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SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT MAIL ART - PART-6
BY RUUD JANSSEN
THIS IS THE 6TH "THOUGHTS" THAT I WRITE. IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE OTHER FIVE 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 SIXTH ARTICLE DEALS WITH THE ASSEMBLING MAGAZINES THAT EXISTS IN THE NETWORK.
ISSM : TAM960111
This time I write down some thoughts I have in connection to the Assembling Magazine. One of the reasons is that Stephen Perkins is doing a research/show about this subject. So if you also have some information about assembling magazines, please send it to Stephen Perkins, 1816 E. College St. , IOWA CITY, IA 52245, USA. This article is written for his research , but I will sent prints of this text to other interested people as well.
WHAT IS AN ASSEMBLING MAGAZINE?
- In the mail art network most publications are made by a single person or just a small group of people. They get their information/art from the network and send their findings & thoughts about that again into the network. In a "normal" magazine the editor arranges the text and/or visuals and decides what to include in the magazine. Mostly we talk about a ZINE because there is no official institute that publishes the magazine. It is all part of the large "underground" movement, where there are no fixed rules.
- In an assembling magazine (or zine) we have a rather different concept. The organizer/editor invites mail artists to send in a number (N) of original works. This number (N) mostly determins the edition-size. Once the editor decides he/she is ready (enough contributions, or the deadline has passed) he/she will make N identical zines and will send a copy to every participant.
- If there are less participants than the amount of contributions one had to send in, the editor has some extra issues he/she can send out to archives, interested people, or just can sell in order to deal with the postage. The editions range from 22 to 160 copies one has to send in. Well, these are the numbers I encountered in the assembling zines I know of.
- There are already some "famous" assembling zines out there, that have been edited for a long time. Nice examples are Mani Art (by Pascal Lenoir in France) and Double (by Rea Nikonova in Russia). There are many of these assembling zines out there, and I won't try to list them all. The oldest one I know in Holland is the magazine AFZET, made by Sonja van der Burg and Margot van Oosten, where they made very special booklets out of the contributions that were sent in.
- It is quite a work to do this assembling in a right way. You can just take N envelopes and devide everything over these envelopes, but most editors decide to make a new magazine with the contributions. Some just make the cover and include (like a portfolio) all the artworks, others bind the works and even have specific instructions to the contributors.
To make a special zine, some editors want a special format for the contributions. Mostly the ask A4 or A5, but what makes a magazine special is mostly a specific size. That is why the assembling zine DOUBLE by Rea Nikonova is so nice. She ask contributions in two specific sizes and assembles them into beautiful artworks. What I have seen, the size of her assembling zines mostly includes triangles.
- Another way to deal with the contributions is to make a normal zine, and use the assembling-pieces as illustrations/additions in the zine. Vittore Baroni (Italy) does so with lots of his issues ARTE POSTALE!.
DID I PARTICIPATE IN ASSEMBLING ZINES?
- Sure, I sent in my share of contributions, but I never made it a habit to try to be in all the assembling zines. In the 90-ies it is even quite rare to see my work in one of those assembling zines. To make a good contribution in such an edition is quite a lot of work. Also I need my time for other activities. I believe in doing not too long the same things. Life is too short for that, and the world and the network is a wonderful school where one can learn lots of new things and can develop ones skills too.
- There are many invitations for assembling zines that are scattered in large amounts in the network. I rarely participate in those. I do sometimes participate in a special personal invitation.
- Sometime I don't even participate in an assembling zine and still get the package. Some mail artists just divide the stickers I send out through the mail over their edition, and think of this sticker as my contribution. This was not my intention, I don't like such a minimalistic contribution. I believe in the balance of energy between the mail one sends out and the mail one gets in.
DO I LIKE ASSEMBLING ZINES?
- There are a lot of good assembling zines out there, but I have noticed that in a large portion the contributions that people send in are quite minimal. I have nothing against minimal, but I am not that interested in a page from a phonebook where an artists has put his stamp and his signature on. Also a lost of hasty work is send in.
- The quality of some assembling zines is quite good, but some are realy not that interesting for me. I am just being honest here. I put more value to a single original piece of work I sometimes get, than to the "mass-produced" hand-made edition of, lets say, 120 originals. In the last five year I also started to make more originals, and decided not to send that much xeroxes out anymore.
NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF ASSEMBLING MAGAZINES
- Because some networkers want to have all the assembling zines that are out there, they send in the amount of required works to any editor. The quality comes secondly, and if a large part of the assembling zine is filled like that, this triggers others to do the same.
- To make the quality of an assembling zine higher, one culd invite a selective group of mail artists for the issue one is planning, but the spirit of mail art, freedom of participation to anybody out there, prevents that. If you do such a limited assembling zine, it still is an assembling zine, but it shouldn't be called mail art anymore.
- Some mail artists want to send in a good piece of art, but they have only the time to make one original. They decide then to copy this orginal and to sign every xerox they make. The xerox-machine replaces the other techniques like silkscreen printing or etching. The time-investment isn't always the important factor in art, but I must admit I like an original lino-print much more then a signed xerox of a lino-print.
- Some artists have to live on their work as well, and they can't afford to make a whole edition of originals to be sent out freely.
POSITIVE SIDES TO ASSEMBLING MAGAZINES
- Anybody who has seen a good assembling zine will agree that a lot of positive energy has been bundeled there. The single contributor sees his work together with many more art-works, and when an address list is included (most do so) the artist can decide for himself if he wants to contact the other participants.
- Some see the collection of assembling zines as a nice thing to do. If you like collecting, it sure gives you a nice overview of the different styles and techniques that are used in the network. Some earlier assembling zines are already collected by archives. That happens when an artist gets noticed by institutes. But art-dealers sometimes want to get their money back, and sell assembling zines where "big names" appear in. I'm not sure what to think of that.
- The biggest advantage for an artist is off course that by participating in an assembling zine he can make a selection of works and distribute them freely to interested persons. Typical mail art, to exclude the official art-dealers. The editor is the one who is doing the hard work too. He is paying for the assembling and the distribution. In return he will get his own collection of art works, because most editors of assembling zines keep one of their products in their own archive.
This was the SIXTH article with some thoughts about mail art. I have the first FIVE articles still here in digital form as well as in printed form. Actually I just use my printer for making new issues of this article and pass them on to people that are interested. Remember to send some IRC's when you request for previous articles. Also trade for your written thoughts is very well possible.
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: 28-6-1997
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