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SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT MAIL ART - PART-9
BY RUUD JANSSEN
THIS IS THE 9TH "THOUGHTS" THAT I WRITE. IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE OTHER EIGHT 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 9TH ARTICLE IS ESPECIALLY WRITTEN FOR THE MAIL-ART PROJECT "FUTURE COMMUNICATION" ORGANISED AT THE DENMARK'S POST HEADQUARTERS IN COPENHAGEN - DENMARK, AUGUST 1996.
ISSM : TAM960126
In 1996 Copenhagen is the Cultural Capital of Europe. Project Paper Road is one of the major events - sponsored by Post Denmark. Anne Vilsbøll and Post Denmark invited artists to participate in a Mail-Art event. The exhibited works will be shown at the headquarters of Post Denmark, in August throughout December 1996. All works will be donated to the Danish Post Museum. Address: Post Denmark, Tietgensgade 37, 1566 Copenhagen V, Denmark. Medium : Work with/on paper.
THE POSTAL OFFICE AND MAIL ART
THEME : FUTURE COMMUNICATION
- It is not the first time that the postal office is arranging a mail art exhibition. I have seen and/or participated in simular exhibitions in The Hague (Netherlands), Paris (France), Bern (Switserland), Brussels (Belgium). It seems that the postal services here in Europe are getting very much interested in this mail art thing.
- That a postal office arranges a mail art project that will be the basis for an exhibition is not that common however. Most official institutes want to have control on what they exhibit and therefore like to select the works that they want to show. So it is quite refreshing to see that the Danish Postal Office is doing this project.
- The subject is also well chosen. In the years 1995 and 1996 the Internet is taking its place in ways mail artists choose to communicate with each other. While some stick to the envelope and the (now called) snail-mail, others just can't get enough of their new computer-toy to do all communication in electronic ways. Some (I am just one of them) explore all communication-forms that are available (The mail- interview's are an example of that exploration).
- The thema FUTURE COMMUNICATION and the medium PAPER almost seems contradictionary. Some might say that the future communication might not at all include paper, but yet the medium is work with/on paper. So I have to print this text out on paper and will send it to them as my contribution. If I would use the e-mail or the computer-disk as a medium (not futuristic because it is already reality) I would not follow the invitation. The FAX would be o.k. since then they probably will receive my work (this text) on paper. But I am not sure about this, since some fax-numbers are controlled by a computers who get the message in a digital form. That is also how I can send and receive fax-messages, I don't need the paper anymore.
- It is typical, this subject. The communication is essential to our society, and the postal office always played a major role in this. However, nowadays, the Telecom- department is the largest part of the communication-system. The phone, fax, and also computer-communication is taking over gradually. It might even already have taken over the world without us realizing it. So I like the combination of a postal office organizing a mail art project on this specific theme.
- Currently, in Holland, everybody is talking about the Internet and the possibilities to use digital communication. In fact, most advertisings come now from the firms that see big business in this new thing. Years ago, it were the first users of the internet, who emphasized the anarchistic qualities of the new medium, but gradually the business is taking over. In Holland 'Planet Internet' is one of the bigest providers of Internet-access, and yes, the postal offices (now KPN) plays a big part in this. The phone-lines aren't used effectively nowadays, but if everybody starts to use it also for digital communication, this means big bucks. Everybody who eneterd the internet will have noticed the increased amount on his/her phone-bill.
- The future communication on the Internet has two aspects. The e-mail, where you can send electronic mail to anybody of your choice. The other one is the browsing, where you can get access to computer-systems and programs, that offer you a wealth of information, but sometimes also want to sell you things (the commercial world has seen to that). The internet is no longer a network full of information, is is nowadays also business.
- The e-mail is a wonderful thing. It offers advantages like speed, and very cheap ways to get your messages across to someone else far away. Once you have taken the barriers of: getting a computer, getting the software, own a phone, get some knowledge on basic computer-use, get an (expensive) Internet-account. It then becomes possible to send out e-mails to the whole world. Well, of course only those ones that also have take that barrier. I only know a few artists in South America or Africa that actually are able to send e-mail. The electronic communication is only heavily used in the USA, and secondly in Europe.
- E-mail wonderful? The problem is also that you can only send digital information. The text is never written in my handwriting (or I should scan my handwritten text and digitize it, but that is a lot of trouble). It is the lettertype the printer is set to (if you or the receiver ever wants to print out the message, that is). There is no smell, no color, no paper to write on. The e-mail messages looses a lot of the characteristics hand- made mail always shows. But it is this speed and price that makes e-mail win in the communication-battle in the FIRST world (in the THIRD world there are still the more basic problems that need to be solved).
- Communication costs money. And if you send out a lot of text/information (mail) outside your own country, the fysical transport costs a lot. It is something every mail artist knows. If I have a text of 16 pages, and I want to send it to hundred people outside Holland, it will cost me over 200 Dutch Guilders. In fact, some months ago I did send something like that over the internet (It was an interview I did with fluxus- artists Dick Higgins as part of my mail-interview project). I used a mailing-list, and uploaded the text to my own server. It took me about 2 minutes communication-time to get this thing pulled off. The result was that everybody on that list (a selective group as you might guess, because not everybody I would like to reach has e-mail) got that text within a few minutes. It didn't cost me 200 Dutch Guilders, but only .32 cents for the phone and a few cents for the electricity. I am not counting the computer, phone-subscribtion and Internet-access now.
- But it is communication. If it will be the future communication? I don't really know. It seems a lot of people start with e-mail, but than find out that this medium only offers limited possibilities is compared to the snail-mail. It also offers the new possibilities as I just subscribed in the above paragraph.
- Sure, you can send out visuals (like GIF- and JPEG-files) or even Audio or Video-files, but the Internet-system for privat persons isn't ready for that yet. A nice example is the video-file I got recently from Charles François. He didn't send it via internet, but on a diskette. The reason, the file was over 1 Mbyte large, and it contained about 6 seconds of video (including audio-sound). Off course it is wonderful that you can digitize things like that, but the digital system needs a lot of digital memory, and that is still the limitation. Because I know also some things about the technical sides of this internet-thing, I know they are working hard to make things better. The ISDN-lines with fiberglass as a medium will improve things for a great deal. But things still stay digital.
- For me this is the important factor. People are analog beings. The human senses are there. But in the digital world try to imagine what sound, seeing, smell, touch, emotions, will look like. Also the depending on a machine is something I don't like that much. But it is becoming reality for more and more people. In fact our whole society has become dependent on machines to help us to make the world possible we live in. Do we start to live in a virtual world? If you get an e-mail, you sometimes don't even see from which country it comes.
date of printing : 23-6-1997
- The other communication on the internet, the browsing, or the seeing of the homepages with their hyperlinks, is different to the e-mail. Here it isn't possible to get information to your computer, but you have to take the initiative yourself to get the information. It is the difference between getting a surprising letter / magazine / book, or going to the library/bookshop/kiosk to look if they have something interesting for you. This initiative is essential in the difference betweem e-mail and 'browsing' the net.
- The wonderful aspect of the browsing and homepages is, that anybody with access to the internet can put his information of the internet. And the hyperlinks can direct you to the things the owner of that specific WEB-site thinks are interesting for you. It is the anarchistic aspect of the internet.
- A lot of people are putting their information (visual, text, audio) on the internet. These pages can be reached by anybody who has an Internet-account. I could also say, this information isn't accesible unless you have a computer, modem, telephone and internet-account. Especially large organisations have the resources to put a lot of information on the Internet. Libraries, Universities, Businesses, International organisations, Multinationals.
- The disadvantage is that the access isn't there for everybody. The advantage is, that the access for a selective group has improved enourmously. If I want to see the digital version of the Mona Lisa, I can go the the pages the "LOUVRE" offers. Also art-works that aren't in a museum, but that someone just put on-line, I can see them without having to go out to the artwork. But I see only the digital version. I must say I always prefered to see the original above seeing a (digital or analog) copy.
- But I agree that the digital communication (Internet) offers lots of new things. The future communication won't be all digital as I see it. It is just a new way of communication that has become possible. The invention of the telephone didn't make the letters disappear. The computers didn't make a paper-less world. The Internet won't make communication all digital. Analog people won't get used to a complete digital world. The analog parts of our life (smell, touch, human contact, sex) are too beautiful for human beings to give up.
there are also secret thoughts published on this site.......
Ruud Janssen - TAM
4801 BB - BREDA
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