A D-Komposed Gutai Trashbook from WA Rodgers (Takoma Park, Maryland, USA)

Mail-art by IUOMA member WA Rodgers (Takoma Park, Maryland, USA)

June 20, 2013 - WA Rodgers is a newcomer to the Eternal Network. I have seen scans of her work posted at the IUOMA and find it highly distinctive and fascinatingly cryptic in both word and image.

WA Rodgers has expressed an interest in Trashpo and has delved into it with depth, intensity and insight. This boekie I am thrilled to have received from her easily fits the definition of Trashbook, based on her ingenious use of found material.  

This is a three-fold work with a total of six frames (pages - what constitutes a page in the book is actually variable). Among book artist friends, I am known for not doing well with linear documentation. So I will try to compensate by presenting scans that show the two panels, all six pages and some close-ins.

WA Rodgers' boekie came in this elegant wrapper.

My favourite part of the work is the panel (full scan at the top; one frame here) that displays waded up trash paper that appears to be in the process of disintegration (but is in actuality preserved in situ). Much Trashpo you see is sanitized and in an excellent state of preservation. This only makes sense and is indeed only polite when you consider the work is being mailed to someone. Yet anyone who has participated in the ritual of gathering material in the streets to create Trashpo knows that it is often a grimy, gritty and dirty business. Thoughtlessly discarded consumer trash is a blight, and it becomes moreso as nature seeks to reclaim it. The genius of WA Rodgers in this boekie is that she captures this aspect of decomposing trash, giving it an unusual realism.

The Japanese Gutai Group - so influential in mail-art - was interested in the process of decay, decomposition and change that inevitably occurs in a work of art over time. Gutai emphasized the physical nature of these changes; this concept also has a metaphorical dimension that can be applied to text and image. WA Rodgers has a Gutai sensibility in this remarkable work.


This section of the piece also incorporates text with writing, further establishing its Trashpo connection. In this state of decomposition, some very interesting effects are achieved related to asemics and vispo:

In particular, this close-in reveals the breakdown and distress of the paper has produced a text only partially intelligible. Nature is (or chemistry?) is responsible for the erasure. This might be considered a kind of eco-asemics.

This frame shows more juxtaposition of materials. The process of decomposition, if anything, is highlighted even more by the strip of colour that is considerably more intact than the paper.

WA Rodgers has only given herself two panels and six frames in this work, yet she manages to be astonishingly versatile. This part of the boekie incorporates a more recognizable Trashpo collage style. The emphasis on image is pronounced, although - for instance - the red letters provide some interesting minimalist Trashpo in the classic style.

Here is a close-in. The book is highly interactive. Many different image/text combinations can be achieved by enfolding and unfolding the pages beyond what has been offered in these scans. The Trashbook was enclosed in an intriguing envelope:


Many thanks to WA Rodgers for this stunning and original work!

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Comment by Carina on June 24, 2013 at 7:48am

Beautiful and "simple"! Perfect arrangement on black paper.

Comment by Susan McAllister on June 22, 2013 at 5:23pm
Wen, I love your term dreamy disintegration and it certainly applies to this piece. DVS, perhaps that's a term that applies to the rusty, vine-covered truck. Nature just doing a little dreamy disintegration. I bet it was beautiful.
Comment by WA Rodgers on June 22, 2013 at 4:22am

In regard to the aesthetic aspects of Trashpo - I like it on a number of levels - formally and conceptually...as a practice and for the world spun into these new/old objects....

Comment by WA Rodgers on June 22, 2013 at 4:16am

Thanks, DVS!

Comment by De Villo Sloan on June 22, 2013 at 4:06am

There has been a lot of interest recently due to Shozo's death and John Held Jr. did a Gutai exhibition in San Francisco that included mail-art. I think IUOMA folks participated.


Wen, your process comments are amazing. The paper in the book is, I guess, so wonderfully arranged that I thought you might have used paper mache to achieve the effects. Learning that it's all natural is a revelation.

I have a friend who was completely into the "old" Fluxus. He dragged me out into the woods once to see a rusting, junked truck that was being reclaimed by vines. "That's art! That's art!" he kept yelling. In truth, I have always been suspicious myself. It's taken me a long time. My response at the time was something like: "That's not art; it's human destruction of the planet."

In something I wrote for Rebecca Guyver yesterday, I continued to insist that I thought Trashpo was still primarily a protest against consumer culture. In other words, most of the work is primarily ideological and not aesthetic.

Looking at your book, where (others support this in their comments) there is beauty in the discarded as well as in the process of decay, I am persuaded something else is going on in Trashpo too.

Again, fab work.

Comment by WA Rodgers on June 22, 2013 at 3:41am

@DVS:  I did not recall the the Gutai group, so I did a bit of digging. I do feel a strong affinity for some of ideals of their artistic practice. There's a pretty interesting video on the group below... 


Comment by WA Rodgers on June 22, 2013 at 3:35am

@Susan - being in the elements or underfoot distresses them....There are always bits of paper in the hedges and along the sidewalk (particularly near the berm or at the edge of parking areas) on my walks around the place where I live.  Sometimes I pick them up, and they're so icky (dirty or covered with suspicious crud) that I just transfer them to the recycling.

I like dreamy disintegration that happens over time....It would be interesting to accelerate it, no?  Like drive over your drawings until they have attained that airy and coarse beauty.  (I think there may be a science to it.)

Comment by Susan McAllister on June 21, 2013 at 9:53pm
Wen, would you share how you make the distressed paper? I find it very beautiful.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on June 21, 2013 at 7:40pm

Thanks all for appreciating WA's mail-art. This is a case where the scans can't really convey how great the piece is. (BTW - WAR set the distressed paper on black pages - not a background I added - very stunning contrast.)

Anyone can make a Trashbook; that's what's wonderful about the form. Many mail-artists have jumped in and made some fine ones.

I think many of us find you run into making choices about pristine found material and the really grubby stuff you  would only handle with gloves. So you have this decomposition idea. Should the Trashbook capture the process of decay? That's very similar to the way the Gutai group integrated decomposition into the work. Now WAR isn't Gutai by association, but there is a real Gutai spirit.

For me, WAR captured the decomposing, always changing nature of materials. It's a great addition to all the Trashbooks people make, receive, blog etc.

Thanks again WAR!

Comment by Alicia Starr on June 21, 2013 at 4:32pm

Nice piece Wen and blog too DVS.



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