Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Carly Toyzan: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

There is enough on my website. I have had a lot of interviews done and it is always difficult to repeat the same things again and again. I appreciate quite specific questions one at a time. That works best because I then can let my mind go any direction. Mail-art changes ones life. It has changed mine in many ways because some seamingly unimportant pieces of mail-art made drastic changes in my life and brough me lots of new things. That might happen to anyone that starts with mail-art.....

Carly Toyzan: What is your favorite thing about mail art? What do you get from it? What does it mean to you?

The rubberstamps are the most fascinating thing I discovered in mail-art. That is why I started to work a lot with them and in 1983 started the TAM Rubberstamp Archive. Next year is is 25 years old. It has already been exhibited in San Francisco (USA) and Moscow (Russia), and who know where the next exhibition will be with this huge collection.

Carly Toyzan: Please describe any especially memorable pieces of mail art you have received or sent.

A contribution for my magazine IPM in 1993. It was the International Poetry Magazine and I received an exceptional contribution from Litsa Spathi. Only one month later I answered and our correspondence began and grew. In 1996 we met for the first time and after that things grew. Now we are married and live for over two years together in Breda.

The contribtion by the way was an object book. Very well done, and something new to me then. This contribution changed my life completely and shows how mail-art has an impact on someones life. I am not the only one. A lot of mail-artists can tell similar stories.....

Carly Toyzan: I wonder, how did mail artists network before the Internet?

1. Magazines. There were many. Now almost none. One of these magazines I started myself, the TAM Bulletin. It run for several years and also was available in digital format.
See also:

2. Pass and add on projects. Each mail-artists adds his art and address and passes this on. That way the amount of address cumulates and is circulated. When someone makes a few copies of such a paper and distributes. It speeds up things even more

3. Addresslist that were used by the older generations were published in catalogues.

4. The Xerox machine helps to distribute information. Nowadays people just copy and paste. (And e-mail to a large senderlist)

5. Network is a lot of work. Distribution costed more energy and postage....... Some projects were meant to expand the network. I did a socio-project which even run out of hand. I asked 25 people to copy a 'controlled' chain-letter. Add your name and send it to howmany neames you want. Send me the namelist of the people who will receive the list. This expanded and brought me over 3000 addresses. To document such an event was very difficult. But I did try.

just a few ideas.....
another sample of early networking: one page out of the TAM-bulletin with some historic projects.

Carly Toyzan: In your opinion, does the Internet help or hurt mail art and why?


Internet makes communication cheap with e-mail and sites and blogs. The traditional mail gets expensive and unaccessible for most.

Internet makes mail-art known to a complete new audience and new people discover and start.

The mail-art that is sent out is more carefully sent out. Sometimes with other goals. Some send out mail to get it published on a website, not for a traditional show. Catalogues are scarce, but websites pop up every week.

Carly Toyzan: Can you describe how the Internet has changed mail art?

Well, how to answer something like that. Yes, new ways of communications were added to the pallet of a mailartist. I started to call them communication-artists. I have been using e-mail since 1985 or so, even before the e-mail was common use. I experimented and wrote about these experiments. Too much info to just press in one answer. Summerizing it: New ways and new tools for creative people.

Carly Toyzan: Was it a way to avoid the exclusivity of the art world?

In a way that too. If you want an audience for your work there is nothing easier as send it to the audience. Or arrange your own exhibition with a project. In Mail-Art the art world has no grip on what happens. For decades the art world didn't even know about the complete network. Ray Johnson did communicate with museums though. He corresponded a lot with Clive Philpot who was director of the MoMa Libarry in New York (see interview I did with him on

Carly Toyzan: Can you describe when you believe mail art started and why artists started to do it?

The real start was when the communication with mail was used as a medium for art. Ray Johnson did start experimenting with this but the term Mail-Art was thought out by someone else. Why artists started this? The need to communicate. The need to send art to someone who doesn't want to buy it but who can react to it. The need to have an audience for art that isn't accepted by the galleries and standardd musea. Just a lot of reasons and the time for something new.

Carly Toyzan:There seems to be some disagreeance about when mail art started and why it started. From what I've read, some believe it started the 50's

When Mail-art started is a difficult question. It all depends on how you want to see things. Best way to explain it is to cite the Wikipedia definition. You can read it all here:

Where it reads: An amorphous international mail art network, involving thousands of participants in over fifty countries, evolved between the 1950s and the 1990s It was influenced by other movements, including Dada and Fluxus.

It also explains a lot of different versions about the History....

Funny is that I started this entry in the Wikipedia on Mail-Art. Somebody told me that there was nothing there on the subject and I started to write for them. The current version is altered many times by many people, but it is funny to realize I started something there.