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SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT MAIL ART - PART-12
BY RUUD JANSSEN
THIS IS THE 12TH "THOUGHTS" THAT I WRITE. IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE OTHER ELEVEN ARTICLES, JUST SEND ME A NOTE MENTIONING WHICH ARTICLE (-S) YOU ARE MISSING AND SOME IRC'S FOR THE COSTS FOR MAILING THE ARTICLES. THIS 12TH ARTICLE DEALS WITH THE POST RAY JOHNSON BIKE MAIL SCHOOL OF CORRESPONDENCE.
ISSM : TAM960142
On June 1st , I receive a yellow postcard from Josť van den Broucke in Belgium of his POST RAY JOHNSON BIKE MAIL SCHOOL OF CORRESPONDENCE. He sent this card during his bike-tour from Temple in Deerlijk to Pigdada place in Habay-N where Baudhuin Simon lives. His trip was dedicated to all mail artists who due to financial, social, political, physical or any other reason are limited in their possibilities to participate to the network. The card was also an invitation to react to the text on it, so these thoughts are dedicated to this card-initiative by Josť van den Broucke. Address: Pikkelstraat 49 , B-8540 DEERLIJK , Belgium.
date of WWW-printing : 14-11-2008
- Life itself has its limitations. But to have a life the basic things a human being needs are shelter, food, clothing, peace, and of course communication. Lets focus on the last part, because when some basic needs aren't fullfilled, then communicati on is first needed to help these people in need.
- Most mail artists that are working in the network for a longer time experience the limitations that time & money bring. One needs time to answer the mail, to send out ones art into the network. One needs money to do that, and most mail artists I know do have some kind of paid job to get this money. So there exists a balance between the money one gets in and the money one can spend on the mail art.
- The limitations time & money are not the same for everybody. Some mail artists in Eastern-Europe or Southern America and Africa need all their time to earn the money to be able to live a life. The communication for them is needed as much as for us, but they aren't able to spend too much money on communication. Sending out a letter costs a part of your monthly income. I sometimes calculate how much mail a person can send out with the average income in his/her country. In Holland the minimum wage of about 1600 guilders for an adult, and it is enough for a relative comfortable life and basic needs. The price for sending an envelope from Holland into Europe costs 1 guilder, outside Europe 1,60 guilders (for a 20 gr letter). I know that the prices in Estonia for instance are now 4 EEK for mail inside Europe (that is about 60 cents or 0,60 guilders). But the average income there is only 1600 EEK for some full-time jobs, and so you can see the price for sending out mail is 4 times as much. Of course I should mention that the prices for food etc. are basicly becoming the same in countries like this as here in Holland because of the "open borders" , so communication by mail is a real luxury there. In Russia, Yugoslavia, Croatia, lots of countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, the situation is simular.
- Not all mail artists realize that these limitations are there for lots of mail artists. For me it means that the mail from these countries always gets priority. I know it is precious to receive mail from them.
WHAT TO DO TO HELP.
- Help is not easy, sometimes not even wanted or possible, but in any case if you are able to help it is always good to help someone directly. Sometimes by simple things. Like distributing invitations and letters for them, by sending art-supplies which sometimes seem un-needed (how about paper, ink, postcards, etc.) or just some IRC's.
- Of course there is the indirect help. A nice example is the effort Chuck Welch did to ensure the delivory of his book "Eternal Network" to the networkers in Yugos lavia. In spite of the Cultural Blockade (that actually was lifted but still had its effects) Chuck wrote to official people in the gouvernment in the USA to demand freedom of communication. Also he managed with the help of another friend (in Hungary) to finally get the books there. Also I know a lot of the work of Josť van den Broucke, who started me with this version of thoughts about mail art. He has travelled to those people in the countries where mail artist live but aren't always able to send out mail anymore. Roumania, Russia, Yugoslavia....... Everybody likes to keep in touch, but when they aren't able to send out mail anymore because of the economic situation, it doesn't have to mean that the communication stops. Josť is very active with the spreading of information he gets from these countries, and encourages others to do the same. And it works. If someone doesn't reply to your mail it doesn't have to mean you yourself don't write anymore!
MAIL ART : A WAY OF LIFE.
- Most mail artists I know don't lead the normal life of an average person. They have mostly made quite specific choices of what to do with their life, where to spend time on, etc. A few of my choices: I live quite small, and therefore don't pay too much rent and don't have a morgage. I don't drive a car (actually never took lessons) and travel by bicycle and train all the time (when the distance gets too large an airplane will do fine too). My life is a constant development of searching new things and keeping track of what is happening in the world. A nice advantage for a mail artists is that he does not have to rely on the news of the official media. He/she can get the news sometimes straight from the countries that are involved, or send his thoughts about certain issues straight to the countries it is about. My choice is this direct line besides the official media. Just like I don't do a lot with the official art-channels.
SPEED OF COMMUNICATION
- The last thing Josť wrote about is "What is the right speed of communication and what is our artistic task as individuals within the global thing called the net work?" A difficult question. The internet with the possibility to send electronic mail and put informations on-line made the speed very high but only for a selective group. The electronic media are only for the mail artists living in the 'rich countries' or mail artist that have free access as a result of their work and jobs. Even in the 'rich coun tries' only the persons with a computer, phone, modem, and money to pay all the bills, have access to the electronic communication tools. It becomes almost an elite communication-form, and because of the speed of communication through these electronic media the distance between the two groups (the ones with or without a e- mail address....) only gets larger. But if you DO have an e-mail address, a thing to realize is that if you run out of money (an therefore mostly the e-mail address), your e-mail will vanish. In snail-mail this doesn't happen that much. You still don't have to pay for having a mail-box at your door.
- My choice is to keep mostly active in the snail mail. I do explore the electronic media, and thanks to the help of the College where I teach I can do that. I even put some things on-line just recently. More info at : the HOMEPAGE from TAM / I.U.O.M.A that got launched on June 11th 1996. It is still in the process of building, but eventually I hope to guide the online-people from there to the places where interesting things can be found. The mail-interviews which I am currently doing can be read in WWW-format (as hypertext). The first 15 mail-interviews are on-line thanks to the help of Jas W. Felter in Canada and soon all of them are there. See for yourself at the following URL: http://www.faximum.com/jas.d/tam/lib_tam.htm or find the link at my own homepage or with WEB-searchers like Alta Vista, Yahoo, etc.
- The dilema remains for the mail artists in the 'rich countries'. The snail mail gets more and more expensive, and the costs of sending out electronic mail is very cheap (provided you got the access arranged on whatever way). If I do not count the com puter, modem, and electricity, the price of sending a 20 pages letter/booklet to the USA costs only 16 cents phone-costs and is there in a few minutes. The same text, printed and sent in an envelope takes about a week by airmail and costs me over 3 guilders. To make the difference even larger. If I would like to send that 20 pages to 100 different people it still would cost me 16 cents by e-mail with the use of a mailing-list, but in the snail-mail the price would become 100 times larger, like 300 guilders, and that is more than I spend on postage in a month.
- My advice to the e-mail people is to do send out snail-mail too. The electronic mail is cheap, but you can't put a lot into that electronic mail. The digital format gives some new possibilities, but the old ones like smell, structure, paint on an envelope, 3D things, handwriting with a specific ink on special paper. It is all impossible in the electronic world. Only use the electronic ways when you need the speed and need this medium for you message. All the things I enjoy sending out normally can't be processed by my computer.
TAM-PUBLICATIONS - 1996
Ruud Janssen - TAM
4801 BB Breda
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