Well, so far, this has all been fine and good – making postal concoctions and then sending them to the usual suspects. But soon, I imagine you’ll want to start connecting with other mail artists in other places. So how does a lone correspondent start expanding their network, meeting other mail artists?
By answering mail art calls, of course!
A mail art “call-for-entry” (or CFE, for short) is simply a “want ad” put out by another mail artist. A CFE is usually themed, and states simple info such as deadline, size restrictions, and a “mail to” address. Let’s take a look at a fairly standard CFE:
Theme: 1962-2012 – 50 years of mail art in homage to Ray Johnson from the New York School of CorresponDance. Please send a sign of renewed adherence, love and gratitude to this “School”, to celebrate this important anniversary together.
Deadline: March 31, 2012
No return – No jury – no selection; exhibition
Documentation to participants.
Mail to: Anna Boschi c/o Mailartmeeting Archives
Via G. Tanari 1445/B
40024 Castel San Pietro Terme-BO
Alrighty. So the “theme”, “deadline”, and “mail to” info is fairly self-explanatory: Anna Boschi of the Mailartmeeting Archives is running a CFE about Ray Johnson and the NYSC. The deadline is pretty far away (that means you all have time to send something in!), and the “medium/technique” is free – there are no size restrictions and anything goes! So, if you wanted to create a gigantic papier mache head of a Ray Johnson bunny and mail it to Anna, she’d happily add it to her archive.
Two of the most important aspects of a good – no, great – CFE have to do with participation and documentation. Most calls have a sentence stating “no return/no jury/no selection/no fee” – what does that mean? Well, back-in-the-day (1970’s-ish), one of mail art’s points of pride was bypassing the established gallery system — a mail artist could (and can!) send anything to anyone, calling it “art” or “non-art”. Mail art was/is/always will be whatever the sender & receiver make of it. The “no return/no jury” statement in a typical CFE simply means that the artwork sent in will not be juried (all work will be included if there is an exhibition). Also: there is no return of work (if you send it, you won’t get it back). Mail art is made and sent freely, with no expectations attached.
Now let’s talk about documentation. Simply put, documentation is a way of acknowledging everyone involved in the mail art CFE or project, all the artists who sent work. If you decide to start a CFE of your own, you should be prepared to send documentation to everyone who sends you something – this is how your start building a network of mail art friends! As a creator/sender of mail art, the general rule is this: if you send art to someone running a CFE, they should offer some sort of mail art or documentation in return – sort of like a “thank-you-for-sending-something” gift. Documentation comes in all shapes and sizes: zines, photo CDs, Xeroxed posters, postcard sets, a mention on a blog – but ultimately, (I feel) you should send something to everyone who contributed to the project. By sending a tangible mail art response – no matter what format it takes – you are keeping the Network alive and thriving.
When you participate in a CFE, be sure to keep the following in mind: documentation takes time to put together and send out! Every mail artist works at a different pace, so you may see documentation instantly, or months after the fact. Be patient! You’re not in it for the receiving, remember? You’re in it for the creating, the process of Networking…
So now, some questions for you, dear readers:
–have you ever answered a CFE? What was the theme?
–did you receive documentation for the project? Did you feel it was good documentation or disappointing?
–would you (or have you) ever put together a CFE of your own?
And what’s that I hear?
A new year’s resolution?
Perhaps putting together a CFE of your own, for 2011?
I dare you!
Where to find mail art CFEs:
–great blog and examples of documentation over at gahlilmailart; the “Servane Morel” photo is from gahlil’s blog…
–one of the best CFE sites around; very consistent and updated regularly:
–another regularly updated CFE site; I see CFEs here that I don’t see anywhere else:
–good listings here, and they’re rated! 5 perfs is “great”, 1 perf is “unknown”: