Friday, October 30, 2009

Johnny Boy : Social Networking and potentials?

JB : You have been one of the first mail artists to embrace computer communication. How do you judge all this frantic social networking going on? Do you think that we have fulfilled all the potentials one could barely foresee 15 years ago?

RJ : You have seen nothing yet. The Social Network I created on NING is a sample of what can be done already. And Twitter and Google Wave (I am one of the first to get an account there from Google and am now exploring that search-engine / social networking / communication tool they have build). The communication has become global and instant. But when you are moving around the globe (I tend to be in other countries quite a few times) it is amazing how your network joins you on your travels. The changes and potentials were obviously there already in the beginning of the 90-ies. Some of us (Mark Bloch, crackerjack kid, Charles François, David Cole, were already using computers for their communications. The speed and availabilities has become common these days, and that explains the easiness of which also the old and new generation of mail-artists use all of the new and all tools just to communicate in a creative way. The Eternal network has become a large community.

Johnny Boy : Average each month?

JB : In 1996 you were sending out an average of about 150 pieces of mail art each month. how about now?

RJ : That all depends on what month it is. Could be very little or about hundred pieces. The communication-forms that have come as extra absorb the most time. I get about 700 e-mails a days through which I have to filter. Not just spam, but also because of the many websites and blogs that are online and generate e-mail. If you calculate that, about 20,000 pieces of information coming at you in a month. It might drive one crazy when you don’t select. The snail-mail has become scarce. A pile of letters each day still get in, and yes, I do my best to reply to them, but like most can imagine, time to do all is difficult to find.

Johnny Boy : What is different now?

JB : Now you seem to be very active again. Are there any differences in your approach to networking between your activity in the '80s and '90s and now?

RJ : The differences in approach and activity lies mostly in the intergration of Internet in our daily life. The snail-mail is still slow but essential to the mail-art network. It seems the mail-artists that were so against the Internet gradually saw that they can use the new communication-tools to their advantage. A lot of old-times joined in on the IUOMA platform (see: ) that I started only a year ago (on November 13th 2008). Soon it will exist only one year and already it has 710+ members online. Also newcomers that through Internet discover the mail-art network and love the idea of exchanging art from artist to artist. The essence of networking has not really changed. Only projects can be done on different communication-platforms as well. Paper documentations are replaced by digital websites. Magazines are replaced by blogs with more participants. Even my old TAM-Bulletin (with news about mail-art projets that circulated in the 80-ies and 90-ies) is replaced by a blog with mail-art projects (see: ) where 96 authors write and publish the mail-art projects. It has 60+ visits each days and distributes the mail-art projects information with only one click worldwide.

Johnny Boy : Did you withdrew from the network?

JB : In the late 1990s, when I first joined the mail art network, you gradually withdrew from it, only keeping in touch with a handful of close friends. Why did you do that? Did the diatribe surrounding the Faker play a role in this?

RJ : I didn’t withdrew quite like that. I stayed active with quite a few, but the Internet and the Fluxus Heidelberg Center took a lot of our time and energy too. Not sure what you mean with ‘the Faker’and what aspect you asking here about. For most people who will read this they have no idea of what you are talking about. New borders within mail-art were being researched and found. Actually the Mail-Art Interview project was going on since 1996 and that meant I was focusing on that 80+ mail-artists that I interviewed. So in these late 90-ies I was quite active but with a smaller and selective group. Those were the most hectic times and I published ten thousands of booklets which were distributed too. Sending less mail-art only came about in the beginning of this new century. Also because of my moving to Breda, new Job, Marriage, just to name a few major changes in my life.

Johnny Boy : What about Fluxus Heidelberg Center?

JB : When did you and your partner Litsa Spathi come up with the Fluxus Heidelberg monicker, and why? What was the motivation behind it?

RJ : It is strange that you name it a monicker. For us the Fluxus Heidelberg Center is an important center. The collection of Fluxus Books we have in the center is larger than most libraries we know. We are also in contact with a larger group that are following the spirits of Fluxus. Also the center publishes its own documents in book form as well as in digital form. Litsa Spathi is the creator of Fluxus Heidelberg Center. I was in Heidelberg when we started to work on that. I was honored with the title co-founder. Litsa has been active in that area for a long time. Together we have conceived lots of Fluxus Scores and Performance that we actually did in Germany, Netherlands and Greece. The first 3 years were even published in a book. The motivation is simple. We both follow the spirits of Fluxus. We are (were) in contact with members of the first generation like Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Yoko Ono, Ray Johnson, Norman Solomon, Ken Friedman, and also the active bunch that associates themselves with the new Fluxus and Fluxlist. Litsa has her own Fluxlist Europe and actually a lot more activities with het Fluxus Poetry.

The motivation was to be short to find a platform to gather all the activities and information’s we were confronted with. Performances in the digital ages means that you have to include the new digital techniques too. Performances with camera’s, videos, all kind of new media in performances has quite an impact. Mail-Art and Fluxus are two different things. Both avoid the normal ways that the Artworld wants us to go, that is one of the aspects that makes them work together sometimes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Karys Llewellyn: Do you still get a 'buzz' when you receive a letter in the post?

KL : Do you still get a 'buzz' when you receive a letter in the post?

RJ : In general YES. Someone has spent time and money of getting that mail to me. It is worth a lot that someone takes that effort.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Karys Llewellyn: How do you see Mail Art progressing or evolving in the next 20 years?

KL : How do you see Mail Art progressing or evolving in the next 20 years?

RJ : In 20 years there can happen a lot. The Internet and Social Network have taken over the function of communication. The traditional mail is just for sending originals which are authentic. A colourcard can also be published on the Internet, sent by e-mail, etc... But what you can't send is 3D, smell, structures on paper.

I have been working with computers all my life. As a 17 year old student learned to programm computers back in the 70-ies (see for some historic photo's). But besides this interest in computers there was always my interest in creating art on paper, canvas, etc... Even today, I always enjoy painting. And the handpainted envelopse I send out (must be tenthousands over all these decades) I still can't send in a digital way.

So in 20 years the mail-art will be a selective group that still can afford the postage and want to share things that can't be digitized. It all depends on the survival of the postal system. Decades ago every country had their own Postal Office System. Nowadays it has to become independent and commercial. The postal rates and regulations have become quite stricts. Playing with that new system is a challenge on its own again. When a computer cancels an envelope strange things happen. I've tried a few things the last years as well. But sending a plastic bottle through the mail is a difficult task today.

The "progressing and evolving' part in your question is difficult. Mail-Art always uses the system as it evolves and tests the possibilities. New projects are possible when more communication systems are used. My latest contribution is a card that I will have to print out myself and actually is published before it is printed and sent. The timefactor is a part in mail-at projects as well. Some things go slow by snail-mail, but communication by e-mail goes in a second. These two can join and develope new concepts. A sample is the IUOMA-Novel that is a single project by an UK Mail-Artist (see: 44 Mail-Artists are discussing the project with 261 comments - status of today). One single book is travelling the world ans has to become one book that returns in the UK. On January 30th 2009 the project started and it still is being followed by all these people who wonder what the next step will be. Now that is a project that is quite specific and fits the timeframe we live in.

There are more samples like these. creative people always use the new ways the communication system offers. An analogue camera that travels and causes photos to be taken by playes in the project or accidental exposures caused by postal workers (a project I took part in years ago). Or the IUOMA-Ning platform that in 7 months reached 500 members and was published in a hardcopy book though on-demand publishing. There are so many new things developed that can be integrated in mail-art. We will see what the next 20 years bring. I only hope I will be alive then as well.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Karys Llewellyn: What are your thoughts on forms of modern communications tools such as social networking sites, email and text message?

KL: What are your thoughts on forms of modern communications tools such as social networking sites, email and text message?

RJ : I have always experimented with the new forms of communication. In the 80-ies I was working with a BBS (Bulletin Board Service) to explore the digital distribution of a mail-art project magazine. The last years I have again experimented with a blog with over 90 authors that publish their mail-art projects online (see: Besides the live environment I also archive al the mail-art projects information on a website in the form of .PDF files to ensure that the information will be available for many years (see: The websites come and go, the digital files that archived well will live a bit longer. It is my concern that the digital information will vanish when we don't archive things well enough.

Social Networking Sites are a relative new thing. On I am experimenting with a platform where the IUOMA was brought to life again. Over 600 IUOMA-members are now lively exchanging information and are starting projects. Digital and paper projects are integrated and that works fascinatingly well. A new thing that happens is that a new generation learns about mail-art though these websites and networks. The strat with a digital address to fins a real address. Again here I document the developement of these digital explorations in the form of books. The first 500 IUOMA-members were documented in a digital LuLu publication that can be transformed in ea book when someone just orders the book. The digital version of the book is available for free (hundreds have downloaded the book). The hardcopy versiopn only has been printed a few times for members. They will survive the coming decades for sure which I can't say for the Social Networks who will 'explode' one of these days because commercial aspects of websites are coming to the surface.

Karys Llewellyn: Do you think the role of the postal system has changed in the last few decades?

KL : Do you think the role of the postal system has changed in the last few decades?

RJ : The last few dacades? That is from about 1989 to 2009. The postal system used to deliver a lot of paper, that has been reduced quite a bit. The digital flow of information has increased more than the decrease of paper flow. It is so easy to produce something on a computer and to send it to just anybody or to post it on a blog and/or forum.

The paperwork is still the thing I treasure most. But somehow the things I get in ternd to be less and smaller. The cost of sending out mail-art in the traditional way has increased a lot. No large envelopes. No catalogues in the form of thick books. Those are changes that I see over these last decades.

The role of the postal system is just to transport the paperwork and packages, We still need that for the oldfashioned mail-art. I enjoy the play of computerwork and paperwork. Printing digital work on paper, digitizing paperwork into digital archives. To sen a book to someone these days is a cosly business. It explains why catalogues in the form of boopklets has been transformed into blogs with digital information. I prefer the booklets, but know the moneyfactor is a disturbing one.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Karys Llewellyn: What is it about Mail-Art, compared to other mediums of art, that keeps you participating?

KL: What is it about Mail-Art, compared to other mediums of art, that keeps you participating?

RJ: In Mail-Art all kind of media come together. So Mail-Art çould be called a specific medium as well, but with all the communicationforms at hand nowadays, there is so much to experiment.... The concept is that communication is the medium you use in your art. Mail, the traditional form of sending something from one person to another has now also the e-mail form. But websites generate e-mails (like social networks do) and the play with communication has speeded up a lot. The letter takes its time. When I send something out, the response might take days, weeks or months. That is always a surprise. Communication brings you new ideas.

In Mail-Art one normally takes a break now and then. Always answering mail is a hard job. But once you get a suprise and/or interesting piece in your hand, you are eager to send out something again.

So to make it short in answering: the surprise and interaction with other artists that work on a non-commercial basis in mail-art. The exchange of art, time and ideas.