular Mail-Art is in fact something like this and can mediate the feeling of your
own opportunity to make something self determined. With this point of view I demonstrate
the skyline of Mail-Art as the relation to the danger of stiffness, of Paroxism De LA Douleur
and the prokrustebed in the background of our culture and life.
But very sure, there will be never be a theory or another program, another theory, another
science or another theology or religion and even not a piece of art or any ISM of art, which
could be the complementary to our knowledge, it makes no difference in which way and
science and theology or arttheory. Therefore this letter can't be a philosophic answer to or
against any arttheory, philosophy or theology with theirs rules of argumentation. I'm trying
such in my letter to the Mail-Artist Birger Jesch and in a letter "the artist to the museum" to
Kornelia Röder and in my letter to the philospher Gerold Prauss. And I hope, in some years
there could be inside of Mail-Art and Internet a seriously contraposition to structuralism,
empirism and materialism. Only then, so long as outside of the art and only outside of the
Mail-Art becomes reflected over these media consists the danger of a misinterpretation and
whose irritating influence.
You've said in your letter to John, one can't speak about love by doing. I'm not sure. You can
and you have to speak by doing language, by speaking about language. Anyway I am
agreeable to your clause, because the deeper sense is: whatever one could say about love,
about any structure, about life, about language or about art and Mail-Art, it is always
something else than love, life, language or art or Mail-Art. And what I'm going to say is just
the thing, it can't exist a theory to distinguish both. Nevertheless each human doing, whether
love, life, language or art and Mail-Art it is always incidentally to knowledge and is
dependent as well from knowledge such as my identity is subject to my corpus. Between both
remains the whole world and all knowledge of all present and future.
The only and natural complement to all knowledge is only the single human being himself,
who knows something , with his and through his self confidence, when he reflected at himself
and the knowledge as something supposed, what is in him.
However, this diminutively moment of selfreflexion, the short lift of
the eyebrows with a
frowning, it seems too plain, too poco and too small to be the counterbalance to the big
machinery of the universal history, of the worldhistory, of the world order, and even too
fragile as counterbalance to the eternal treadmill of the everyday life with the rules of money,
marked, reputation, tradition and conventions etc. Perhaps I can ignore the power from the
grammar if I am talking without thinking about that, but against the laws of nature - even
compared with the state - I appear sometimes to be nothing of no significance and validity. If
others see me and my consciousness like that such as nothing, it is the "PAROXIME DE LA
DOULEUR" the height of pain. But if my own self begin to see and to understand me such as
nothing, I do not feel the agony any more, it is "PAROXISM DE LA DOULEUR" then it is
PAROXISM and in my behalf personally I need my God without any rules and explanation. I
see the towers of the cathedrals and minarets as pointer to the biggest power, from where I 'm
valid, and you see, both these meaning as well as my validity you'd find neither outside there
in the cathedral such as object neither with a microscope or thousand other physical
instruments, nor with the scalpel somewhere in myself. Anyhow it is the only reality and
validity of a human beings.
But I hope, my letter is Mail-Art and therefore an exception
and I hope to get a gracious and kind reaction of yours .
PS.: Here the oldest theory about this problem:
$2/15$ And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of
to dress it and to keep it.
$2/16$ And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the
garden thou mayest freely eat:
$2/17$ but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not
eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely
$2/18$ And Jehovah God said, It is not good that the man should be alone;
I will make him a help meet for him.
$2/19$ And out of the ground Jehovah God formed every beast of the field,
and every bird of the heavens; and brought them unto the man to see
what he would call them: and whatsoever the man called every living
creature, that was the name thereof.
$2/20$ And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the
heavens, and to every beast of the field; but for man there was not
found a help meet for him.
$2/21$ And Jehovah God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he
slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead
$2/22$ and the rib, which Jehovah God had taken from the man, made he a
woman, and brought her unto the man.
$2/23$ And the man said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my
flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
$2/24$ Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall
cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
$2/25$ And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not
$3/1$ Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which
Jehovah God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said,
Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?
$3/2$ And the woman said unto the serpent, Of the fruit of the trees of
the garden we may eat:
$3/3$ but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden,
God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest
$3/4$ And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
$3/5$ for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes
shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.
$3/6$ And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it
was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make
one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave
also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
$3/7$ And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were
naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
$3/8$ And they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden in
the cool of the day: and the man and his wife hid themselves from the
presence of Jehovah God amongst the trees of the garden.
$3/9$ And Jehovah God called unto the man, and said unto him, Where are
$3/10$ And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid,
because I was naked; and I hid myself.
$3/11$ And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten
of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
$3/12$ And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she
gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
$3/13$ And Jehovah God said unto the woman, What is this thou hast done?
And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
$3/14$ And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done
this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the
field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the
days of thy life:
$3/15$ and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy
seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his
$3/16$ Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy
conception; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire
shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
$3/17$ And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice
of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee,
saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake;
in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
$3/18$ thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou
shalt eat the herb of the field;
$3/19$ in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return
unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and
unto dust shalt thou return.
$3/20$ And the man called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother
of all living.
$3/21$ And Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and
$3/22$ And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to
know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also
of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
$3/23$ therefore Jehovah God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to
till the ground from whence he was taken.
$3/24$ So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden
of Eden the Cherubim, and the flame of a sword which turned every way,
to keep the way of the tree of life.
Dzie´n dobry! Przepraszam pana, mówie tylko troche po angielsku.
I was very happy to receive the letter containing your consent and interest to participate in my
project. Dziekuje! Thank you very much!
Don't worry about delaying your reply. As the completion date for my project is in the year
2000, we still have time - four years time.
But excuse this my late response to your letter.
I will send you my Mail-Art-News Nr. 23, perhaps in a few weeks. I'm working very hard on
it. It is a form of Art-Magazine with other contributions to the topic theme "The Postmodern
Art-theory" with some translations into En
glish. There you will find more information about
my position and intention and the thinking of other Mail-artists. I'm sending you this letter,
because I don't want to let you wait too long for an answer.
My special theme is to find a theory or definition of modern art as
a contribution to the
discussion about the "Post-modern-situation and art" in the present.
As you know, Europe is always 10 years behind the USA and Germany is particularly
afflicted with a paranoia towards all systems and theories because of the past experience with
the naive and radical exertions of sciences in the field of eugenics, in medicine, in darwinism
as racism and (private as well as national) egoism (the gainer is in the right ) by the Nazis.
But this sensibilisation because of this past experience with dangerous mistakes although in
scientific thinking should teach us, that it is not possible to belive all things and conclusions,
we can think in science too as well.
This is an old problem.
You will say perhaps, that science is not a problem of a privat artist or art in generaly and not
possible to be discussed with laymen and amateurs.
I know, it is nearly impossible to discuss about this inside the traditional-anarchist-groups or
with the modern anarchists as the quite big "chaos-movement" "No rule is the only rule." But
they belive in science! - I think, it is important for a young poeple to think this a while and to
make some experience with it, - and there should be space enough inside the community for
that. But there should be as well an answere. And I like this young poeple, because myself I
don't belive, that there are any rules outside of me, we could know as a fact.
Perhaps you know the islamic philosopher Averroes or Ibn Rusd (Abul Walid Muhammad Ibn
Ahmad Ibn Muhammad 1126-1198), - he teached and he belived, that science and religious
belive are not different - but with the restriction, that you should not teach science to beliving
poeple because not to distroy this beliving. For Averroes it was only dangerous for himselfe to
be a scientist, but with the naiv beliving in science in the past par exemple by the Nazi it was
dangerous for ill poeple because the "science of eugenic and puplic health", it was dangerous
for poeple from other race because the "science of darwinism"; and it was dangerous for
artists as a subject because the naiv beliving in the theory, that quality and truth of knowledge
as well as art has to be aequivalent to the object or could be tested infront of the object, that
knowledge and art should and could be a copy from the reality.
But nevertheless I like to read Averroes and I like his fighting for the sciences with his very
critical condition for his life and I would never take countermeasures. Naturaly I'm not an
Averroist to make science to an esoteric thing, (Averroism was [or is still] forbidden by the
kath. church) on the contrary I'm a striktly sympathizer for the frensh encyclopaedism and a
free University and a free Internet.
But particularly as a German but also in generaly I have to think about a limitation point from
that to belive or realise all posibilities one can think.
In the defence of science by Averroes as well as by Kant against criticism and antiscientism
both had to demonstrate the mistaces in the arguments by the opposition: therefor Kant had to
disprove the four main-antinoms as arguments contra the sciences. Both they had to disprove
many mistakes in wrong scientists theories to defence the right sciences. It means to
distinguish between pseudoscience or wrong science and right science.
But we know today, the problem is not easy like that.
So for example one can think or know correctly like the Nazi: "If we kill all ill poeple,
everybody will be healthy." It is possible to think this. But if you belive in this logic in the
way, that you could start to realise this, you are wrong, and somebody should stop you.
You could say: There is a mistake in this syllogism, because the very simplication: if one kill
somebody or many poeple with this argument, everybody as well as the structure of society
will become ill in the mind, because everybody has to be afraid to be or to become ill. So one
would have to kill at least everybody and nobody would be healthy.
But the relation between thinking and beliving, between science and beliving is not easy like
that and not clear till today.
To get a kompletly overview in the problems of postmodern theories, you should see perhaps
at some books by the professors: Derrida, Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault, Lacan, Barthes,
Althusser, Gunther Stent (USA and French) and Friedrich Friedrichsen, Peter Weibel, Christa
Steinle, Gerold Prauss (Germany). I attended a lecture by Stent in Berlin and was present
during the ensuing public discussion.
The pessimism of the postmodern results - expressed in some simple words - from two very
1. With the end of traditional regulates and forms in art and culture in the modern we reach
the ends of culture and cultural identity.
2. With the increasing intensity of adjustable social constraints through science and
administration into private society, identity and individuality as well as any personal meaning
lose any importance or relevance..
If you read the very good essay by the German Georg Schwering about
pop culture and the
origins of left wing rock and nazi rock, you will see that he fears that this situation is the best
underground for brainless fascism, egoism and hedonism. With this prospect the world seems
to be very dreary. This analysis by Schwering is o.k., and not bad or wrong, but unilateral. I
think the best and most important philosopher on this topic is Prauss. You should try to
organize a professional translation and editing of his book "Die Welt und wir" into Polish!
Gerold Prauss is teaching philosophy on the University in Freiburg.
And I learned from Prauss to see the mistakes in this postmodern position, you find also in the
esssay by Schwering.
I can imagine you asking students, if you question me: "do you want
prophety or facts?"
I would be very happy, if you would take the position of a scientist of art.
The problem with my simpl words:
To discover what lies behind a smile, Leonardo da Vinci pulled off the skin of a carcass.
Beneath the skin he found many very interesting and important things including the skull. The
"fact" is that what lies behind a smile is the skull. And this fact is not the truth.
The error isn't seeing the skull. In other words, the error isn't in the scientific approach, for
science can never be too intensive and continually must strive for perfection. Thus, I have
nothing against universities and the sciences!
I realize that if I insinuate that the error is very simple, it may be misunderstood in an
analogously simple way.
Leonardo's error was that he forget what he was seeking for, namely the background of a
smile, or the essence of a human being. Leonardo forgot it because he found too many other
very interesting and important answers. (I don't think only about Leonardo but about the
It would be erroneous to conclude from such research that the smile as well as the essence of
it is negligible and superficial or only an illusion on the surface of the skin.
It would be erroneous not to inquire why he didn't find the essence of a smile, the essence of a
human being with this empiristic physical method.
It would be erroneous to think or believe that there is no smile.
Perhaps one better way to find out what really lies behind a smile is to ask a laughing girl or
To simplify, I would say that the pessimism in the American philosophy of post-modernism
stems from an error in the interpretation of the "modern" relation, i.e. the relation of
individual human beings to society and science.
The physician knows me as a physical being better than I do,
the psychologist knows and understands my feelings better than I do, and
the sociologist knows and understands my actions and motives better than I do. In the same
way, the scientist of art and literature knows and understands art and literature better than the
artist or writer.
Moreover, this analogy extends to religious belief as well, for the theologian knows and
understands my religious beliefs better than I do.
The care of human beings is today better and more complete than ever before.
It is true that in this perfection the individual is an accidental and exchangeable appearance or
phenomenon without special importance, without competence, and - globally - without
The same is valid for the accidental and exchangeable individual as representative of the
special science or administration, a fact which no one wants to change. Both myself and
scientists and administrations hope to perfect this system of science and care, particularly
with assistance from the Internet.
However there is the problem wy, if I can not belive in, and if I belive in science, if the way
of Leonardo is the right one, if there are rules, relations, things, fact outside of me, outside of
men, outside of science as a possibility to test and controll the truth, or if this facts are inside
but in this physical meaning as the background of my skin, in that case, if the truth of a smile
is nothing as the skull, I would lose my identity. To the modern painting, writing, theatre or
music it is the same problem: if the best quality would be the best copy of this empiric reality,
I should make a copy, but if there are no rules outside of me, I can do and paint and write,
what I want, and the situation is like my mother told me: "If you can sell what you make, you
I know this is on the nouveau of plausibility although you could say
it is nothing but alchemy
Perhaps you will say in place of a scientist, "We will find not only the skull behind the skin;
after some years, theoretically it is possible, to see a formation of a brain cell and some
chemical condition in the body as the background of this smile. And you could say against the
preposition of my project - to consider the structure of knowledge for our thinking - , it is not
necessary to understand the technical structure of a television to understand the daily news."
It means: "Output = Input", or "I see only something, if there is something," or "Perhaps I see
only a reduction (as black and white if there is color) because my subjectivity and bad brain,
but with some instruments I can - in principle - correct the mistakes of my brain."
However, this last argument - to consider this mistakes of our brain
and thinking - could be a
condition for a discussion about art.
According to your letter I would have to distinguish between facts and
prophesy, or facts and
As a scientist you would say:
A smile as a fact is a special changing of the surface of skin, in the same way that a changing
of the voice is a changing of frequencies - or the colors of a face are a changing of
frequencies of light photones. The fact of a smile is a signal in the end as an output through
the physio- or psychical function as "Yes" or "No" or "Perhaps". All other things as theater,
music, painting, poetry and literature, prophecy and ethic are special forms to play (or to lie,)
- and to play it is perhaps necessary to make experience like a young cat with a ball of wool in
a virtual world, and perhaps more or less only nice, so to make conversation and literatur. The
rules of art, of theater, poetry etc. are self made rules of games. The rules of ethic and law are
rules to make the social life more comfortable. The liar as well as the religions use this
possibility to make the other believe, that their artificial output is not artificial but a fact, to
get power over the others or to get their money.
This are the usual arguments of the materialistic position, and you
know, they are not tenable
to belive in. It is usefull to think it as an operational condition. There are the problem of
determination and freedom, the problem of the endless causality in the endless space as well
as in the endless time and it destroys the position of the structuralism. With science you will
never find the colours, you will never find time and space, you will never find smell, cold,
warm, hot, because "a symbol can not be a symbol of itself" (Prauss). The game would be a
determinated fact like the reality, also the lie and the prophecy. Feeling, sense and sensuality -
also if they are perfectionated with instruments, - are not able to control our knowledge,
because all feelings are knowledge. The matter of time, the matter of space, the matter of
facts in same as the matter of matter is only knowledge, and knowledge of knowledge. The
only thing we speak about is knowledge.
If you answere, our knowledge is in any way corresponding to something,
I would be agree,
but you can not say or see this as a fact you could know without it is knowledge. If you would
say, our knowledge is a copy of the reality, of noumena, and all this difficulties and
antinomies are part of the dialectical structure within the facts, as Lenin said, you know you
would have to say, that you believe that; and it would be a superstition against our knowledge,
because we know, that photons are without colour, we know that there exist no surface of
something in this universum.
And you know, if you believe this, you will never clear up the antinomies, and all thinking
about will be an useless prophecy and speculation.
The intention of my action and project is to see the way of development
of art in future as the
postmodern perspective. And I don't see it in this pessimistical conclusion.
In the first step 2000 years ago art and menkind had to leave the bad
and wrong believing,
that a sculpture or a design is God himself with power and appetite, and than we had to leave
the next superstitious error of cartesianism, that a picture or any knowledge is or should or
could be a copy of the reality; so in modern painting it was a liberation to make and
understand it as a subjective impression or expression of knowledge and then to leave the
intenable position, that any truth is outside of human beings. But you are right if you say, that
modern art is still an intuitiv and alchemistical and fashionable or modish searching in this
liberty without any theory in this kind; and the term modern demonstrats this in some way as
a modernistic fashion, so that the term postmodern can only means to reflect modern art as
the first step of searching knowledge in liberty of this superstition.
Within it is to clear up the question: What is religion and what is science? What is the relation
between art and science. What is science of art? What is the difference between the positions
of an artist with his empty paper and the scientist looking the finished picture.
The next important step in the art of future will be to see and reflect
the structure of
knowledge in modern painting, literatur, music. Knowledge is a real thing with a special and
very complicated strukture, but one can not find or see or measure it with an impiristic
method - only by thinking about. But to see the structure of knowledge in art, - modern art as
well as primitiv and clasical art - it would create a new qualitiy of the interpretation and then
in the production of art. And then it should be possible to understand and to instrumentalize
the dependence of knowledge as well as forms of pictures with this structure.
Because the structure of knowledge is international the same, it is
the very beginning of an
new and optimistical way of an common culture in this world- and not the end.
Dear Olgierd, I think to publish this letter in my next Mail-Art-News
Nr. 23 and perhaps in
some other art-magazins. I hope to find somebody to correct the grammar and orthography of
my bad English. Please execuse the mistakes!
If you can get a translation of this letter and the text by Prauss into Polish, please send me a
copy for my other Polish Mail-Art-friends. (Prauss explain in this part very good, wy it is
easy, to make this mistake in thinking in empirical science as well as in mathematic.
If you answere me, it could be usefull to interprate the different between the pessimism inside
of soziology and academic theories about the postmodern movements and the blind optimism
inside of Mail-Art and anarchism, and if you interprate the pictures and theoies by Braque,
Macke, Delaunay and DADA with Tzara and Marcel Duchamp and the present theories in
Mail-Art ( if you see there the relation as a fighting against the dictatorship of all all forms
and isms including academism and dadaism in DADA) to improf this direction and
possibilities of education as the next step in art.
Best greetings Friedhelm
(German translated by Friedhelm Schulz)
THE QUESTION OF MAIL ART
P~O. BOX 3692
Carol Stetser, Guy Bleus, John Held and Friedhelm Schulz
Introduction by John Held (translated into German by Friedhelm Schulz)
Ich bekam die beiden folgenden Briefe von Guy Bleus und Carol Stetser
Tag (März 29, 1991), und sie beinhalten versteckt eine Dichotomie, d.h. einen ge-
gensätzlichen Standpunkt, wie er in der Mail-Art wohl vorherrscht: Sollte oder sollte Mail-
Art nicht im Sinne von Kunst gesammelt und dokumentiert werden, wodurch der freie,
unbelastete kreative Akt in der Tradition von DADA verwirrt werden könnte.
Ich habe gelegentlich über Mail-Art geschrieben, und ich nehme Kritik wie die von
Carol Stetser sehr zu Herzen. Außer der Schreiberei hielt ich eine Vorlesung zu diesem
Thema und habe dazu ein umfangreiches Archiv.
Aktiv war ich immer mit der Intention, daß Mail-Art zur Kunstgeschichte gehört, und
dies tue ich in dem Sinne weiter. Für mich wie für viele andere Leute auf diesem Planeten,
die lange und intensiv innerhalb der Mail-Art aktiv waren, ist dies wichtig und essentiell.
Wir sehen Mail-Art als etwas, durch das neue Wege geöffnet wurden,
in einer globalen
weltweiten Annäherung von und über Kunst und Leben zu denken, als ein Aufbrechen der
Grenzen zwischen Künstler und Nichtkünstler ( samt der Untersuchung, was die jeweilige
Definition und/oder Differenz ist).
Ganz zurecht gehört es zur anerkannten Tradition der Avant-garde des 20sten
Jahrhunderts, wenn immer mehr Leute in diesem Medium ausstellen und dabei gewahr
werden, daß der Vorstoß der gegenwärtigen progressiven Kunst nicht die Vermarktung des
Kunstobjektes ist, sondern die Beseitigung von Grenzen zwischen Menschen
verschiedenster Kulturen., - ein gegenseitiges Verständnis in dem Sinne, daß wir mehr
Gemeinsamkeiten als Unterschiede besitzen. So ist es nicht nur in der Praxis des in-
ternationalen Mail-Art-Netzwerkes, sondern auch bei den Beteiligten.
Aber vor allem ist Kunst einfach und simpel Spaß. Mail-Artisten
postalische Begegnung jeden Tag, und wir alle wollen es in dieser Weise bewahren. Und
damit kommt die Hauptfrage auf den Punkt, ob solche kunsttheoretische Reflexion die
Freude an der Mail-Art verdirbt? Ich meine Nein. Mail-Artisten sind ihre eigenen Sammler,
Museumsdirektoren, Archivare und Kritiker.
Wir haben uns selbst zu der Alternative zum Hauptstrom gemacht und haben
einen Parallelkurs eingestellt. Keiner erzählt die Geschichte der Mail-Art besser als der
Wir werden vom Establishment, das aus Kunst Gewinne macht, ignoriert. Dort sieht man
uns schwach und unwirksam - aber eben bezogen auf Kunst als einem Status Quo im Sinne
von Bedarfsartikel und Kapitalanlage.
Künstler sagen, daß Grenzen dazu da sind, um überschritten zu werden. So ist auch die
Grenzlinie von Künstler und Nichtkünstler verschwommen; und derart verschwommen ist
auch der Begriff des Kunstgegenstandes.
Wer will sich zum Richter machen?
In der Mail-Art partizipieren alle Beteiligten auf dem gleichen Fundament: ein Progreß
basiert nur auf der ankommenden Energie, durch die man Mail-Art empfängt, und der
abgegebenen Energie, diese zu registrieren und mit einer Gegenleistung zu beantworten.
Die Essays von Stetser und Bleus vertreten zufällig eine solche Annäherung und
verkapselt zwei divergierende Ansichten. Ich glaube an die Korrespondenzen, die im
John Held Jr.
Wenn Post von einem Mail-Artisten kommt.
Ich habe über meine Reisen rund um die Welt geschrieben, aber nie irgend etwas über
meine Erfahrungen mit der Mail-Art. Ich nehme an, weil ich noch immer Mail-Art mache, -
wie Colette irgendwo schreibt: "Du kannst nicht über Liebe schreiben, wenn du Liebe
machst." Aber ich kann erzählen, wie und warum ich damit began.
Im Juli 1978 rezensierte »Umbrella« mein selbstveröffentlichtes Fotobuch. Diese
Zeitschrift enthielt eine Menge interessanter Informationen, und ich unterzeichnete. Aber
ich hatte keine Vorstellung, was die häufigen Hinweise auf »Mail-Art« bedeuteten.
Bis Januar 1979 wußte ich noch immer nicht, was das bedeutet,
aber ich beteiligte mich
trotzdem. Die Aufregung ist mir noch immer gegenwärtig, als ich eine Postkarte von einem
»Marsmenschenschirm« zu der »Umbrella Mail-Art-Show« von Judith Hoffberg ab-
schickte. Und als ich den Katalog bekam voll wunderbarer Bilder mit derart spielerischer
Üppigkeit, da klickte es bei mir, und ich wußte, was Mail-Art ist; aber ich konnte es nicht
Zu der Zeit lebte ich in einer umgebauten Nissenhütte, ein ehemaliges
Häuschen, in der Kleinstadt Oatman in der Mohave-Wüste. Wildesel wanderten um den
Hügel und der Pfad der Coyoten führte vor dem Haus vorbei. Im Sommer hatten wir
Klapperschlangen auf der Veranda und Skorpione im Badezimmer. Im Winter froren die
Wasserleitungen ein und in der Sommerhiltze schmolz der Ashalt auf der Straße. Die
Bevölkerung bestand aus 200 zurückgezogenen Menschen und Hirten. Ich hatte kein
Telephon und kein Fernsehen. Die nächste Tankstelle war 15 Meilen und der Supermarkt
25 Meilen entfernt. Aber in dieser "authentischen Western-Geisterstadt" gab es eine Post,
wo ich für einige Jahre arbeitete. Und in meinem Postkasten war dann plötzlich Post von
überall in der Welt.
In so einer Kleinstadt verbringt man viel Zeit damit, über das
Wetter zu reden, über die
Schlaglöcher in der Straße, wer mit wem schläft und wer gestern betrunken war. Der
Klatsch bindet so eine Gemeinschaft und hilft, die Zeit totzuschlagen. Aber es ist beengt.
Meine Korrespondenz aber war ohne Grenzen. Mail-Art öffnete mir eine Welt. Sie brachte
mir Information, Belebung und Freundschaft überall her vom ganzen Globus. Dies gab mir
Hoffnung und bewahrte mich davor, so verschroben zu werden wie meine Nachbarn.
Und dazu erfuhr ich die Relevanz meines eigenen Lebens. Die Kunstarbeiten nährten
mein Hirn, aber die persönlichen Mitteilungen mein Herz. Ich liebte es, Fotos von meinen
Mail-Art-Partnern zu bekommen, von deren Familie, deren Studios, deren Wohnung. Mich
interessierte ihr Urlaub, ihre Arbeit, ihre Stimmungen, ihre Neigungen und Abneigungen.
Letztendlich spürte ich ja, daß auch die Briefpartner gerne etwas über mein Leben hörten.
So war ich interessiert in deren Kunstarbeiten. Mail-Art änderte radikal mein
Selbstverständnis wie auch das von der Welt, die wir ja alle gemeinsam benutzen. So wie
derart die Welt kleiner wurde, so wurde sie zugleich auch offener und freier. Mail-Art ist
Kommunikation unter Freunden. Das ist es, weswegen ich weiter im ewigen Netzwerk
Carol Stetser 12. Feb. 1991
Auf Leavenworth Jackson's Empfehlung hin schrieb ich diesen Artikel
über meine so in etwa gemachten Erfahrungen mit
Mail-Art und schickte eine Kopie an Chuck Welch für sein Buch.. Aber je mehr ich darüber nachdenke, um so mehr
mich die Motive, warum sich plötzlich Mail-Artisten drängen, Kunsthistoriker zu werden. Diejenigen von uns, die sich im
Netzwerk beteiligen, wissen ohnehin, warum sie es tun und brauchen keine Definition der Mail-Art. Wir wissen, was es ist. Wir
brauchen keinen Vortrag über seine Ästhetik zu hören,
über die Originalität der Sprache in Mail-Art; über die
Wieso wird so etwas für Ausstellungen gebraucht? Für wen sind diese Bücher über Mail-Art? Für mich sieht es so aus, als
würde Mail-Art für den Gebrauch auf dem Kunstmarkt verpackt. Mail-Art verändert sich zu einer Kommödie. Und wir
hauptsächlich ja gerade gegen diesen Drift, Kunst zu einer Show zu machen.
Beunruhigt bin ich ebenfalls über die Verbindung von Mail-Art und Feminismus. Die
Teilnahme an Mail-Art ist nur begrenzt von Deiner Möglichkeit, das Porto für die Post zu
zahlen. Mail-Art ist von Natur aus farbenblind und sexblind. Brauchen wir jetzt
Sonderbereiche für Mail-Art und Homosexualität, Mail-Art und Heteros, Latinos,
Schwarze, Tongans, Filipinos?
Heißt Mail-Artist zu sein soviel wie in im Mainstream der Kunstgeschichte codifiziert
und festgelegt zu werden?
Werden die Stars in der Mail-Art uns fragen "Warum gibt es keine Femail-Künstler?"
Da gibt es ebensoviele Geschichten von Mail-Art wie es Teilnehmer gibt.
Wie kann es
jemand wagen, eine "Geschichte" der Mail-Art zu schreiben?
Carol Stetser 27. März 1991
THE ADMINISTRATION CENTRE -42,292
1. 1.Archive sind Friedhöfe von Erinnerungen, von Aktivitäten,
Merkwürdigkeiten. Die Archive verwahren die Gegenwart für die Nachkommen. Das
Administration Centre - 42,292 ist ein lebendes Archiv von »Kommunikationismus« der
Postwege plus der Handschrift des Mail-Art-Netzwerkes. Es basiert auf dem
demokratischen Prinzip, daß jedes Stück solcher Post (Umschläge, Postkarten, Briefe) im
sozio-kulturellen Kontext des Mail-Art-Stromkreises bedeutungsvoll ist. So wird jeder
Künstler oder Nichtkünstler mit gleicher Sorgfalt behandelt. Das Idealziel war und ist das
wahre Geschehen der Mail-Art als Geschichte, indem »alle« erfolgten Eingängen zu
Aktivitäten des Eternal-Network mit eingeordnet werden; Aber natürlich wird jedes Archiv
seine eigene wahre Geschichte erzählen.
2. 1991, die ganze Sammlung umfaßt Arbeiten und/oder Informationen von (plus-
minus) 2000 Networkers aus 50 Ländern. Die Einordnung geschieht in alphabetischen
Ordnern pro Land. Jeder Künstler hat eine oder mehrere Seitenfächer und/oder
Archivboxen (wenn viele Arbeiten vorhanden sind). Individuelle Nummern beziehen sich
auf ein genaues Indexsystem, so daß alles leicht zu finden ist.
3. Das Administrative Archiv ist unterteilt in getrennte Einheiten: Künstlerbriefmarken,
Künstlerbücher, Kunstpapier, Assemblagen, Audio-Art, Kataloge, Komputer-Art, Copy-Art,
Fax-Art, Graffiti, Zeitschriften, Mail-Art, Performences, Postkarten, Poster, Kunstaufkle-
ber, Kleinkunstpublikationen, Video-Art, visual-poetry, ect.
4. Über das Jahr kommen eine Menge Mail-Artisten und Interessierte nach Wellen, um
das Administrations-Centre zu besuchen: Von außerhalb waren das Banana, Baroni, Bloch,
Dudek-Durer, Formentini, Graf Hauffen, Held, Janssen, Olbrich, Pernecsky, Ruch, Skooter,
Stake, Küstermann, Lorenzi, Van der Hoef, Van Dijk, etc. Verschiedene Studenten
benutzten die Dokumente des Archivs für ihre Forschung.
5. Seit der Gründung des Administrations Centre 1978 wurde eine Reihe Ausstellungen mit Arbeiten für
das Archiv an verschiedenen Stellen durchgeführt z.B. "Mail-Art-Party" Gemeentehui, Leopoldsburg, 1979;
Gallery Ruimte z, Antwerpen, 1980 (with emphasis on indirect correspondence and Mail-Art by children);
I.C.C., Antwerpen, '80; VUB, Brussel, etc.
6. Und hier aufmerken: Schmeißt nichts weg! Habt Ihr Schwierigkeiten,
Nebenprodukte, was immer mit Mail-Art zu tun hat, zu verwahren (alte oder neue Um-
schläge, Postkarten, Dokumente, Zeitschriften u.s.w.) verbrenne es nicht!
Schicke es ans
The Administration Centre -42,292
P.O. Box 43
WAS IST DIE FRAGE? DA GIBT ES SICHERLICH KEINE ANTWORTEN.
Das Problem ist folgendes: Wird Mail-Art mit solcher Betrachtungsweise
verlieren? Die Schönheit der Mail-Art liegt in dem Abenteuer, das sie hervorruft. Da gibt es
einen ungesehenen Freund grad um die Ecke, von dessen Existenz wir nichts wußten. Das
Herumsuchen in solchen unbekannten Bereichen (des Planeten oder der Denkweisen) ist
gerade das, was uns bei unserem Medium hält. Wenn wir dieses Geheimnisvolle zu genau
begründen, laufen wir Gefahr es zu verlieren.
Aber ich finde, je tiefer ich in dieses Medium eindringe, um so mehr
ich. Das ist keine seichte Begründung hinterher, nach dem Entstehen der "New York
Correspondance School of Art durch Ray Johnson. Mail-Art hat ein weites Feld von
Menschen angezogen, die darin großzügig ihre Zeit und ihr Talent anwandten. Jeder hat
eine Geschichte zu erzählen, und zusammen fügt sich alles zu einer kulturell-sozialen
Kunstrichtung und Bewegung. Ich finde, daß sich dieses faszinierend darstellt. Wenn wir
dieses ignorieren, übersehen wir nicht nur eine seltene Gelegenheit, die gemeinsame
Richtung selbst abzuschecken, sondern auch unser eigenes Verhältnis dazu.
John Held, Jr. #home