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SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT MAIL ART - PART-8
BY RUUD JANSSEN
THIS IS THE 8TH "THOUGHTS" THAT I WRITE. IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE OTHER SEVEN 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 8TH ARTICLE DEALS PARTLY WITH THE PUBLISHING OF ALL THE TEXTS AT TAM-PUBLICATIONS & THE PROBLEM OF MAIL ART & MONEY.
NB. This text was written BEFORE that TAM-PUBLICATIONS published it's texts online!
ISSM : TAM960121
WHAT IS TAM-PUBLICATIONS?
- All texts that I produce and print get a number. Because I don't use the official institutes to print my publications, I sometimes use the term ISSM oposite to the regular ISSN numbers that the "real" printing-houses use.
- I started numbering these publications in 1993, and this is the 121th publication that comes out.
- I keep a list of all the publication-numbers that I have used. There is even a list of them with a short description of the content of the publication. This list is on its own a publication, which you can order if you would like to see what has been published so far. Send 3 IRC's for this (or 3 US$ if you like). Also exchange is possible, but then write me in advance please!
- The publication can be a visual page, a small article, a booklet, but also a real book. Mostly a document I prepared on my computer. Therefore it is sometimes possible that I publish the document also in digital form (like an e-mail message on the Internet).
- When it is an article, mostly the article is printed by my computer on my printer. Since I refil my cartridges with own ink, it is cheaper to print texts than to use a xerox-machine for these simple texts. For larger texts I mostly use the xerox- machine, which is more efficient for larger editions.
- Also the mail-interviews that are published in my mail-interview project get their own publication-number. However these booklets are printed at the local printershop, where the cover is printed on 120 gr/m² colored paper, and the texts are reduced to a A5-sized booklet with 15 up to 25 pages. The edition runs at 70 copies at the moment. These are two different versions. One with the larger letter-type and illustrations. The second version with a smaller letter-type and without the illustrations.
- Is there a copyright on the publications by TAM? Well, of course there is, but I mostly write on the texts that reproduction is allowed, provided that the source is mentioned and that of a publication of one of the texts, one copy is sent to TAM. For the mail-interviews the copyright belongs to both participants of the interview. So if another magazine wants to publish an interview, they will have to ask the permision of the interviewed person as well. Making copies for friends to pass on the information is ofcourse encouraged by me.
MONEY AND MAIL ART?
- As some will have noticed, I do sometimes ask IRC's or money to cover printing & sending for the publications. This is out of neccesity. Too many people asked in the past for publications, and I can't finance the free sending of publications. The price I ask however is always very low, in fact I loose money on it even with the things I ask. I just have to do it like this to keep TAM-publications alive.
- Also I exchange a lot of publications, and send them out to mail artists I know will appreciate them. But I too often get these simple postcards or notes in which a mail artists askes a lot of things. There has to be a balance in what you ask and what you send. e.g. If you ask for a mail-interview, than this is a booklet with 15 to 25 pages, colored cover, and that costs 2 IRC's for sending at least. If someone sends something similar, than it is exchange, and I must say I still prefer that.
- Some "older" mail artists probably know the saying by Lon Spiegelman from USA: "Mail art & money don't mix". It is a discussion started in the beginning of the 80's. In the perfect exchange there is no need for the exchanging of money in the mail art network. Somehow I transferred this statement into my statement: "Mail art has to do with the exchange of energy, the more energy you send out into the network, the more you will receive back".
- It has already happened often that someone did a mail art project and promissed a document to all participants, but after finishing the project he/she just sends everybody a small document about the project and mentions the possibility to order the complete catalogue of the project for a certain amount of money. If these things aren't stated in advance, than it is mis-using the mail art network. I can understand that someone wants to make a very nice catalogue, but if you want the participants to pay for this, just say so in advance. Than the mail artists can judge for themself if they wants to participate. Most mail artists probably won't.
- Of course the publishing of documents is a costly undertaking, so it is better to find another way to find the money. Some examples. Some mail artists want to publish a book and ask people to order it in advance. The mail artists that write articles for the book could get a free copy, and the others who want to read it can order the book. If you want to keep the mail artists free from paying money, there is always the possibility to get subsidies. Lots of organisations (commercial and/or art- wise) out there with budgets waiting to bet spent.
- But do mail art & money mix? Every mail artists I know is only spending money on this mail art. I have never met someone that is making a profit on the mail art. That is, the active mail artists. Of course it is possible to sell mail art. Some people oppose to this, others just do it to get rid of "their collection". There are examples of "archives" that have been sold. Normally then the collection gets destroyed because the buyer mostly is looking for mail from artists know in the "traditional art-world". I heard from Crackerjack kid that some early Ray Johnson letters are being offered for big money.
- Well, the mail artists that sends out a lot gets back a lot. It is his burden to decide what to do with it. He/She can decide at one moment to sell his/her whole collection. Another decision could be to donate or trade the collection to an official archive/museum. Already lots of archives/museums have such collections, but they than aren't that accesible for the other mail artists. It seems that mail art gradually being seen by museums/collectors as art, with a value. There is good and bad mail art, and good mail art has a price. Like it or not, but it has happened to all the art that has been made before (just visit any museum in your own surroundings). The good things are preserved and the bad ones get into boxes untill someone decides that its time to trow it away, or suddenly finds that wonderfull piece of mail art that someone sent out before.
- The essence of this is quite simple. Mail art is the exchange. After the sender and receiver are done with the piece, and it is "archived", that it is just the end of it. The mail art is a lively thing.
- In the last years museums have tried to do mail art exhibitions. If they don't start a project and ask mail artists to send in their work for the exhibition it mostly fails (as a mail art exhibition that is). The exhibition of an older project, a selection from someone's archive, etc. probably looks better in a museum than the results of an actually held mail art project for the museum, but it will never capture the spirit of mail art. I have had already several questions from museums for a small selection of my "archive" for a specific exhibition, but somehow it never felt right. They only want the "good mail art" that looks nice or is from a well known person.
- Mail art doesn't fit in the real art-world, because the money aspect comes in. In the real art world Good art sells, and has a value. And the best mail art is the piece of mail that makes my day start wonderful, that makes me active and lets me do things, sometimes lets me discover new things. Exhibiting mail art at places where people always come (pubs, restaurants, offices, etc.) is probably a better place than the gallery or museum.
- Like always, feel free to react to these thoughts. But I hope you understand that I am not always able to answer to all those letters I get. If you think that your thoughts are interesting to read for others, why not start your own writings, and spread them into the network. TAM-Publications is nothing more like that. The need to share thoughts (mine and others) with others, to make communication possible between so many people that live on our planet.
date of printing WWW-version: 28-6-1997
there are also secret thoughts published on this site.......
Ruud Janssen - TAM
5000 JJ Tilburg
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