Thursday, March 01, 1990

After The Infant Carlos III Dreams of the New World was over, I could again concentrate on organizing a performance tour in Eastern Europe. As I mentioned earlier, I'd sent out hundreds of letters to any & all addresses I could find for people who might be willing to help me with my project. Even though I never considered myself a mail artist, I had been in close contact with a couple of members of the vast Network of mail artists throughout Europe, and I knew they would be very helpful to me.

These Networkers engage in various activities both through the post and, more recently, through "tourism," travelling to meet one another at conferences, festivals and personal visits. Postal activities run the gamut from collecting and collaging rubber stamp images to constructing and mailing three-dimensional works of art. I had been peripherally aware of this Network since 1987 but had participated only once or twice, sending images to Ryosuke Cohen in Japan and having them returned as elements of colorful xerox collages. By 1989, when I was sending my letters of introduction to, among others, members of this Network, a fundamental change had begun within the Network. Many mail-artists had grown frustrated by the seemingly endless quantity of rubber-stamped collages and original drawings piling up in their mailboxes each day. They began feeling and writing about the need for more substantial interaction between correspondent artists. As the completely open curation of mail-art exhibitions is the most fundamental tenet of mail-art's alternative, non-commercial philosophy, the resulting high-volume of often uninteresting and derivitive work would be impossible to stem even if it were philosophically desirable to do so.

Many mail-artists simply made decisions to stop replying to most communications which they received, to curtail their own "pure" mail-art activities and to investigate other means of approaching the Network's goals of promoting peace and understanding through open and egalitarian communication. They began to organize festivals of live art, produce fanzines containing news and interviews, and generally to stress collaboration rather than individual aesthetic production. "Art-tourism" became in effect a genre/media in itself and stressed direct human contact over production.

The majority of the 50 or so responses to my query were from individuals actively involved in some way with this Network. Czech physician and poet Petr Sevcík, Endre Szka'rosi in Budapest and, in Germany, Géza Pernecky, were all complete strangers to me but quickly provided contacts which materialized into performing opportunities.