In the starting years of Mail-Art, the communication went outside the gallery systems, and wasn't visible for the outside world at all. Mail-Art was sent from sender to receiver, and nobody else would see the result (unless there was a small documentation or the show was for a public.

These days with the Internet, we show all out production to all online (the Internet is a public place), and the privacy we once had seems to become so much less because the network has embraced the Internet too. Some old-time mail-artists still refuse to use the Internet.

What are your thoughts on this?

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I"m of two minds, on the one hand, the notion of someone receiving another's artwork privately has its upside, then again we have to deal with the reality that is the internet which, in my mind, forces the question of "what is privacy in the 21st century?". And I do think the next revolution will be about the definition of privacy. One of the ironies of this project is that people are expressing what their personal definition is and they're doing so in the most public of ways! So we will see where people take this project.

10.05.15 Dare Ruud J., & liketvsnow, ...a most noteworthy topic & response...I too, think we can still have the best of both worlds---- but "reality" always seems to be something else in the Land of Illusion.  I am  hopeful & curious as well as to  where all of this will eventually lead. I certainly don't know exactly what to do about it but I find myself thinking & periodically babbling on about how Big Brother has long been discontent with just  watching.  ...& so it goes or doesn't. Richard Canard....  Post Scriptum:.... & as per usual, De Villo Sloan gets to the heart  of the the issue.  

Good point, ltvs.

The internet has changed the nature of mail art for many, IMHO. I was very active in pre-internet days. I came back to mail art about five years ago.

At first, I did what I had done "back in the day." I included a long note - really a personal letter - with what I sent out (I don't send out a lot compared to others; ironically, I am much more a blogger). To my complete horror, I found these personal notes I sent people - never intended to be shared - were appearing on blogs throughout the internet for anyone to read. That is not the fault of the mail artist. It is standard practice to share mail received online, only I hadn't thought through that part at first. I did feel like private thoughts I shared were being displayed in public, and it was not very comfortable (my fault entirely.)

So now I assume what I send out will be shared with the public. I assume what I receive can be blogged and is meant to be blogged, unless the artist specifically requests something different.

A certain intimacy is gone. There is even something a little contrived: We make something that seems private, but we know it will likely be shared with a larger audience. So that changes things.

Mail art does very well on the internet. Some of it is voyeuristic, I believe. We enjoy reading others' mail, which at least has the illusion of privacy. We like being able to overhear a private conversation.

Well, I guess each generation has its own values, habits and customs. At the same time - and at the risk of being criticized as someone who lives in the past - I think that a letter still qualifies as private communication and if the receivers want to post it online they should ask for permission first. It would be different if, for instance, I published a paper or e-zine and asked for letters of comment.

I don't know, but my impression is that, generally speaking, a lot of people don't really understand the implications of the Internet. They mix private and public without realizing that they should be treated as very different realms of human and social interaction.  

Should I publish the envelope I am about to send out or not? That is sometimes the questions. Sometimes it spoils the fun, sometimes the reactions get in even before the piece of mail actually has arrived......

Another great issue to arise from this via Ruud's comment:

Is it appropriate to post art online (maybe on your blog or in the IUOMA gallery) BEFORE your friend has received it in the mail?

The internet allows for "instant publication." Usually artists are excited about their recent work, so it is hard to keep a surprise a secret. I have seen several comments by visual poets recently saying that "people publish too much [online]."

This kind of thing seems to happen all the time. Related to that:

Is it appropriate to ask an artist to send you something you see online? I admit to liking something so much, I have asked the person to send it to me. Then I've felt bad for asking.

I think sharing art online is a good thing. I don't believe in blogging peoples personal messages, as to me it's something private that should remain between two people. I know others feel that everything should be documented and posted online and then there's the people who don't like any part of their work blogged.

I'm not really sure why I'm stating the obvious but I've come to the conclusion that privacy is a bit of a minefield and it's best to do some research about what the person you're mailing or recieving mail from finds acceptable or airing on the side of caution when it comes to posting stuff online.

On the subject "Should I publish the envelope I am about to send out or not?" I think it's best to wait until it's been recieved if possible. I've jumped the gun a few times with sneak previews of stuff I'm about to send out.

As we can see from the writings posted here, the internet has forced a change in the definition of privacy ... so let us continue onward, making art, posting it online, sending it via the postal system because this is what the future dictates.

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