Secret Masters of Add & Pass: Sticker Dude, Jon Foster, Ed Giecek, Fleur Helsingor, Debra Mulnick

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Mail art “add & pass book” including IUOMA members The Sticker Dude (Joel Cohen) (New York City, USA); Jon Foster (Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA); Ed Giecek (Concrete, Washington, USA): Fleur Helsingor (Oakland, California, USA); Debra Mulnick (Boise, Idaho, USA). Thanks to Debra Mulnick for sending!

 

July 8, 2019 - IUOMA friends might recall I am applying my Investigative Mail Art skills to the current Add & Pass (A&P) phenom that has embraced, engulfed and enthralled the Eternal Network. Formidable waves of paper (and now entire books) are circulating the globe. I think all of us would like to know who (to thank!) and why. Debra Mulnick kindly sent this very nice “add & pass book” (more on the use of this term later). This is certainly a fine example of contemporary A&P. I am thrilled to document this and other examples from the current mania.

 

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My previous installment of “Secret Masters of Add & Pass” focused on the great mail artist Jon Foster. Based on his numerous appearances in this book, I can only conclude he is a central figure in the current “movement.” Jon Foster seems to have initiated this piece.

 

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I do not wish to serve in the role of Network Language Police nor Defender of Eternal Network Heritage nor Network Nit-Picker. BUT a recent, lively discussion on Facebook alerted me to the concept so apparent in this blog of “Add & Pass Books” and that the practice is not without controversy. These a&p books seem to be growing in popularity. I am making no attempt to thwart what might prove to be a natural evolution of a genre or a fad blossoming like a mutant puffball that expires in dust on a lonely midnight lawn. Practicing Investigative Mail Art, I seek only to report facts and/or draw conclusions based on evidence and reason.

Without reconstructing the lengthy discussion that took place among veteran and Tenderfoot mail artists concerning a&p books, I will now present the Official MinXus-Lynxus Position on Add & Pass Books based upon thoughtful meditation: I prefer not to call them “Add & Pass Books.” They are “Collaborative Mail Art Books” or “Collaborative Tacky Little Pamphlets (TLPs).” Mail artists, of course, should call them whatever they like. Should you want to know the reasoning for the M-L position, contact me and I will be glad to explain. Otherwise, “no big deal.” Carry on.

 

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Lisa dvs 6.18.2018 - 21

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Comment by Nancy Bell Scott on July 11, 2019 at 3:03pm

This history info from several IUOMA mail artists is wonderful, and I'm appreciating everyone's input and perspectives, including the various categories of boekies and thoughts on them. Have to admit, I was pretty bad at history in school but am enjoying it here. (Maybe I was stoned then; it was 1968, after all.) 

Comment by William M on July 10, 2019 at 6:41pm

well, i actually come from the pen pal world(pen palled though a great part of the 80s up to the mid to late 90s). my take on it is this. first there were friendship books. they started rather rudimentary and had the purpose of finding new people to write. i have no idea when they started, but they go back as far as the mid to early 70s as a friend of mine remembers her mom signing them when she(my friend) was a child. over time the friendship books became more and more artistic(people painting,collaging etc. they weren't just a functional tool). i stopped doing them and pen palling in the late 90s. sometime in the last decade i got in contact with most of my old pen pals and we wanted to start doing them again. sometime from the late 90s to that time it appears they had splintered. friendship books existed more for finding new pen pals and decos were for more artsy endeavors and often had a theme. i don't consider decos mail art. i think they run parallel to the eternal network but don't really seem to interact with it or know much if anything at all about mail art history. though those who do decos will often refer to them as mail art(back when i was pen palling i don't recall anyone ever referring to them as mail art though). i think they fall under what john held jr has called in some of his essays "creative pen pals".  i was doing them more or less actively up until this year when i finally quit doing them. i found them a bit limiting(themes and in construction of the books) and i prefer something that is more of a direct collaboration (where you do work on the same page) than each person having their own spot. when i was first getting into proper mail art in the late 80s, i wrote someone in the mail art world that was pretty well known(i thought it was cracker jack kid but now i wonder if it was john held) and sent some friendship books and asked "is this mail art?" and got the response that there were similar books in the mail art network. so there's my two cents.

oh, and as far as knowing who is doing them in decos. it depends on how many pages are in it and who it gets sent to as you send it to someone and you never know who they will send it to. a lot of people will post pages on line and the such so it's easier to know who is doing them(and some even want to track who has signed them), but most decos don't have a set list of who will participate in them unless it's some sort of special theme that someone is worried a lot of people wouldn't be interested in doing(people will sometimes pass when they don't like a theme so they can take longer to get back).

Comment by Judith Dagan on July 10, 2019 at 8:56am

It seems to me that add&pass is completely random whereas Collabs and FB you know who the participants are. Does that sound acurate ?Much of the terminology used is still not clear to me. Nevermind. Art is still art and mail is still mail.

Comment by Jayne Barket Lyons on July 10, 2019 at 3:49am

Hi William & De Villo - months ago I wrote a post on my mailartbyjayne blog about DECOS ( I participate in the group). As I state in the blog, I had never heard of DECOS so I read up on them. It turns out DECOS are from the pen pal / snail mail / happy mail crowd. They have Friendship Books (FBs they call them), which kind of seem like “OUR” collab. books, and a FB Page which is sort of like the Add & Pass. Read this Wikipedia article. I think we are seeing some of these pen pal people crossing over to the ETERNAL NETWORK, and these newbies to mail art are bringing along the terminology from their previous experiences. Of course I could be wrong, but something to think about.

Comment by De Villo Sloan on July 10, 2019 at 3:08am

William, thanks for your memories of "back in the day."

Only recently - say the last month - have I heard the term "add & pass book." That's what caught my interest. But maybe the term has been used for a long time. We all have different experiences. I don't recall them in the 80s or really very many a&ps in my neck of the woods. But I tended toward zines & vispo.

Maybe you saw the long discussion about a&p books on my FB page. I tried to link it here, but no luck.

Add & Pass sheets are associated with Ray Johnson and considered one of mail art's core genres. I never have seen NY Correspondance School A&P books. I suspect they don't exist; but someone surprise me! The classic Rayjo a&ps online are single page and it's interesting to consider them thematically.

Supposedly Ray Johnson got the idea from earlier DaDa collabs. So the form has some historical interest and is possibly a century old. It could be worth a quick pause to consider what we're doing with it now before stumbling ahead. Ben Vautier would just say burn the old ones, I guess.

So the FB discussion that included Jayne Lyons, Terry Owenby, I think Amy Irwen, Jon Foster and others gave me a chance to consider my own position. And I would call them "collaborative books," maybe "collaborative zines" and then I came to like "collaborative Tacky Little Pamphlets (TLPS)" because then you bring in John M. Bennett and Haddock. This piece Debra sent is really excellent imho. Some good work is being done imho.

We have a lot of new people entering mail art, which is great. I do observe we're seeing a lot of reinventing of the wheel. Like, aren't these Deco Books just collab books too? I mean, call them what you like.

We're in a paradox. "Mail art is about a present" said Ray Johnson so cleverly but we're also dealing with an artform that has at least 1/2 century of rich history, which is a significant past. So, you know....

Comment by William M on July 9, 2019 at 8:19am

weren't they always called add and pass books? seems that's

 what i heard them called back in the late 80s/early 90s. maybe i just attached the name to them in my mind.

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