What is Mail Art?
The Mail Art genre can be traced
to the early 20th century with the mail actions of the Dadaists,
Futurists and the Fluxus movement. These early actions were not
indicative of an entire artistic movement, but were instead secluded
events, which caught the attention of artists with similar concerns and
sensibilities. The Mail Art movement began in the in the late 50's and
early 60's (before the Internet, cell phones and email) when telephones
and goverrnment postal services were the primary means of communication.
Artists found they could inexpensively, reliably, and rapidly
communicate with other artists around the world through the mail. The
development of the organized Mail Art movement was specifically due to
the actions of the Nouveau Realisme movement of the French in
which Yves Klein participated with his "mail scandals", the
establishment of Ray Johnson's New York Correspondence School, and
finally, the Fluxus movement, which questioned the possibility of mail
as a medium.
media of Mail Art is as varied as the artists in the "Eternal
Network." Many works use collage, found objects, recycled images &
objects, drawings, paintings, individual or sheets of "artistamps"
(unofficial postal stamps produced by artists), rubber stamps, stickers,
metal, confetti, foil, photographs, as well as a wide variety of
printing technologies (fax machines, photocopies, various computer
printing techniques, digital media, etc.). Objects may be simple
(doodles on a postcard) or elaborate (putting stamps on and mailing an
industrial size tomato can filled with origami mail art).
Art is distributed through a network of personal contacts it avoids the
presures of the art market and other official art distribution and
approval systems (such as museums and galleries). Mail art tends
toward the self-referential and filled with commentary on a wide variety
of topics, from human rights, politics, revolutionary movements, the
art world, the concepts of government and official documents, even
reality itself. Mail Art transcends gender, race, religion, politics,
age, class, social status, etc., etc., because anyone and everyone is
welcome to participate.
could be understood as the art of communication.
Although aesthetics are important, the personal,
one-on-one nature of the genre may help explain why the longevity and
variety of the movement.