The MAIL INTERVIEW newsletter

Exploring MAIL ART and the new ways of communication :

the MAIL INTERVIEW

project.

 The Mail Interview project started in 1994. This is the newsletter that explains the History , the process, and to be short all important aspects of the project.

ISSUE : NOVEMBER 1998

TAM PUBLICATIONS Nr. 980201

The MAIL INTERVIEW Project

 This Mail-Interview project in fact is the investigation, to find out why others do MAIL ART , how they started and how the new communication-forms affect the way the mail artists work .

 History of the project

 The Mail Interview project started in October 1994. I remember reading a copy of an interview published in the magazine ND , and was very interested in the story the mail artists was telling. Only a few hours later I decided to start some interviews myself. Not in the traditional way …

 The interviews I wanted to do should go by mail, but since this isn’t the only way the mail artists communicate, I extended the idea and would allow all possible communication forms for the process. The fun would be that there are no rules for this. I send out the first question , and choose my communication-form , and the receiver can decide for himself/herself which form to choose for the answer. A nice example of how this can go is the interview with Peter Küstermann from Germany. He called my and gave a verbal first answer. I recorded the answer , transcribed it and sent the answer with the next question to him. He stated to me he wanted to use as much as possible the different communication-forms, but as it is now he hasn’t replied to the last question for a long time.

 

The process of the interviews has changed over the years. At first I made one serie of 12 people I wanted to interview. But as time passes by and sometimes the answers came only in after long times, there grew a series op interviews. At the moment the seventh series is underway and none of the series are completely finished yet today (1998).

 

After starting up the first interviews there soon came the moment when to decide what to do with the finished interviews. To keep track of all the words that come in and go out , I have typed all these questions and answers into my computer. Once the interview is ready it is only a simple task to print the final texts. But here I developed the principle to send the complete text to the interviewed artist , and to ask him to proofread. The first interview to get ready was Michael Leigh’s interview, and after receiving his reactions, I made a booklet out of the interview in a small edition and sent it to some of the other mail artists I was interviewing. That was the start of the booklets, with as a reaction that: more mail artists wanted to read the interviews and asked for the booklets.

 The publishing of this first booklet reminded me of the fact that it was the beginning of a larger series , so the cost factor was involved. Not only the interviewed artists would be interested in the interviews, but in fact the whole mail art network would like to read them. These factors lead to the situation in which it is now. A large series of interview booklets have been published and people are able to subscribe to the series. Because not everybody has the money to subscribe I looked for another way to make the texts available, and that lead to publishing the texts on the Internet (thanks to the help of Jas W. Felter in Canada)

 Publishing of the interviews as booklets.

 After the first published booklet, things went very fast. Today over 35 booklets have been published and more will come out in the future. The publishing of the booklets is a process on its own. The first were a bit primitive, but gradually I invested more time to do the layout and to make them look better. In 1997 I even started with the making of color-versions for the interviewed artist, and also sometimes others take over the publishing of the booklet-version. Vittore Baroni published his interview as a special edition of ARTE POSTALE! , and the interview with Tim Mancusi is currently being published by The Sticker Dude (Joel) in New York , USA. As time passes by more experiments will be undertaken. To give you an idea, the upcoming interview with Jonathan Stangroom will contain in it a specially made copy-art work by Jonathan himself.

 Publishing of the interviews on the WWW.

 One of the communication-forms I was interested in is the electronic form. Since I work a lot with computers , I started to use the internet as well end of 1994. This meant I could send and receive e-mail messages as well. How to arrange a Web-Site was then still unknown to me. Jas W. Felter from Canada was already experimenting in that field, and I asked him for help. He then offered to publish the interviews in his Museum-Library , and after experimenting with the sending of complete interview-files, he transformed them into HTML-documents for me and put them online.

 Changes in 1996. Thanks to Joy McManus (USA) I got the address of Geocities in Los Angeles , and Joy even arranged the site for me. This free space I started to fill since June 1996 , and my learning of HTML-language started. I built up the site in steps, but only as a kind of medium between all the texts that I have produced. The interviews are still put online by Jas W. Felter, who I owe a great THANK YOU for all the work he has done for me. Thanks to this publishing online, the interview became accessible for everybody.

 Subscribing to the interviews.

 Unlike what most people might think, there are only very few subscribers to the mail interview booklets. At this moment only 7 subscribers, and most of them are subscribers for a long time. Bruno Sourdin from France is the one who subscribed for a very long time. Sometimes I get those letters, mail artists asking for all the interviews , and they don’t realize what kind of costs are involved.

 Subscribing to the interviews means you get the booklet-versions, always the extended versions. Sometimes there are special things that belong to the interview, and when you order back-issues , you are never sure if you’ll get it complete. I mostly make limited editions (like 70 or 50 copies) , and once they are gone, I only can send you the print-out of the text.

 

 This printing out of the text is something everybody could do since these texts are put online as well. Ask anybody you know who has access to the interviews , and he can find all at : http://www.Geocities.com/Paris/4947/index.html

 On this site you have access also the other things I have done, like the newsletter of the TAM Rubber Stamp archive, the ‘thoughts about mail-art’ texts , information about the IUOMA, etc.

 Overview of published interviews.

 Over the years lots of interviews are published. In previous newsletters you can find the overviews of the publications. In 1995 I used to do two different versions. One was just the plain text, and a special edition was made including illustrations. For these illustrations I used the artifacts that I gathered during the interview-process. This might include enveloped, copies of FAX-messages, e-mails , etc.

 What happened after these first interviews is that people suggested that I should interview myself. A silly proposal in my eyes, as if I would know which questions to ask myself. I then told the ones who asked such a question to start an interview on their own which I would include in the series. As you can see in the next year those interview came out as well.

 The interview with Ray Johnson is a story on its own. I never expected that he would reply to my mail , but strange enough he instantly replied to the first question. Typical Ray , but he answered in his own unique way. On the invitation there is the text that one could answer in any length one would like. Ray wrote on the invitation the length of the diagonal of the A4 paper I sent to him and asked for the next question. Sadly enough the third question I sent to Ray never got answered. On January 13th he committed suicide in New York,

 For the year 1998 some more interviews are already scheduled. Although some of the booklets of 1997 still have to be published, the process of finishing the interviews is sometimes not in my hands. The simultaneous aspect of the interviews causes that. One of the interviews that ended was with Edgardo Antonio Vigo. I sent him the ‘traditional’ last question in which I ask if there is nothing I forget to ask. A way to give the interviewed artist a chance to say whatever he wants. In Edgardo’s case , the answer never came because he died end of 1997.

 

A careful reader will notice that there is again an interview published with John Held Jr. The reason for that is quite simple. The first part of his interview was done while he was in Dallas. The last mail he sent from there was for the interview , and he moved to San Francisco. I even met him there , where he was working for the Stamp Art Gallery together with Bill Gaglione (the Gallery stopped to exist end of 1997…!) and the second part of the interview explains what happened in San Francisco.

 At the moment I am far behind with the interviews. Some booklets still have to be printed and some interviews are waiting to be continued. After 3 years of intensive work I am taking a break. Soon I hope to continue with this work. The names of the people who’s interview is now in progress is still not published. I send out these papers in which people can suggest others to be interviewed. This on its own is a project too. Some mail artists suggest themselves, while others make good suggestions and mention a reason as well. I plan to publish these papers as well, but there is only that much a single person can do.

 Future plans with the interviews.

 Lots of ideas for the future , but I will see what is possible. It is always a matter of time , money , and possibilities. But I will give you an idea of the plans:

 First plan is to publish a book with most of the interviews. Problem is to find a publisher. Since the first priority was to get the interviews read by others , the texts are already published on the Internet, so the final book has not first priority. The whole process of the interviews has produced a lot of artifacts thought, that would make a nice documentation.

 Second plan is to exhibit the complete artifacts the mail interviews brought to me. All the mail , letters , envelopes, enclosures to the answers, it is enough to fill a museum. Guy Bleus already exhibited the booklets end of 1997. All booklets that got published in 1996 and 1997 were exhibited at his E-mail art space in Hasselt Maybe when the complete project is finished I could interest the Postal Museums for this. They are faced with the changing world of communication as well, and most Postal Museums have shown interest in mail art in the last years. They might even help in getting the first plan realized.

 

Third plan is to translate the interviews into other languages. Some are already available in Spanish, and soon they might be available in Italian and Russian too. There are also some interviews in progress in the German language, and who knows I might find time to translate some of them into Dutch.

 But for the time being I will have to find time first to continue the time-costing process of doing the interviews. The mail-artists who sometimes write me don’t understand the work that is involved in the process of one interview. The retyping of all the texts, the cost of the mail , the time it takes to understand the way the interview is going and to see to it that the interview shows what the hell mail art is all about. Last problem is always to get the finished interview ready to be read by others. Correcting the text, and getting it published (on the WWW and the booklets).

At the moment I have taken a break with the interviews. Because of some changes in my life (like a new job and new interests in art) I have stopped the process for a while. I plan to start again when I have the time. To publish the last set of interviews that are underway.

 Please copy and publish this text if you want. I only will send out a limited number of copies into the mail art network.

Ruud Janssen - TAM

P.O. Box 10388

5000 JJ Tilburg

NETHERLANDS

 

e-mail: tam@dds.nl

URL: http://www.geocities.com/paris/4947/

 

 APPENDIX-1

(Overview all finished interviews so far)

  

Name interviewed

Mail Artist:

From :

# in interview series:

Part of Round #

Number TAM-Publications:

Michael Leigh

England

9

1

950065

Klaus Groh

Germany

5

1

950066

Artto Posto

USA

25

3

950076

Michael Lumb

England

12

1

950079

Rod Summers

Netherlands

11

1

950080

Henning Mittendorf

Germany

22

2

950085

Dobrica Kamperelic

Yugoslavia

4

1

950087

Chuck Welch

USA

24

2

950088

Robin Crozier

England

1

1

950091

Anna Banana

Canada

13

2

950092

John Held Jr.

(Part-1 – DALLAS)

USA

2

1

950095

Carlo Pittore

USA

33

3

950097

Jenny de Groot

Netherlands

28

3

950101

TABEL 1 : Overview of the interviews published in 1995.

 

 

 

Name interviewed

Mail Artist:

From :

# in interview series:

Part of Round #

Number TAM-Publications:

Svjetlana Mimica

Croatia

7

1

960103

Ken Friedman

Norway

40

4

960104

Dick Higgins

USA

43

4

960105

Ashley Parker Owens

USA

17

2

960110

Clemente Padin

Uruguay

14

2

960114

Mark Bloch

USA

23

2

960115

Mark Greenfield

England

29

3

960116

John M. Bennett

USA

47

4

960123

Patricia Collins

England

51

5

960124

Ray Johnson

USA

8

1

960134

Jenny Soup

USA

30

3

960135

E.F. Higgins

USA

39

4

960138

Robert Rocola *

USA

55

5

960139

Rudi Rubberoid

USA

56

5

960140

Andrej Tisma

Yugoslavia

38

4

960145

Vittore Baroni

Italy

21

2

960147

Ayah Okwabi

Ghana

54

5

960151

TABEL 2 : Overview of the interviews published in 1996 (Marked with * means booklet not published yet)

 

 

 

Name interviewed

Mail Artist:

From :

# in interview series:

Part of Round #

Number TAM-Publications:

Julie Hagan Bloch

USA

31

3

970159

Julie Paquette

USA

20

2

970161

Michael B. Corbett

USA

42

4

970162

Ruud Janssen

(by Mark Greenfield)

Netherlands

MG

-

970163

Günther Ruch *

Switzerland

62

6

970167

Ruud Janssen

(by Carol Stetser)

Netherlands

CS

-

970169

Carol Stetser

USA

57

5

970171

Ibirico

Spain

65

6

970173

Jürgen O. Olbrich *

Germany

67

6

970176

Tim Mancusi * ##

USA

64

6

970180

TABEL 3 : Overview of the interviews published in 1997 (Marked with * means booklet not published yet)

(Marked with ## means that the booklet will be printed by The Sticker Dude – NY – end of 1998)

 

 

 

 

Name interviewed

Mail Artist:

From :

# in interview series:

Part of Round #

Number TAM-Publications:

Edgardo Antonio Vigo *

Argentina

45

4

980184

Jonathan Stangroom *

USA

63

6

980185

John Held Jr

(Part-2 San Francisco) *

USA

68

6

980186

Guy Bleus * ##

Belgium

3

1

980188

TABEL 4 : Overview of the interviews scheduled to be published in 1998 (Marked with * means booklet not published yet)

(Marked with ## means that the booklet will be printed by The Sticker Dude – NY – end of 1998)