Hi All,

I would like to hear your thoughts/views on participating in exhibitions where there is no mention of any documentation of the received artworks. I personally feel that an online catalogue (be it on a website, free blog sites or Facebook postings) should be available for the participants/online visitors to view each others' pieces. Additionally, a catalogue would also mean that the artworks are recorded for posterity (however that long is in the digital media). 


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Quite simply; you do the work (that is a thing unto itself) and then you send it out (or not). Whether it is exhibited or not, catalogued or not, whether the person (or persons) you send to like it, keep it or throw it away, whether the dog eats it or it is put on Ebay (buy it now) or even if it ever gets there at all in the first place; none of that is really your concern.  You can have no control over it so give it up.  What happens happens.

However, there is a tradition that an exhibition or a project induces some sort of 'documentation'. 

When I started that was how I found out about other people, saw their work and got their contact addresses.  They were anything from a photocopied list of participants to a glossy book.  I miss 'hard-copy' documentation and try my best to only send to projects that promise such a thing.

If an exhibition is for mail-art, then it is laziness and churlish not to post out some sort of documentation but I expect I am in a minority to think that way . . .

Thanks for reminding me that I have no control over my work once it enters the postal system. It means that I should let go of my attachment to my work and just learn to entrust it to the postman once I have given it my best shot. No, I don't think that you are in the minority as I imagine that most of us here would love to see our art documented. There is so much for me to learn from looking at other people's works.

Regarding documentation, I think it's important that we create a record of our work ourselves: photograph or scan it, write the technical file and where it was sent. Organizing our artistic portfolio is a way of having 'control' over our work.

I think it is part of the tradition of postal art, besides being a kindness of the organizers, provide a catalog with the list of participants. I am also from the time when catalogues were photocopied and mailed. Therefore, I choose to participate only in the calls that offer this counterpart.


yes me too, whatever mary anne said, a mail art project should provide

some kind of documentation, even a message saying it was received is good.

the germans and dutch are very good at making nice printed catalogs of the

work received, i appreciate that. if i don't hear from them or get documentation

i can always send a nasty message, just be aware that  there are many pretend

mail-artists at iuoma and 6mths from now won't even be doing it.

i know what yr saying, very frustrating.

Hi Carl.  Maybe my previous ramble misled you a little as to what I think:

Where a gallery/museum/exhibition space runs a Mail Art exhibition, asking for contributions from Mail Artist ( that is: artists who use the vagaries of the postal system as a part of the creative process ), they ought to provide documentation through the mail.  I understand that there are a dozen very good reasons ( time and cost amongst them ) why they don't do it but, after all is said and done, they are asking us artists to give our their time and money so . . . 

'Online documentation' may be thought 'better than nothing' but, for me at least, I get very little from that experience so, again for me, 'online documentation' is the same as 'no documentation'.

If you want proper consideration search out the old guys who tend to do things better; although there are no guarantees.  Ginny Lloyd has been running her Artistamp Museum for many years.  It is documented on-line but she also sends out the occasional postcard which serves as receipt/thank you/ and documentation.  Then there is Ryosuke Cohen who does wonderful work and good documentation.

Again I would say that  any documentation is a bonus.  If you believe you should have it rather than could have it, you will be in for a lot of disappointment . . .

Perhaps we could be doing more to publicise the 'good documenters'?

For institutions or for individuals who are able to request & obtain grant money, YES, a physical catalogue for the pARTicipants seems practical. However, it's not always practical to include ALL scanned images of the mailart exhibit in one brochure, so in that regard, there is an advantage to digital documentation on a blog, etc. That means that ALL of the pieces in an exhibit can be documented via scan, and it also means that MORE PEOPLE will have access to viewing the exhibit online (all over the world). Of course, a list of participants addresses shared with all the other participants is ALWAYS appreciated, because that's not the kind of information you would automatically share online. At the VERY LEAST, send the address list via email to the participants. I think we all need to keep in mind that there are often different circumstances surrounding a mailart call & exhibition, and sometimes the person hosting the exhibit is RENTING the exhibit space and so that's already a big expense. So I try not to pass judgement. 

My two cents worth.

I am free to participate or not under the terms set out by the person/collective/gallery etc creating the show. However, as a practicing artist I am tried of being invited to create work and not receive anything in return. An online catalogue is the least that could be offered. A printed catalogue is next best and I would expect that from a a commercial gallery, arts centre, museum etc. Especially any organisation that receives funding. I'd even like a message; 'We received your work and we love it!'.

My worst experiences with galleries is being asked to subsidise the rent on the space, pay for the opening and then they still take a 30% commission! My ongoing annoyance is that of all the art forms, visual art is the one that the public can enjoy without the artist receiving a cent. With all other art forms you usually have to buy a ticket. Hell, even buskers get money tossed into a hat! But someone can walk into your show (which has taken a year to create and you've paid for materials, studio space and all the exhibition costs above), enjoy your work and then walk out again.

But hey, am I doing it for the money? Of course not! I make art because I have to make art.





And not necessarily in that order ;)



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