being a newcomer to IUOMA I have spent quite a bit of time reading mail art documentations, blogs and threads. As far as I understand one of the fundamental ideas of the mail art community is that it is non-judgmental and friendly, as opposed to the art world out there with power and money games, media attention and art critics. Senior mail artists and newcomers treat each other with respect and kindness. It is a community of "outsiders" and the diversity of the network is also its strength.

But unfortunately I have seen that a few members of IUOMA are rather nasty and hurtful in their comments. Also I have learned that quite a few senior members have left because of harassment, insults and bullying and that seems to be an indication of the opposite of what is being stated otherwise.

Whilst the Mail Art Movement has lived for many decades and will live on, the Internet has brought new possibilities but also new challenges.

I know that no internet forum, just as any other social group or network can survive long term, if no rules of conduct or etiquette are established and also enforced by its members and moderators. Now, it may be impossible to see a large number of mail artists and free minded spirits agreeing to any set of rules - just as it is impossible to herd cats, as the saying goes. :-) However, it may be possible to start a discourse about the underlying spirit or ethos of the mail art community and IUOMA online and how to deal with destructive tendencies. 

The general questions that I am asking are these:

Can the ning group of IOUMA be a tiny place in the universe where goodness and kindness prevails? How can that be done? 

Or is it already rotting from within and that is why more and more good members are leaving the sinking ship?

What can individual members do so that the overall atmosphere remains positive, generous and supportive?

On a more practical level I would like to ask:

Does the ning-group of IUOMA have a code of conduct?

If so, how is it enforced, and by whom?

If not, shouldn't there be one, so that various abuses can be reported, examined and rectified?

with love and respect


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Replies to This Discussion


XX syas that you have not failed her as a mentor.

Many people have told me that you are a very good mentor. Keep on mentoring.

Not everyone has a mentor. I don't -- do you? (Hey! we could always mentor each other!)


Great discussion. I've seen people fall by the wayside in my limited time here. It makes me question the reason for dropping out.

I think it comes down to knowing a bit about the person you're sending post to. When I send mail art to someone for the first time I normally send out something that wouldn't harm a fly. Then after getting to know people I get to know what they like, their views and so forth. I see how one could offend someone by sending a collage of Jesus with his eyes x'ed out in a UFO trying to shoot at Godzilla with laser beams  to someone who's a devout Christian. Quite plausible that they would be upset. A lot of people on IUOMA are talented comedians and sometimes humour can be taken the wrong way by others. I think once you build your online relationships with IUOMA 'members' and you get to know them you should be able to judge how to act around them. My two cents.

The discussion about dress code I think, clearly was meant to be humerous. And an attempt to filibuster the discussion. Or did anyone not get that?

At the risk of being accused of having rather vulgar taste I suggest as IUOMA Dress Code the Red Super Erni Costume. I am already wearing it.

Or a colourful scarf with an Xmas jumper!

Like you said: Anyone can be Erni. And everyone should be Erni (for at least 15 minutes).


I would like to get back to the real discussion here and ask you all to contribute. Especially, I would like to draw your attention to Vals thoughtful comments, in particular the seventh comment.

This one is about attempts to establish a minimum and voluntary (!) consensus about what kind of behaviour is acceptable or not, about what it means to communicate in a civilized way with each other in this ning group of IUOMA.

Some other questions, that I have posed have not been adressed yet either. I would like to restate some questions:

Does the mail art community here see itself (1) as a friendly and hospitable place for artists as opposed to the agressive art market out there or not? The implicit message I got was, no, it is not, it is just like anywhere else. The recommendation was to grow a thick skin. However, in my experience, and I have known a lot of artists in my life, most are a very sensitive people, so somehow this does not quite work in my view. How do you see this? 

What do you all mean exactly by respect? What is acceptable and what not? Where do you draw the line? 

For example, is it acceptable to call somebody a "nigger", even as a joke? (I have seen this here on IOUMA) 

It is also not clear to me, what can be done if a minimum of decency and respect for others is not upheld (say if somebody makes racist comments.) Val's suggestion that a group of mail artists give yellow and green cards to people was not deemed acceptable by Ruud. I presume Val's suggestion was not entirely serious.

But the underlying idea, that members of this community care and watch out for each other, and gently remind others when their behaviour is offensive, is that unreasonable? 

I hope more of you will voice their view.

And thank you, De Villo for your contributions, but I think it is time that you step back a little and let others have their say too.

I will never agree to an established guideline on how to behave...
this is not catholic school or daycare....

i feel we need to better establish the mentor system which was put into place to deal with an issue just like this...

I will never agree to a restriction upon my artistic values or my speech...i do however agree to think before typing..

Mailart is in no way related to the current consumer art market - we have removed members for requesting art with an entry fee....this is a community - a family, not some place to be cool cause you do art...

We want members to be happy here & again i will say that we need to look at the mentor system & establish guidlines for mentors....We have failed the members if they do not come to us...

addressing the "Nigger" statement....
was the owner of the page offended, or was it just you?
Did the art contain a bundle of sticks or a bundle of cigarettes? standard vernacular for nigger you know...
it never was a reference to an African american so i cannot see how that is offensive...

i have a few "friends" on here that are not too cool with me being Egyptian.....
them being Israeli doesn't bother me enough to hate them...
they still say offensive stuff & I hate Israel,  but here - we are mailartists - a family.....
not nations & not groups & not ethnicities

De Villo & Val are freaking great & they have wonderful ideas - but....
Once Ruud made it very clear to me that there are no rules & he does not want to impose any as that would be weird ....

the answer lies within standardizing the mentor system & making that work properly....

Good sound stuff, APLD.

A few points:

* the mentor system (which I was instrumental in setting up) only focusses -- as you well know as for large periods of the year YOU ARE the mentor system -- on new members, not existing ones. The behaviour that is being discussed here is largely that of well-established member, not the New Kids on the Block;

* you might not agree to restrictions on your speech, but they are there. Go out and abuse, say, a policeman, and see how quickly you get arrested.

* whatever the nature of the Mail Art community -- commercial, consumer or otherwise -- I belive it must have some standards of behaviour.

* I never realised that your are Egyptian, and now that I know you are it makes absolutely no difference to me. I am not an Isreali, but I am Jewish, and I hope that now that you know that it will make absolutely no difference to you. We share a community of mail artists.

* some words are deemed to be politically offensive whether or not a specific individual takes offense. if you follow football/soccer look at what's been happening about perceived and actual racial abuse in the English Premiership.

Regards, Erni/Val

What do you think?

Makes perfect sense. I like this part: 'There's a reason no one talks about it because we choose to make a reality that doesn't include people excluding us, disrespecting our art like we don't matter because we're not "distinguished" artists...' Wouldn't the notion of getting offended by someone's remarks of our mail art go against mail art? Who cares what people think just keep on doing what you want to do and create. It's great when someone likes my mail art but it all comes down to my own personal satisfaction and as Angie and Snooky put it so eloquently it's up to us to define our own reality not let someone else's actions define it for us.

I agree that perhaps many people choose to just get on with it and are able to ignore the "problem children," so to speak. But also, a discussion like this can be valuable for anyone out there who is unaware that what they are experiencing may be part of a bigger problem. If no one is talking about it, they may assume it's just them. Throughout history, feeling like you're the only one feeling any given way has never been a positive.

For me personally, I agree that I define my own reality and if I don't like what someone says to me, I'm perfectly capable of adjusting that reality to exclude them. But I know that other people aren't the same.

This is what I think xx - I think it's up to the individual while we are a collective we are very much individual, we are the ones that control our mouths so to speak so if we defame or use racist remarks etc. then that's our own doing. It is then up to other individuals to do something about it. As in the real world if I see someone being abused verbally or whatever I would try my best to stand up for them or report them. In most cases reporting them would be in the best interest of everyone on IUOMA as sometimes coming to someone's aid only adds flame to fire. From what I can gather there are mentors here and of course the main man Ruud Janssen why not go to them with your complaint? I have my personal code of conduct, for me that is enough, of how to behave in general and just because one is on the net doesn't mean that respect should go out the window. And if respect goes out the window the offending party should be booted out - no warnings - gone! Of course quite a lot of the time there are misunderstandings, comments can be taken the wrong way and everything open to interpretation. But when someone's calling someone a 'nigger' or using racist slurs I don't think this should be tolerated.

xx Jones I like your points and where you're coming from, though I'm a little confused and trying my best not to speculate as to the behaviour you are mentioning. From my limited time here I've only encountered extremely polite, decent, respectful human beings who put a lot of time and energy into mail art and IUOMA.




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