Received: Jon Foster's is it time for Punk NouveauX mail-art? (Winston Salem, North Carolina, USA)

Mail-art by IUOMA member Jon Foster, North Carolina, USA

October 30, 2010 - This is my favorite piece by Jon Foster received thus far. I've been thinking about Jon's discussion concerning Punk mail-art here at the IUOMA. So my first response to this piece was: X-Ray Spex! I just adore Poly Styrene. Before I move in earnest to a self-serving, manipulative, and exploitive discussion of Punk mail-art, have a gander at the front of this post-card size piece by Jon:

Nice one all around Jon - appreciate it greatly, as ever. Now on to this Punk NoveauX mail-art thing Jon is encouraging. Below is a sort of re-enactment of Punk mail-art using real examples from my archives as possible inspiration for people thinking of getting involved in Jon's project. What follows is for historic documentation. But be aware, those were really different times; and this isn't for everyone. Punk was an aesthetic. Punk set out to offend people. Punk developed a specific kind of anti-art. Yet it is a glimpse of a phase at least some portion of the mail-art community passed through.


Authentic Punk mail-art-zine page from the 1980s. Music and mail-art often shared the stage in these publications. Can anybody tell me who the guy with the pipe was? He was a standard fixture in everything from that era in the U.S.

Reconstructed below is, what was for me, a typical Punk mail-art exchange:

1) I would receive this or something similar to this in the mail:

Above is authentic Punk mail-art from the 1980s I received (NOT by me). It's some kind of liquid splattered on a photocopier. The two frames are titled: "Creation" and "Destruction."

If I received Punk mail-art like this in the Punk Era, my response would have been to send a note back to the mail-artist something like this:

What is this XXXX you sent? You are a sick XXXXX. Did I give you my permission to send me your XXXXX? You disgust me. The mail arrives when I'm trying to force down this xxxxxx coffee. I'm not feeling so great already, got it? Like seizures not feeling well, OK? I get this XXXX you sent and I'm XXXXXXX in dry heaves now, XXXXX. I would send you something of mine to show you how it's done. But I puked on the only mailart I've made in 3 months because of you - XXXX XXXXX. I would love to spit on this XXXX and send it back. But I already have this XXXXXXX problem with the fascist postal authorities because of XXXXX Reagan. Can't mail bodily fluids. So I'm sending this note to tell you not to send me any more of this xxxx.


PS - The address says XXXXX. I thought they lynched XXXXX like you down there.

(2) With this kind of nurturing and encouragement, wouldn't you know another piece of mail-art by the same person would arrive about a week later for another critique. It would probably look something like this:

Above is authentic Punk mail-art from the 1980s I received (not by me). A photo-copied collage. This was the Golden Age of photocopy art, in my opinion, as epitomized by Meikal And's Xeoxial Editions in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. With the arrival of a second missive something like this during the Punk Era, I probably have written a response like this:

Hey again xxxx,
Thanks for the autobiography I didn't ask for XXXXXX - or is this a copy of your XXXXXX intake report? I bet your mother is proud of you. Her approval must be really important, as you are obviously fighting for your life to hold on to that little world of your own in her BASEMENT. And poetry! I didn't realize I was dealing with Jello Biafra's XXXXX. Look, moron. Give up on the mail-art idea. Go work for an insurance company or join the army. When you XXXX that up at least you'll be doing something to help The Revolution.


PS - One more of these pieces and I'm getting on a bus and coming down there to hand-deliver the response, Got it, Rimbaud?

It could go on indefinitely. That's what it was like, honest. I'll wrap this with one final piece from the archives that is probably about as Punk as you could find and from the peak years. Signed by the artist:

:) ;) :)

This blog is about art and presents images of art for thoughtful discussion and to encourage creative free expression only. This blog is not meant or intended to malign or offend any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, institution, company or individual. This blog is not meant in any way to do harm including but not limited to defamation, intimidation, libel or injury in any form to any individuals.

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Comment by De Villo Sloan on November 11, 2010 at 2:54pm
Jon, that's good news. Extending it beyond the "peak" years of Punk opens it up to a lot of good work and styles. Most of what I have would technically be post-punk - years when Seattle was a center for music (Grunge and Alternative) and, yes, mail-art too - they crossed over pretty extensively. I have a lot of Seattle stuff - quiet there these days it seems. Excellent!
Comment by jon foster on November 11, 2010 at 1:26pm
I'd already planned to make this group, just haven't gotten around to it yet. I have a lot of punk zines from the late 90's that I can look through to see if there's anything usable there.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on November 10, 2010 at 11:25pm
Johnny "Rotten" Foster - maybe we can set up a punk exhibit in one of the discussion groups - sounds like people have some great collections and images from the era.
Comment by jon foster on November 10, 2010 at 11:13pm
A great place for all of this stuff is with punk rock zines and what not, from around that time. The newly released complete Touch and Go zine has some wonderful stuff like this. Any band that existed in the 80's had some Reagan collage with buildings falling, etc. I need to unearth some of this and add some pictures.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on November 10, 2010 at 10:58pm
Jeez Bifidus, that is a classic. It was still considered underground and subversive - and there was an explosion of it in the '80s - Midwest was a vital center. I still haven't figured out why. I did not know about this one in Youngstown. This stuff fascinates me. I wonder if it could fit into the recycling thing. Seriously - thanks for sharing.
Comment by Bifidus Jones on November 10, 2010 at 10:47pm
Found some old FaGaGaGa punk art while looking for something else in my collection:

To use such a famous photograph--FaGaGaGa has guts, that's for sure. And then I came across this one:

DVS, you and Jon should definitely start an IUOMA punk art group. It'll give some of us old farts something to reminisce about.
Comment by Marie Wintzer on November 2, 2010 at 11:03am
Couldn't disagree more, I think you get brilliant stuff!!! :-)) (even those "milk" spills)
Comment by De Villo Sloan on November 2, 2010 at 10:21am
Hi Marie - thanks - strange stuff. I was really surprised in the "Less is Real" piece to find that bit of sort-of minimalist poetry that is so similar to Fluxus word things - I hadn't looked at these things in a very long time - total coincidence. I guess ideas have been "in the air" longer than we realize. See what people send me? You get all the good stuff :)
Comment by Marie Wintzer on November 2, 2010 at 12:05am
Fascinating stuff you got in your archives!! No, really! :-o
That softer punkNouveauX card you received is quite cool. A bit less "in your face" and still high impact.
Comment by jon foster on November 1, 2010 at 8:19pm
Yes, those are 3D specs...and it's kind of an inside joke. I got those specs at the Nasher Museum in Durham NC, where I saw an exhibit about music and fine art.



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