Friday, June 5, 2009

from Carla Cryptic

"What is mail art? Mail art is one of the only truly egalitarian outlets for artistic expression. One does not have to a professional artist to enter a show, and aspects of existence such as race, color, creed, credentials, and gender have absolutely no effect on your work being chosen. All work is shown and all participants are notified of the others who´ve participated.

Mail art started being a presence in the current art world circa 1980 after several years of being a Rave-like experience; only the participants knew when and where a "show" was taking place. These shows took many forms, but all mail art has three basic tenets: 1. no fees, 2. no returns, and 3. a list of participants to all who enter. Variations on the theme include everything from fullfledged hung shows with openings and catalogues, down to being shown in someone´s basement studio to Fluffy the cat, the list of participants only being sent to people who included an SASE with their work. Shows are launched by advertising in art journals like Artweek, or, once you´ve become part of the network, through invitation (a postcard in your mailbox) on themes chosen by whoever initiates the show.

What makes it mail art? Mail art consists of anything the human mind can conceive of and make which can be sent through the mail as is. The most common items are postcards, decorated envelopes, photocards, sculptures encased in clear plastic, laminated collages, and objects sent in clear envelopes. Some of the more esoteric items run the gamut from randomly decorated coconuts to hand-loomed potholders with embroided addresses on cloth labels, stamps sewn on rather than glued; in the last show I sponsored, one of the more unusual entries was a wire coat hanger with the address and stamp on the paper wrapper.

The U.S. Postal Service´s guideline for what can go through the mail used to be simple; except for explosives, toxic substances, and contraband items, almost anything is allowed for a price. Current USPS guidelines are not as flexible as they used to be but they still give mail artist a lot of room in which to be creative. It´s usually best to know what the local guidelines are for your country so that, when and if you bend them, you know what the consequences might be."

- Carla Cryptic, 1998

Carla Cryptic
PO Box 1274
Berkeley, CA

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