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 http://www.facebook.com/ruud.janssen?ref=profile#/album.php?aid=91495&id=501252989 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: http://iuoma-network.ning.com/group/iuomanovel). 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.