INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: Is Trashpo Destined for the Dumpster of History? Erni Baer (Germany), Diane Keys (USA), Stewart Charlebois (Canada), Thom Courcelle (USA)

Mail-art by IUOMA member Erni Baer (Hamburg, Germany)


October 14, 2011 - Recent challenges to the very foundation of Trashpo have raised serious questions about whether this practice will endure in the eternal network. Issues include claims of defective items, authenticity, and challenges to Trashpo concepts by mail-artists. Perhaps most disturbing, Jim Leftwich (Virginia, USA), who coined the term Trashpo, has never made a public comment on the current movement. Others view Trashpo as a fad, repackaged readymades. So what is the current state of Trashpo today and can it endure?


A Can-Do Attitude...


Erni Baer of Hamburg, Germany, whose influences include Da Da and the Beat Generation, is an ideal can-didate (see above) for Trashpo laurels. This flattened aluminum can, glued to cardboard and mailed to me recently, is a shining example of his work that shows the influence of Pop Art in a very direct way. Here is the reverse side:



Erni Baer also maintains a strong identity in the haptic poetry community. Could this be a life insurance policy? A golden parachute to respectability if the Trashpo enterprise goes belly up? He is one of the first recipients of the Trash Po-litzer Prize for his seminal "Llingdo" (2010) sausage can art. This more recent work seems to be another addition to the aluminum can-on. Perhaps this suggests the future direction of Trashpo is in metals.


"God save the Queen. I really mean it, man..."


No discussion of contemporary Trashpo would be complete without a big nod (and a wink) to Diane Keys aka DK. I have never been very good at second-guessing her conceptual brilliance. The most recent mail-art she sent me resulted from my numerous complaints concerning the alleged defective D-Koder ring she sent me. I want to express my deepest thanks to DK for sending me a new, fully functioning ring that is the pride and joy of DKULTNY, the New York branch of her fan club. The ring does not appear in this blog because I could not scan it. However, here is the Trashpo that accompanied it:


Mail-art by IUOMA member Diane Keys (Elgin, Illinois, USA)

She seems to be taking a new direction in micro-Trashpo. Some of the bits of metal are so small you can barely see them, a DK take on minimalism. Clearly, some are meant to help, along with the D-Koder ring, in predicting future events or making decisions. I think some of them are pieces of earrings. I ask myself, "Do I now have pieces of DK's earrings?" Then I wonder: Has Trashpo become a D-Kult of personality? After all, Dark wall has been begging her for months to send him one of her shoes.


DK is now including a Certification of Authenticity with at least some of her mail-art. With all the authentic fakes circulating, I suppose this is logical. But people will just start making fake authenticity certificates, if they have not begun already. This leads to a huge issue: DK is clearly emerging into an industry with product lines and fan clubs. She has D-Kmart. Elgin no longer can provide all the trash she needs, so she is importing it from Maine. A fine-art franchise is included. Can Trashpo survive this level of market exploitation? DK's blog, new and growing in popularity, is a epicenter of Trashpo. The Golden Buddha is a source of cosmic wisdom. I now consult Golden Boo Dee concerning all important decisions:


Canadian Trashpo - A new frontier


Even as Trashpo debates escalate, more and more artists are entering the field. Remarkable work is being produced. Below is exciting and groundbreaking Trashpo I just received from Stewart Charlebois of Langley, British Columbia, Canada. We are familiar with Euro-trash and U.S. trash, yet Canadian trash remain largely untapped. Charlebois' work connects directly with junk food Trashpo through this very large and colorful flattened potato chip bag. In my estimation, an instant classic:


Mail-art by IUOMA member Stewart Charlebois (Langley, British Columbia, Canada)


Stewart Charlebois' work is definitely authentic Trashpo. The folds and creases formed through the flattening process have produced asemic symbols. Whether by chance or design, this is a clever example of asemic Trashpo. Here is the reverse side:



Many thanks to Stewart Charlebois for sending me this wonderful Trashpo. Stewart has a link on his IUOMA profile to a flickr photostream of mail-art:


This overview of Trashpo strongly suggests the artform is alive and well, if not thriving. Debates and questions are likely the result of its explosive growth and evolution. Yet if Trashpo were to fade away I would want to make sure I had documented this well-known classic by Thom Courcelle (Seattle, Washington, USA) that has become a symbol for the Age of Trash:


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Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 16, 2011 at 7:34pm
I wanted to add a note before this blog finally sinks into the sludge pool of eternal network collective memory: At some point over the the last six months (more or less) Jim Leftwich posted some work on Open Fluxus (sorry no link) that looked like Trashpo but he called it "Refuse po." People who are also on Open Fluxus could find it easily. This does raise the issue: If people took some work you did 10 years ago (and had probably nearly forgotten), and decided to use it as the basis for a mail-art movement, how are you supposed to respond? I'd meant to add this in the article anyway, so thought I'd mention it. I always think it's only polite to acknowledge St. Jim Leftpo.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 15, 2011 at 4:09am

DK, I am so happy to see a change in your tone after Mr. Stubbs came to your rescue like a knight in shining armor. 


I am so glad Stewart Charlesbois has made an appearance at IUOMA this evening, even if not in this trash-strewn comment stream. He is an unsung hero of this blog - an artist working in wonderful British Columbia, blissfully unaware of the ether and machinations of Trashpo. Is he a Trash Poet? Indeed, who is? But he is an artist who ventured into the dark realm of the dumpster and returned with a vision that has enriched all of us.


Thank you Stewart. I shall nominate you for a Trash Po-litzer Prize, one of the highest honors of Trashpo.

Comment by DKULT on October 15, 2011 at 3:39am
DVS, I am so glad you posted and like this collection of wine charms, jewelry findings, gears and broken glass. The certification of authenticity was Nancy Bell Scott's genius suggestion, as she thought you might be able to sell this on ebay for scrap metal. The statement I was trying to make was that trash doesn't have to be large to be a problem-those little broken pieces add up. The cogs in the wheels of our society are falling apart. The matrix is being shattered
Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 15, 2011 at 1:59am
Fluexfest! That spill chick! Fluxfest, of course.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 15, 2011 at 1:58am

Thanks for adding to the late-night global trash round-up, Kat. AND thank you for the Chicago Fluexfest stamps! You know I'll be proudly sharing those with IUOMA friends here soon. I appreciate that SO much, Kat. You know I collect the Flux stamps.


This blog has taken many twists and turns. Folks are more passionate about Trashpo than I could have imagined. But the true "Mail-Art Moment" here - making this very, very special - is Diane's tearful reunion with Mr. Stubbs. It took a crisis in the Trashpo world to bring them back together, but it's deeply moving thing to see. I'm not chuffed; I'm choked up.

Comment by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) on October 15, 2011 at 1:25am

PEACE..take a piece OR two OR three

(is that spell chick sleeping already?)

Comment by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) on October 15, 2011 at 1:23am

We know, we know, it is already after 2 a.m. in Greece, but we are trying to follow this enlightened discussion concerning an extremely serious problem for us. At the moment, we are faced with a garbagemen strike (among other workers' strikes) and we would greatly appreciate you dearly talented artists getting over here and picking up some of these treasures that have been piling up on the Greek streets. PLEEEEAZZZZZEE!

Answer our plea....PEACE...and take a piece, ot two, or three!


Ben-the-Bin and friends

Comment by DKULT on October 15, 2011 at 1:03am
Thom-you are a master wordsmith and I think you would do a great job on the manifesto. A collaborative effort would be good. I'm too heartsick to do anything right now....
Comment by DKULT on October 15, 2011 at 1:01am
Seriously, look at that face?  How can I not forgive everything he's done? Besides, I know he can change. He would never have worn a nose ring before. Stubbs is a pig who broke my heart.  He was my inspiration for trashpo-my muse--for awhile anyway. Thanks for sending the DVS and I won't shoot the messenger. I may be out of pocket over the weekend. Mexico is supposed to be good this time of year.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 15, 2011 at 12:34am

Hi Thom, the pig (Mr. Stubbs) and DK have a history that we shall not pursue; nothing to do with you. I thought your comment was great, Thom. Beyond the humor, I personally think Trashpo addresses and keeps in our awareness SERIOUS global issues, as you pointed out. Thanks for the comment and the wonderful mail-art.


Hi Skybridge, yip, call it the dustbin of history (or herstory?) or dumpster, the idea is the same.



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