Mail-Art Cafe

The Place where there is no specific theme. A real social group for you......

Members: 284
Latest Activity: Jan 4

Discussion Forum

Music and the process of creation

Started by Eduardo Cardoso. Last reply by Carolyn Cline Dec 22, 2018. 30 Replies

Poetry Circle

Started by Talking Bird. Last reply by amadeu escórcio Aug 13, 2018. 27 Replies

What does Art want?

Started by Talking Bird. Last reply by Carolyn Cline Apr 23, 2018. 27 Replies

Poison Bottle collectors

Started by Poison Label Productions. Last reply by Strelnikov (Стрельников) Jun 2, 2011. 4 Replies


Started by vittore baroni. Last reply by Mail Art Martha Feb 22, 2011. 7 Replies

What do [men and] women want?

Started by Talking Bird. Last reply by Clifford Duffy Feb 6, 2010. 60 Replies

Koboloi (only for men?)

Started by Talking Bird. Last reply by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) Dec 12, 2009. 15 Replies


Started by Celestino Neto. Last reply by nuria metzli Jun 22, 2009. 6 Replies

Vincent Schiavelli

Started by Rain Rien Nevermind. Last reply by Adamandia Jan 17, 2009. 1 Reply

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of Mail-Art Cafe to add comments!

Comment by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) on January 4, 2020 at 6:35pm

cup-a-tea on a winter day:

Comment by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) on January 4, 2020 at 6:33pm

Holiday Tea Time with from London:

tea tins with English Ahmad tea,

"mail art" for this Royal Post tea tin?

little girl sends some:

Comment by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) on December 25, 2019 at 10:38am

Comment by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) on December 25, 2019 at 10:37am

Merry merry...

Comment by No Idea on November 23, 2019 at 10:08am

Regarding mailart being meta and keeping it that way: I totally agree.

Comment by res nullius aka. "res" on November 23, 2019 at 3:16am

This is just a try, but if you look at 'money' as a mediating symbol, it can come between the creatrix and their work -- or choices in making -- and it can also come between the viewer (or receiver/acquirer) and the work, according to what is classified as having 'value.'

For instance, the example given of Gauguin -- setting aesthetics aside -- it is argued that he consciously produced exoticized, pseudo-primitivist works - a European fantasy - specifically, if not altogether successfully in a financial sense, for a bourgeois Parisian/French art market. He and his European wife were both art collectors, and he was a stock broker ruined in the Paris Bourse stock market crash of 1882. I won't even go into the controversies surrounding his personal life. [Again, all aesthetics temporarily set aside just for purposes of this simple discussion regarding money.]

From reading, I think the ethea (plural of ethos) of 20th Century correspondence art/postal art/mailart/fluxus/anti-art was at least partially developed in an effort to bypass the dilemmas built into art-creation under capitalism, that is, under the influence of money (and surplus capital) as a mediating symbol of value. In other words, mailart has a subversive side.

These dilemmas being so well-named and pointed out below, are built into the capitalist economic system. Mailart can be one way to deliberately step outside those bounds (the art market, copyright, the gallery system, etc.) -- but not if we deliberately commodify mailart, or fail to resist its commodification.

So, basically, mailart is meta, and we should keep it that way.

Comment by No Idea on November 22, 2019 at 3:58pm

This is an interesting issue. I wonder if/how the artist's copyright would figure into this. After all, artists do produce something considered to be  intellectual property. And there's the maxim that possession is 9/10's of the law. What if mail art was selling for loads of money? What right would people who produce work anonymously have? How would one be able to prove that they made a particular work? What unwritten codes of conduct are activated when someone engages in producing and sending out mail art? Does the receiver have specific obligations akin to any collecting institution? Seems like trust is an issue here. How widespread is the practice of selling mail art? Buyers may only be interested in putting together they own collections. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought most museums acquire mail art through donations and directly from the artists who mail their work to them. I personally feel that when I put things out into the world I pretty much lose all control over it. That sense of randomness or chance appeals to me.

I did a little research and it could be that the artist gives up ownership by putting something in the mail, especially as no promise of payment or other compensation has been made. Ownership and possession, though, are not necessarily equal. How these words are defined varies from country to country. If the seller is clearly identifying the artist who produced the mail art, they are also not committing fraud. Does the artist who doesn't want their work to be used in certain ways have to place a notice on the artwork that, for example, advises against the unauthorised reproduction or sale of their work? Unless they get permission perhaps? 

Comment by Jennifer Wallace on November 22, 2019 at 12:39pm

I like the description, '...  rendering the object(s) in question no longer mailart, but fetishized commodities', but disagree about the 'gift' economy of mail art being a utopian fantasy. There are all sorts of exchanges between people where there is no 'pricing', but the fact is that some people do 'give' more than others and everyone making mail art must be doing a bit more rather than less of the giving of 'gifts' of a form they have the ability to make.

But look at what drives any of us to make art of any sort - there's all and every motivation in the mix, isn't there? Mail art is one niche genre. Given that this is one small part of the global totality of the making of art of any sort, it's got no choice but to be here within a context of a global art market which has insatiable drives to spend money and acquire.

When any of us makes and gives away any sort of art, we also give away any rights over it, don't we? With mail art, unlike a professional graphic artist, I will get no payment for my work, but like that artist working to a customer's brief, the client will make money out of the artwork, and in subsequent periods, who knows, that artist's work might end up in art gallery shops on mugs and shopping bags? What would Gauguin make of the National Gallery's current merchandising of shopping bags, mugs, coasters, scarves, t-shirts, etc, to go with their current exhibition?  

If I personally knew someone buying old mail art, I'd ask why they were doing it. There must be newcomers like me who might buy pieces in the same way that they'd spend money on art books, to learn from as well as get pleasure from. Public archives, museums and galleries are not stocked with donations. Do you think anyone actually buys mail art as a financial investment?

So does it come down to not wanting someone unknown to make a profit from your work? Where does 'possession' end? What's the difference between this and giving someone a birthday present they don't like which they then either bin or take into a charity shop? A while back I moved into a flat that went with a job, opened a cupboard and found it jammed with a collection of 'leaving presents', every one of which I could see why the previous person had chosen to leave behind. Clearing out the totality of possessions of both parents after their deaths, I've thought about this a lot! How much did I respect their wishes? 

A bit of a ramble of thoughts, but because I only came across someone making mail art this year and am now doing it myself, I'm thinking this through for my own reasons.

Comment by res nullius aka. "res" on November 22, 2019 at 2:49am

The concepts I'm referencing are not new, but doesn't commodifying mailart kill the Potlatch-style gift economy, thus rendering the object(s) in question no longer mailart, but fetishized commodities (Marx) -- part of the market and the resulting alienated "Society of Spectacle" (DeBord)? Or is the gift economy of mailart a utopian fantasy?

I know it's not the mid-20th C. when the ideas of the left were discussed widely, but isn't selling mailart retroactively appropriating other artists' time, energy, talents and the products of their creative labor, for someone else's profit? Won't the practice of selling mailart ultimately kill mailart?

Who wants to pour out their creative force(s) -- and what individual surplus they have -- for a future capitalist's profit? As an international community, we shouldn't be art-serfs, even for future mercantile small-business types.

Why should we talk about this? Because theorists have been saying we're in a "late capitalist" era (and other terms) since the 1930s. If we think about and talk about the fate of our productions, we might come up with interesting alternatives to the sale of each others' artistic and anti-art, etc., creations. 

Comment by Michael Leigh on November 21, 2019 at 9:24pm

"Mail art and money don't mix"  was a popular maxim a few years back and still applies I guess.  Can't stop people trying to cash in - but really - who would pay those sort of prices for photo copies?!  I find it hard enough to sell 'zines and badges just to recoup printing costs!  We used to do alternative book sales and  print fests but not anymore - lucky to get enough to pay for stall!


Members (284)




Want to support the IUOMA with a financial gift via PayPal?

The money will be used to keep the IUOMA-platform alive. Current donations keep platform online till 1-oct-2020.   If you want to donate to get IUOMA-publications into archives and museums please mention this with your donation. It will then be used to send some hardcopy books into museums and archives. You can order books yourself too at the IUOMA-Bookshop. That will sponsor the IUOMA as well.










© 2020   Created by Ruud Janssen.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service