Saturday, January 11, 2014
Insightful article on Mail Art (Beyond abject praise).
introduction (Mis)reading Mail Art
In 1973, Thomas Albright described mail art as a "far-reaching, far-out, and potentially revolutionary avant-garde cultural ‘underground.’" Some twenty years later, Ken Friedman, one of the pioneers of mail art, called the medium "boring," and compared its participants to "small town gossips." For a medium that once promised a refreshing alternative to the machinations of the art world, mail art seems to have passed its day without ever reaching its full potential.
Much of the basis for this discrepancy lies with mail artists themselves. For them intellectual inquiry and scholarship is often deemed contrary to the essential spirit of the medium. As Ken Friedman notes, "mail artists often claim to seek broad public discourse (but they have) little tolerance for differences of opinion, style, or culture." Many mail artists react with hostility to probing inquiries. When asked about his intriguing approaches to collaboration, for instance, Rudi Rubberoid responded "What do you mean ‘why for’? . . . Why do I cut & send? Becoz my goat is pregnant, ok?" Though often reveling in pithy and self-righteous iconoclasm, mail artists evince a pronounced lack of critical distance from their work. Instead they have inaugurated a "separate and unequal" institution for themselves, creating an atmosphere in which outsiders are regarded with suspicion and critical thinkers often castigated as "academics." Conversely, mail artists frequently trumpet themselves as part of "the most important art movement in the world." In short, correspondence art has functioned more as a social phenomenon than a sustained and incisive aesthetic discourse. Above all, it remains an art form trapped at an impasse, requiring a reinvestigation of its history and an evaluation of its attributes and character.
For more, please go here [Link]
[Article by Matt Ferranto]
Note: This is the best article I have read to date on Mail Art. It transcends the usual psychophantic drivel and pseudo-history one often runs across, and mirrors my personal experience.