THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH RAPHAEL NADOLNY. 19
Started on: 3-1-1995
RJ : Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?
Reply on: 2-2-1995
RN : It was in March or April 1988. I went to the Post Office to send a letter to my friend and saw there a mail art exhibition. I don't remember the title now. It was very interesting for me. I saw information it was organized by "Mój _wiat" - a teenage magazine. Then I bought this magazine and found a special part about mail art in it. Finally I started to send mail in this Network.
RJ : What were your first experiences with the mail-art network?
Reply on : 1-3-1995
RN : I started to send my works to many projects and persons. It was important for me to receive first answers, first documentations. It was very exciting. At this moment I had no deep thoughts about Mail Art Network, about communication, about role and position of mail art in culture. Just participating in many projects and exhibitions. It was important to have consiousness that everyone has the same possibility to participation. One of my first contacts was participation in Ryosuke Cohens' project "Brain Cell" (no 126). My list of addresses was still growing. But in this time, end of the 80's I had many contacts with mail-artists in Poland, most of them at my age. Some contacts became personal correspondents and I even met a few of them personally. Next was my first project "In memory of Salvador Dali."
RJ : Tell me more about your first project. How did you think of it, how did it go, what did it teach you?
Reply on : 22-4-1995
RN : It was a few months after the death of Salvador Dali (23th Jan. 1989). I was thinking about my first project and wanted to find an interesting subject. It was probably some kind of irrational impulse and result of my interest in surrealistic art in this time. So, the choice was very personal. Now I'm not so sure about it, because of commercial activities of Dali in the art world. On the other hand the theme was only the pretext to see how it'd be going.
Deadline was January 1st 1990. I received works from 21 participants. Works were very different. Some with relations to Dalis' works, some surrealistic and some not very connected with the theme. All was exhibited during The Art ZINE Gallery show in Zielona Góra , 2-4 October 1992.
This project taught me that participants are not always interested in the subject of the Mail Art Show. They send just one xerox copy of one work to many projects and important to them is to receive documentation. It made me sure that personal contacts and correspondence are a better way to exchange thoughts, ideas and works. But on the other hand Mail Art is a network and Mail Artists should participate in projects to have the conciousness that they are a group of people making something together. Networking is the essence of Mail Art.
RJ : Do you answer all the mail art you get?
(On November 2nd I received the magazine Irons, no. 9 , February 1995, sent out end of October 1995. I sent the question again to Raphael Nadolny and also a sample of a finished interview with Anna Banana and some texts I wrote in the last months because he askes for texts about mail art for his publications)
Reply on 12-11-1995
RN : Dear Ruud, After receiving your question I sent you my answer, but now I see that my letter didn't reach you. So it dissapeared in the post office entrails. But nowq I can not find my answer to your question in my archive, so I wrote a new one:
No, of course not. It depends on many reasons. Things which I receive must show something impresive and important for me at this moment. Sometimes I receive a piece of mail, leave it down without my feelings about it. When I take it again (one week later for example), find in this work something interesting and impresive. The act of answering depends on my personal feelings on that day, what I am thinking it then. Maybe about bad weather and rain?
At my beginnings in mail art, I wanted to get many contacts. So I sent answers to all persons. But after a few months I realized that this activity is not so important to me as before. I always wanted to make hand made works, so when there came more and more xerox copies I was disappointed (that's the reason why I never answer chain letters; I hate them). Works of art means to me something very personal, to be with a very close touch with a person - artist behind it. But not a problem of a copy was important. The mail cannot be anonymous for me. When a xeroxcopy has substance, it moves me to answer. We may say the same about a mail art project.
RJ : How large is the network you have discovered so far? Do you have any clue to how many mail artist / networkers there are all over the world?
Reply on 30-12-1995
RN : My mail art network is not so big at this moment. I've got permanent contacts with about 25-30 persons. This is my most important part of the network and mail art activity. Communication with these networkers is more personal, not only by sending art works and nothing else. We exchange thoughts, ideas, sometimes personal problems, so this is like pen-pal correspondence.
They've become my my friends (even if I didn't meet them personally), but mail art is the base of this contacts. The number of networkers is changing and is not so important. Some people are silent for a long time and then I've got a new contact which becomes more personal. But of course I send works to many mail art projects, to some people and contacts with them are only this one time.
I think this is very difficult to find the division line between networking and personal contacts. This two spaces are diffused, because our srtistic creativity is personal. The need of break our own lonely is one of the basis of mail art networking. This subject is not so often touched upon; important are others from social to artistic. But this problem, so psychological, to break our exceptionality between people around us, to find persons who are different like us, is one of the most important problems.
In the 70's it was very exciting to break isolation between artists who wanted to break with the official way of thinking about art and situation of the artist in the art-world. In countries under communist regime it was so important. Artists could break official art system, with censorship, with galleries controlled by government. In Poland mail art started in the early 70's and it was connected with conceptual activity. It was a chance to receive fresh ideas from all over the world. Mail art was a substitute for the freedom.
There are two different accents: on the West against commercial activitiesin art world; in communist countries to avoid official art system controlled by the government. Not everyone remembers this. But this is a historical problem, for art historians, Mail art networks are now quite different. It is a big black hole which absorbs everything: not only mail art, fax art, compurter art, e-mail. You can find everything, anarchist ideas, erotic, boycotts, gender actions, music, video art, and more and more. I think that Global Mail can show how different and big the network is now. And I cannot say the number of participants; it's changing every day, but during our contacts, we create our own, small networks. Everyone is different.
RJ : The many sides of "mail art", that one can encounter while networking, is of course its strenght. In your answer you mentioned some different aspects. Which ones are interesting for you as an artist?
Reply on 20-2-1996
RN : The most important aspect in mail art networking is the possibility to show my works and ideas to other persons, but not ordinary people passing by on the street. They are artists too, with their own, mostly very different views on art. Sometimes it is like a confrontation. I'd like to see their reactions, when they receive my works. Making art works means for me to show my inner feelings, to express my thoughts, my ideas, my views on different things, to show wgen I'm very sad (like today) or I'm happy etc.
But aesthetic, pictural aspect, is very important too, because I express it in plastic forms, using different techniques. And I'd like to share it with oher Networkers. This is very personal, a level in mail art interesting for me.
But I know that mail art is a social, or a common activity. We can express our views about communities, governments, to make actions to support people in hard situations (for example in Balkan Countries). There are many possibilities, but I think that we are afraid to use them all. Maybe I know a so small part of the network, but I think that we lost sometimes the idea of dada and fluxus (of course now it is a quite different time, but the world in general is the same). Needs the world a next Utopia? Mail art network gives many possibilities and maybe we are not aware of subversive character of this movement. Following the ideas of Avram Naom Chomsky, mail art network could avoid "manifacture of consent" in democratic communities (not popular views are soften, awkward facts are hidden even without any official prohibition). Radical views are excluded (for example in mass media) by free market activities, great financial compagnies who posses TV, Radio, Press, etc. And in culture and art it looks the same.
That is the reason why I like all projects concerning social or political activities. You can show your views without any censorship and during the exhibition many people can see it. You can - in this way - confirm the state of your individuality, remembering that thousands of people are making their same art at this moment.
RJ : Are there also negative sides to the mail art network?
Ul. Krancowa 2