These pages are yet another example why scans and emails cannot replace mail-art. Earlier in the fall, based mostly on scans I had seen, I suggested to Cheryl her work might reside too much in the realm of the abstract, theoretical, and formalistic. This proves once again just how wrong one can be. For me, these pages draw my complete attention to the fact that a book is an object. One's interaction with it is as much tactile and aural as it is visual. The book is material; written language is material. Bifidus Jones has started a fascinating haptic poetry group here at the IUOMA. I submit this "The World is a Town" section as a unique example of what might be most accurately described as a haptic book, if such a thing can be conceived. There are remarkably different fields one encounters when touching it, ranging from smoothness to contusions. It's interesting to listen to the subtle and different sounds your fingers produce running across the surface. All these interactions - I think - enable us to understand what a book REALLY is, allowing us to transcend complex cultural programing that has purely and simply blinded us and sealed us off from the world. Here's more:
Cheryl Penn uses a piece of metal screen in the top section; the lower section is a photo. I had not made the connection before; but having the original piece, I note a similarity to Karen Champlin's vispo assemblages. In another unfair rant, I once criticized Cheryl for being aesthetic. Wrong again. What do you expect from a Delete-ist? This is meant in a very positive way: This thing looks like a controlled train wreck when you have it in front of you. If anything, it is leaning in the direction of found art. Like action painting, it is a record of the physical movement and emotional expressions of the artist - that's the real "story" this book tells, I think.
Now about the monkeys: I said never again. For this occasion, I am dusting off the old act, as it has new relevance. According to mail-art lore, not long ago a certain mail-artist in the great Midwest section of the USA claimed he had trained monkeys to create mail-art for him. However, he was so disgusted by their habits and behavior that he ejected them unceremoniously to roam in the cold, hard streets of the city. Knowing nothing else but how to make mail-art, the monkeys were left to scavenge and fend for themselves. It was viewed by some as inhumane. This became known as: The Monkey Purge (1). New developments strongly suggest that the Monkey Purge has triggered a wave of unrest among monkeys across the world, particularly concerning mail-art. Cheryl has had several encounters with monkeys lately. She attaches no significance to them. However, I am not entirely convinced. She did include a picture in the envelope, which made the situation more real for me. I include it here as a point of interest. You will see Jellybean the Chincilla (roughly equivalent to what is called a cat in the Northern Hemisphere (or possum in Minnesota). Jellybean is also the South African equivalent to Snooker the Amazing Mail-Art Dog of Wisconsin and is valiantly attempting to fend off a monkey assault as Cheryl, no doubt, attempts to finish a new book assignment for us:
As with all things in the mail-art world - sometimes known for its unique humor - I leave it to you to separate truth from fiction - if such traditional notions apply (but Cheryl's monkey and cat picture is real!). And let us pause to remember other animal legends of mail-art: