When one analyzes the word “Mail-Art”, the two components explain a lot of what it is all about.
The art-part means: “the ability to create something new” and the mail-part means “sent from one person to another one”, with all the variations the modern mail offers.
Originally in mail-art, like in the Fluxus-world, the participants knew how to produce art. They looked for new concepts to produce and show their creations. They made new things and after careful preparation the projects were done and the results were there. In today’s mail-art that still happens, but I notice that sometimes new participants only understand the mail-part, and still have to develop their art-part.
Mail-Art is a learning process and it starts when one gets in contact with “the Network”.
Creating something new is the most difficult part for most artists. If one IS an artist one has this possibility in oneself. If one isn’t an artist, one only can copy concepts and set them through. With a lot of success also, but nothing new is created.
Some contacts I have in the mail-art network have the same ‘drive’ as me and with them the contact has grown over the year. Not because we exchange letters on a frequent basis, but mostly because we understand the ways we both are going. Even when a letter comes after years of silence, one remembers the development of the communication, and new steps are taken (or not) to develop this further. One finds his/her own steps in the evolution of the art one wants to create.
Mail-Art at the mirror. What has one created and how is it seen by others? This is an interesting question.
If mail-art has become an addiction, one reacts to every piece one gets in and divides his/her energy over all the mailings one sends out. The result is there: a growing list of contacts and a decrease of the quality one sends out. Every mail-artist reaches this point; sometimes this even repeats itself over the years.
Making a good piece costs days, and that way one can’t answer all that comes in.
For a few years I’ve even stopped answering all the mail. Only the important things got answered. Also because the Internet has intensified communication in a certain time. How to deal with hundreds of e-mails each day and all those messages in that online groups? Stopping answering all and selecting, brings you back to the basics. Communication is what it is all about. Does the receiver understand the message of the sender or is this not important anymore? Look in the mirror and think of what the receiver will think of what you send out. What is your message? Also look at the message a sender sends to you. What does he want?
Try to answer these questions with each piece you send out and you get in, and try to be honest to yourself.
The best way to understand what you are doing.
The best pieces I send out are the pieces I actually find difficult to send out. I would like to keep them because I value them myself so much. After documenting things I might send it out, but only to someone who I think is worth it. The real mail-art is highly connected to life itself. The Life one has, and what one does with it, is the most interesting artwork one can leave behind for sure.
Ruud Janssen, February 1st 2004.