Dear H. R. Fricker,

Thank you for your most thoughtful email.  I have been thinking about
Internet and Mail Art for a long time and I have been taking courses at the
University of Texas at Austin in communication, new media, open systems
thinking, and interaction design to help me understand the vast and
powerful systems at work in Mail Art.  I have just finished my courses for
a Ph.D. and I will now  research and write a book on influences of the
Internet on the Mail Art Network.

I am taking the liberty of sending you my response to a qualifying
examination question about Mail Art. The answer was composed quickly and
under timeline pressures but it was a joy to open my eyes fully to Mail Art
on the Internet and contemplate our future.  I wonder what you think about
Mail Art/Internet artists and issues of Mail Art and the Internet in
addition to the observations you sent to me.  Now that I am no longer in
structured university classes I am free to do my research and correspond
about mail art again.  My heart leaps for joy to be able to look back into
Mail Art theory, philosophy, products, attitudes, and evolutions!

Gratefully and respectfully,

Question 5 of honoria's qualifying examinations for Ph.D.
How would you expect an Internet-based mail art community to differ from a
mail art community that used traditional postal services?

---------------honoria's answer to question 5 --------
        I am attracted to this question because I have been a mail artist
for sixteen years and creatively working online for five years.  Because I
have both types of networked art in my life, I'm searching the Internet to
find ways in which other mail artists are using email and HTML. My
long-term interest/joy stemming from my involvement with mail art has lead
to my decision to write a book/dissertation about mail art in an
electronically networked world.  In order to begin dissertation research I
am looking for information about ways artists, specifically mail artists,
are using the Internet.  I'm also interested in the dynamics of
international artists groups, such as mail art.   Because I am just
beginning my research I don't have a huge amount of data gathered and
sorted, but I do have some threads I've picked up and followed.  The
threads are beginning to weave a pattern of how an Internet-based mail art
community may differ from the mail art community that has thrived on the
paper-based foundation of the international postal systems.

Mail art and Mail art projects
        Over the last few years I've found some Internet -based mail art
projects that I've divided into three general categories; first,
circulating collaborative projects; second, collections of paper-based mail
art that has been scanned and made into World Wide Web pages; and third,
message boards where mail art events and discussions are posted.

Circulating Collaborative Projects
        One example of a circulating collaborative project is Guy Bleus'
1997 E-MAIL-ART & INTERNET-ART MANIFESTO. Guy Bleus is a Belgian mail
artist with one of the largest archives of mail art in the world.  Bleus is
interested in the theory and practice of mail art.  His 1997 E-MAIL-ART &
INTERNET MANIFESTO was a call to all the mail artists whose email addresses
he knew to participate in a collaborative manifesto. The manifesto was
distributed via email to all participants and was printed as Volume III,
number 1, of E-Pele-Mele Electronic Mail Art Netzine.  To print the volume
is a crossover strategy by Bleus to distribute the online communication
about mail art and electronic mail art via both distribution systems.
        Another example of a circulating collaborative project is Vittore
Baroni's INCONGRUOUS MEETINGS of 1998.  The Incongruous Meetings were real
or virtual meetings of any two or more mail artists during the year of
1998.  Documentation of the meetings was sent to Baroni and he sent out
periodic reports of the meetings through email and through postal mail.
The Incongruous Meetings represented a continuum in the mail art tradition
of Years of Congress. During congress years groups of mail artists gathered
together to create collaborative mail art, realize performance art
projects, discuss theories of mail art, and to party. Incongruous Meetings
were Baroni's distributed, rather than concentrated, interpretation of the
mail art congress theme.
        Guy Bleus' E-MAIL-ART & INTERNET-ART MANIFESTO and Vittore Baroni's
INCONGRUOUS MEETINGS are two examples of collaborative mail art projects
that used the Internet as a means of collection and distribution of hybrids
of Internet-based concepts and traditional mail art theory.

World Wide Web mail art pages
        Chuck Welch's ELECTRONIC MUSEUM OF MAIL ART is an example of a
paper-based mail art concept that was realized in a digital form. Chuck
Welch is known to many mail artists as CrackerJack Kid.  Welch was an early
proponent of Internet distribution of mail art. He coined the term
"telematic art" in 1994 and initiated a mail art project called
CyberStamps. For the CyberStamp project mail artists used computer graphic
programs to make electronic images that had the perforated edge shapes of
postage stamps yet were never to be printed, only displayed virtually in
Welch's Electronic Museum of Mail Art (EMMA) on Dartmouth College's web
server.  When Welch's family relocated in 1997 EMMA was no longer qualified
for space on the Dartmouth server.  Welch sent out a plea for a new
electronic home for EMMA which now resides on a server in the Advanced
Communication Technologies Laboratory (ACTLAB) at The University of Texas
at Austin.  (
        Ruud Janssen's MAIL ARTISTS' INTERVIEWS is another example of a
mail art method that has been moved into a digital form. For over twenty
years Norwegian mail artist Ruud Janssen, also known as TAM (Traveling Art
Mail), has been interviewing mail artists and publishing the interviews in
booklets. The booklets were mailed to whoever corresponded with Janssen or
whoever participated in his long-running project to collect as many rubber
stamp images used by mail artists as possible. In recent years Janssen
posted all of his mail art interviews on the geocities servers
( Janssen's TAM archive of mail art
interviews is probably the richest single resource of mail art material on
the Internet today.
        Welch's Electronic Museum of Mail Art and Janssen's online TAM
interview archives are examples of how mail artists have used the World
Wide Web to extend mail art into cyberspace. Chuck Welch's ELECTRONIC
MUSEUM OF MAIL ART functions as an electronic version of a mail art show.
Ruud Janssen's interview material had only been available to the few who,
through the mail art network, learned of its existence but is now available
to any search engine looking for key words relating to mail art. In my
research I hope to learn about many other projects in which mail artists
are extending or changing traditional mail art network systems of
collection, publication and distribution.

Message Boards
        Mark Bloch's ONE WORLD Plexus message board is an example of an
electronic bulletin board where mail artists can post invitations to mail
art shows.  Artist can also posts digitized graphics of their work.  The
One World Chalkboard is hosted by the Guggenheim Museum and because
OneWorld message board's high profile affiliation with the Guggenheim, it
attracts many artists who have probably never heard of mail art.  The
result is that there is a strange mix of postings on One World. Some posts,
with little or nothing to do with mail art, announce gallery shows by
traditional artists. Some posts are specific mail art invitations.  Every
so often some mail artist will attempt to steer traditional gallery artists
into a mail art context but really it's too much fun to see the mix of art
worlds missing each others' meanings on the board.  Mark Bloch, the
official moderator of the board, stepped away from its day-to-day
moderation years ago.  The confused chaos of gallery shows and mail art
shows is visible to someone who is used to mail art invitations but may not
be visible to someone who does not know that mail art shows are not gallery
shows and may enter mail art shows and be surprised when they receive mail
art documentation.  ( There are
a number of other message boards about mail art and rubber stamp art and
artists books that I would love to research.
        In summary, mail artists are beginning to use the Internet in a
number of ways, for example, for circulating collaborative projects, to
publish mail art content on  World Wide Web pages, and to use message
boards to distribute mail art invitations. I have found several "femail
art" sites recently and I look forward to furthering my connections to
women mail artists who are using the Internet. I am excited to connect to
many mail artists' experimental uses of electronic networks as I proceed
with my dissertation research.

Projected differences between Internet-based mail art and snail mail art
        I cannot go into a history of paper-based mail art in the time
allotted to answer this question so you'll have to stay tuned for the
upcoming dissertation literature review or read the TAM archives but I will
venture a few projections about the future of mail art and make a few
observations about how Internet art will be different from mail art.

The death of the post office
        As email and electronic communications become more widespread it
has been predicted that electronic communication will replace paper-based
communication quickly. As new communication systems replace older systems,
the new systems will be available to a wide range of people. When the
distribution of electronic communication reaches into the homes of mail
artists to the extent that mail artist believe the electronic
communications to be as accessible as the traditional mail art, then mail
art will become email art or Net mail art.

Networks and cultures
        The Internet will provide increased number of formats for creative
collaboration. As cultures become linked through electronic networks, and
exchange of artworks is a common method of sending rich visual and audio
communications, the mail art networks' history of cross-cultural exchange
will provide a continuing base from which new informal international
artistic connections will grow. In addition, as common forms and traditions
grow in Internet-based culture, mail artists will playfully manipulate
online regulations and traditions much like they have with the postal
service regulations and traditions.

Congresses and performances
        Things are going to get even livelier as mail art acquaintances
will not have to travel long miles in order to congress together.  One big
change in the mail art network will be an increase in the number of live
online performance art pieces.

Predictions on how Internet-based mail art will be different from snail
mail art
        In conclusion, mail art will embrace the distribution systems of
the Internet once the online systems are as ubiquitous, inexpensive, and
easy to use as the postal service is now.  As support to maintain the huge
global paper-based postal system diminishes and online services are more
available, mail artists will continue to adopt electronic methods of
creative communication.   Mail artists meet each other as often as possible
now, and I project that the Internet will greatly facilitate congress and
performance opportunities for mail artists. Mail artists will enjoy sharing
performances and getting together in virtual congresses once video
conferencing is accessible to most mail artists.  In the long run as the
postal systems are less used by mail artists, the name mail art may change
to one of its other appellations such as correspondance art or some other
name that is not directly associate with the post office. Mail artists will
continue to use the cheapest and most widely distributed methods of
communication in an effort to be inclusive to everyone in the network. Mail
art files will be saved in low-bandwidth to insure accessibility to artists
with varying hardware, software, and connectivity. Mail artist will
encourage, rather than disparage new users who do not have sophisticated
knowledge of the growing electronic mail art/correspondance art/eternal
network systems.  And finally, a strange new book will appear on the
bookshelves of Guy Bleus, CrackerJack Kid, Ruud Janssen, Vittore Baroni,
and Mark Bloch and a number of other mail artists who use the Internet; and
that book will be my dissertation.


Bleus, G. (1997, December). Re: The e-mail-art & Internet-art manifesto.
E-Pele-Mele Electronic Mail Art Netzine. 3.

-------------- -------------

Reply via email to