Dear friends,

I would like to ask you about the rules and canons of Mail Art as they developed throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties. Which of the rules and canons are binding? Which ones cannot be neglected?



A Mail Art artist has published an article in which he writes about young people's ignorance of Mail Art laws, disregard for the canons and the rules. He says there should be exhibitions of artefacts received and catalogues of everything you receive in the mail, as well as an in-depth study of the history and ideology of Mail Art. I tried to argue with him in the comments, but he replied: It's not true that in Mail Art everyone is playing their own football! There are laws!



I don't have the financial means to rent exhibition space and don't have enough free time to catalogue everything I receive in the post. I would like to ask what rules and canons remain binding for us.



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I said this to one of the participants in this forum the other day and I will repeat it here. I have only been able to organise one exhibition of Mail Art in 2019 at the Moscow Museum, but I was able to negotiate with the Moscow Museum to create an archive collection of mail art there.

The Moscow Museum was originally a city museum, but it has grown considerably and has become one of the main cultural centres of our city. In Russia, museum legislation is very strict; if an artefact is accepted by a commission of any state museum, it becomes part of the country's museum fund. It is subject to the law of perpetual storage, the loss or damage of this artefact is punishable by criminal law, and a photograph of the artefact must be posted on the museum's internet portal. The Museum of Moscow has accepted my collection, as well as gifts from three other artists, including Richard Bode and Robert Scala.

What I am writing now has no direct bearing on the topic of this discussion. And yet I wanted to talk about it in connection with the Mail Art exhibitions.

This topic is old, but here's my thoughts anyway:

To add to everything everyone said here, we must not forget that Mail Art also has the dadaist spirit, its playful nature and, some times, its anti art attitude. So there's no point in throwing laws, rules and regulations and doing things the institutional way. It only constrains Mail Art's freedom. Mail Art, for me, is about exchanging art with artists around the world freely. Not about institutions and the art market.

My thoughts: Ever since mankind started decorating themselves and their environment, visual art has served many purposes. It has been used for identifying individuals and groups using personal decoration, enriching one’s environment, protesting social injustices, promoting one’s thoughts and beliefs, and for honoring one’s god(s). Whatever the history and content of art sent though the mail, one thing stands out—it is  an expression of an individual’s creativity that is shared freely with another. This characteristic of mail art has appealed to me —it is a gift to a person or group. A second characteristic is that it is sent through the mail service—in the past only physically, but more recently virtually as well. I suppose that there are the postal service and internet rules of each country to be observed—but even these some mail artists seek to circumvent in ingenious ways. I’m sure mail art will continue to evolve as an art practice. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts.

Thank you for the comments on the article I published to gauge public opinion. I agree with the consensus that male art cannot be sold; it is a personal experience that cannot be monetized.

The exception being, for me, is that I'd be happy with my mail art being sold if the proceeds are for a cause I support.

There is a Curator's Corner group on this portal:

In 2015, Ruud Janssen published a message in this group:

"All  the new projects I see thee days have a digital result (website, blog, e-book). Has the whole mail-art project idea also become a digital project, or does the work still have to be sent by traditional mail.  Somehow I feel that when all is done digitally the conection with mail-art is lost. Is is net-art instead".

Eight years have passed since then, but the problem is still relevant. The basic rule of mail-art is that a mail is a mail, not something else. I have an acquaintance who, back in our youth, was fascinated by the performance of old European music on ancient (authentic) instruments. It's very challenging, but she's good at it. Most importantly, there is essentially nothing old-fashioned, nothing conservative about it, on the contrary, there is an expansion of cultural diversity. So we should stick firmly to the usual post office box and postage stamp, treating all the means of the internet only as an aid. 



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