Saturday, September 23, 2006
Danielle Walker, (Artist and Writer) Victoria, BC
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
By -Danielle Walker
Sep 20 2006
Published in Monday Magazine September 21-27, 2006
Mailmania 2 takes mail art to a whole new level
Mail art is the art community's version of reality TV: it creates common ground and makes the mundane profound. For his second biennial show, Mailmania 2, local artist Dale Roberts sent out an open call welcoming "whatever will mail." This was the green light for artists in an international forum to send in the visual poetry of their lives-and it arrived not only in traditional two-dimensional format, but also in collage and balls of clothing wrapped in tape.
"I got into mail art in grad school, after reading a book by Ray Johnson, the 'father' of mail art," says Roberts, whose first Mailmania exhibit was back in September, 2004. "I also got into artist journaling and sending that out to friends because of Dan Eldon, a Reuters photographer who was killed in Africa in 1993." Just 22 years old when he died, Roberts notes that a book published after Eldon's death showed what he was going through before he died. "It was an inspiration for me to create something out of 'current sight' with my immediate environment," he explains. "Not only is mail art political, it heightens pedestrian objects and makes them precious."
For her part, fellow artist Gillian Gravenor says, "I got into mail art through Dale. I had met him in the bookstore where I worked, in 2000, and sent him a card. He reciprocated my card, and also invited other friends to participate." The friends who participated in this little group-now called "mailarta"-are still active.
Art movements in the past century inspire "a time other than this" in an art piece. Art that revolves around chance and the psyche-such as dada and surrealism-and art made of found objects (early cubism), are a few examples. Mail art's artificial history is achieved in two ways: the use of found objects, and the art piece passing through many hands in order to reach its destination.
And while it may seem mundane, the actual act of mailing is as much a part of the art as creating it. Gravenor breaks mail art down into a three-part process. "Mail first has to be made and then you have to go to the post office," she explains. "The second part is actually putting the mail in the box; I always look at it before I close the drawer, just to see it one last time. The third part is the other person receiving it." There is also a sense of satisfaction in seeing an image of the received art piece posted online. It completes the process of bringing art into being.
There is a general feeling of intimacy in the mail art community that echoes back to waiting for letters home from the war. This intimacy is what makes true art come alive.