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SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT MAIL ART - PART-5
BY RUUD JANSSEN
ISSM : TAM960107
ANSWERING ALL THE MAIL I GET....
- Well, I wish it was only possible. The mail I get in my P.O. Box is just too much to answer , so I really have to select the things that are interesting for me to reply/react to. My large-scale project "MAIL-INTERVIEWS" gets priority in this.
- Besides the "snail-mail" I also get electronic mail, the "e-mail", and also there goes the same rule, that the time I have dictates the things I can answer.
- In the last years I have noticed that some mail artists started to number their outgoing mail. I used to do this too in the beginning years of the 80-ies, but stopped because the administra-tion took too much time. I do however keep a record of all outgoing mail since 1991 again, and I must say that on an average I send out about 100 to 150 pieces of mail each month. This is the traditional mail I send out. I guess on an average I reply about 50% of the mail I receive (now you can figure out how much mail I have to deal with, mail art just is a lot of work one has to do....)
- There is of course also the e-mail I get on my server, the DDS in Amsterdam. In the last months I have been getting lots of mail there too. I guess there are about 100 e-mail messages every month, in some months even 150, but sometimes (vacation-times) the amount drops to 75 or so. I answer about 60% of this mail at the moment I write this text. Answering this kind of mail is easier and quicker, but I find it not that artistic at the moment. E-mail is just the exchange of text-files and graphic- files, video-files and sound-files. But with the files other than text the problem of incompatibility occurs. The people who use a DOS-computer and the people who use a MAC-computer can't all read the same files. Decoding isn't that easy and mosly requires the access to both computer-systems.
- It is no surprise that some mail artists who are exploring the internet discover that their snail-mail gets less. The same goes for me, and I must confess it is a difficult task to work in both networks. I know that e.g. Mark Bloch from NY, USA doesn't answer the traditional mail because of his involvement in the internet. The same goes for other pioneers who used to be active in mail art and now explore internet. A day has only 24 hours, and you can only spend the money you have once......
WHERE DOES ALL THE MAIL I GET GO TO?
- The mail I get in my P.O.Box I read all on the day I collect it. The mail I plan to answer promptly goes in one box, and the mail that I want to answer later goes in another box. This last box I go through now and then when I have time left. It actually happened that I answered a letter that was for three years in that box. It sometimes can't be helped. When the box with unanswered mail is full I somethimes select in this box again, and some mail will remain unanswered forever.
- Recycling? Well, I do recycle a certain part of what I get. If someone send me more than one invitation to a mail art project, I normally enclose them with my outgoing mail. Also I put them in the "add to-" version of my TAM-bulletin that I still am sending out. Envelopes that aren't that interesting to keep, I use for sending things out again, but then with the addition of my stamps, stickers, etc.
- Some pieces of mail are directly archived. The contributions for the TAM Rubberstamp Archive go on a special pile which is registered in my computer-list. Actually the address-list of this archive forms the backbone for my address-list for contacting people in netland. Books and catalogues of projects, magazines, etc. They go on the pile "literature" which I moslty read quite soon, and then it goes to the "library" section of my archive. For people who wonder how my archive looks, see the notes on my "archive" in this arcticle.
- Sometimes I also get phonecalls from mail artists. If someone has something interesting to say, than that is always wonderful. But I remember also strange phonecalls. Someone who calls and didn't know what to say, he had just free access to the phone that day. Or someone who calls me and asks if my FAX was on. Just that week my old computer had broken down, and I told him so. I asked if it was urgent, and if he could send it by mail. I never found out what he wanted to send.
- Sometimes the information I get through the phone is important (like an answer for an interview-question I have to retype) I have a special gadget to record the phonecalls I get in. How far can you go in documentating the communication?
WHERE DOES ALL THE E-MAIL I GET, GO TO?
- Because I am working with communication aided by computers since 1987, I have a lot of things saved. Sometimes just the print-out of the files I got in, but mostly the data was recorded on diskettes. This forms a problem now. A lot has been saved on 5,25 inch diskettes, and modern computers don't even read this diskettes. My new computer doesn't read this disks, and I should transport the data to the newer disks (3,5 HD diskettes). But that takes a lot of time. Also, when I want to read those data, I need to keep the old software to read it, and believe me, it all comes down to a lot of memory-space. Actually this isn't just a problem for mail art but for the whole world. The digitally stored information gets old quite quickly, and I even heard stories of lost data because a firm updated the hardware and put the new information in it, but the historic files they couldn't access anymore. Here is a new field for informatics; to access all kind of stored information. Most computer-users know the problem of upgrading software and hardware. But stored information on diskettes isn't that easy to read when you start with a new system....
- To come back to storing the e-mail I get. I normally just put the files I stored on my harddisk (like the mail of one week) onto a diskette and put it in a box. In the last 6 months I received 5 Mbyte of mail, more then 5 milion letters...... Only the important e-mail's I print out so they can be accessed easily. Also some e-mail messages are answers for my "MAIL INTERVIEW PROJECT", and those texts eventually are published in printed and digital form.
date of WWW-version: 2-8-1997
- The word "archive" sounds very "big", but in fact, the apartment where I live is just filled with all kinds of boxes and portfolio's connected to the mail art I get in. Also on the walls of my apartment there are hanging original artworks I received through the mail, or my own works.
- In the years I have been active I collected quite specific things. I have a large collection of artistamps, that I received or made myself, thoughout the years. There is also the large collection of rubberstamp-prints, original rubber stamps, catalogs etc. I also have a special selection of audiocassettes that I received (over 350 cassettes related to mail art and another 650 audiocassettes that contain music, concerts, etc).
- A very special part of my collection is the books, magazines and catalogues part. I know my collection isn't that big when it is compared to collections from Géza Perneczky, Guy Bleus, John Held Jr, to name a few, who have all documented their collections with publications. But it still is my specific collection. I believe that every mail artist (networker) builds up his own collection and that this forms his/her idea of what the mail art network is all about. Whenever you have the chance to see such a collection of literature, it is completely different as in a library. The publications normally aren't available in bookshops, and even in the big university-libraries there isn't such a collection, unless a mail artist has donated his archive to such a library. Lucky enough these donations are sometimes made. Otherwise all the details connected to networking would get lost.
- I guess the work "archive" isn't correct. I rather use the work "collection". But I must say the collection is getting quite big. Everybody who ever visited Guy Bleus knows what size his collection has, and this was all just sent to him by mail. Some collections are very well accessible (Guy Bleus's collection is a good example of that, he even exhibited recently a part of his collection at the postal museum in Brussels and made a very nice booklet of all the items that were on display. This selection looked quite impressive, and the complete collection is even more impressive.
- In 1990 I wrote an article about archives. There were more people who wrote articles on this subject. I would very much want to read other peoples thoughts on what to do with the collections they have built up. In the "MAIL INTERVIEWS" I am currently doing, I sometimes also ask this question. A lot of reading material is out there in the network. So in case you are currious just start looking for texts on the subject. But don't forget to write your own story.......!
there are also secret thoughts published on this site.......
Ruud Janssen - TAM
5000 JJ Tilburg
Reproduction of this text is allowed provided that the text isn't changed, source is mentioned, and a copy of the magazine where the text is included in, is sent to TAM.
updated version: 2-8-1997
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