Mail art and Fluxus share a lot of the same visual cues, artistically speaking. If you’re just getting into this crazy and exciting Network, Fluxus is a term you’ll soon hear bandied about.
I could go on for days about Fluxus history, but thankfully, the internet has already done that — I don’t have to go down that path. There is fantastic information both here and here, especially where the role of mail art is concerned. For those of you interested in forums, be sure to stop by the Fluxlist and take a look at what’s happening. Today, many contemporary mail artists identify as Neo Fluxists, thereby carrying on the lineage started nearly fifty years ago. A strong sense of DIY, using readily available items and maintaining a sense of whimsy are all hallmarks of the modern Fluxist – sound familiar?
Contemporary mail artists such as Keith Buchholz (Fluxus St. Louis), Litsa Spathi (a.k.a “Nobody”) and Reed Altmus (TONERWORKS) are just a handful of active Networkers today. Working within the mail art community, they use Fluxus ideas and iconography throughout their mailings.
One of the most admirable traits of Fluxus is its ability to claim and manipulate everyday ephemera – train tickets, diner receipts, bureaucratic forms – and manipulate them into art objects. Within the mail art community, one well-known form is the “fluxus buck”: a fake currency which is mailed to artists, added to, and then passed on.
The Fluxus Buck project was started in 1994 by mail artist Ex Posto Facto; today, the faux currency is traded by mail artists around the world. In a 1995 interview with Ruud Jannsen, Ex Posto Facto says “my idea is that they (the bucks) need to circulate amongst the Mail Art Community. I want artists to carry them in wallets or purses, doodle on them, add their addresses, send them to other artists and then redeem them with me. Or not.”
I love it.
Other mail artists such as Samuel Montalvetti use the currency of their own countries (in this case, Argentina) for mail art purposes:
And then (of course) there’s Joseph Beuys:
Mail art is more than just pretty postcards and well-placed postage, although those things are important aspects. Mail artists love to appropriate, subvert, have a laugh. It’s nothing new, really: folks have been joking around with each other and the postal system for years. But mail artists seem to have a special affinity for this sort of thing – reminding each other (and the world at large) that we don’t always need to take ourselves so seriously, that sometimes it’s o.k. to just step back and have a laugh. I think it’s a great thing to keep in mind this holiday season.
So on that (bank)note: what sort of everyday ephemera would you get your hands on, in order to send out into the mail art world?
and here are some links to explore further:
–take a look at mail artist Frips’ flickr page: beautiful pieces of post!
–the Mail Art/Fluxus Buck/Postal Networking group at Flickr