Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I've Sent Mail to Stef for 20 Years

Before I sent mail-art I sent mail. I sent a lot of mail and for many years. I mostly sent to my closest friends. Sometimes those items would be simple greeting cards and other times they’d be slightly modified postcards. For almost all of my trips of any length I’d send out simple postcards. (This activity came from my great aunt who sent me cards for years) If the trips were longer than a week or two, I carried a notebook that I would write about the day’s events. I’d stick random ephemera on the front and back covers. In every one of those books I’d have a page dedicated to addresses. From the road I’d send postcards to friends and family with strange messages on them. I’d keep count of how many I sent to each person as I went along. This sort of “counting” continues today with friends and family as well as my mail-art correspondents.

All of this started pretty early, around 2000, maybe a little earlier. This means that some of my oldest friends have received strange mail from me for close to twenty years. I was sitting at home one day thinking about what this would look like collected. I wondered how many people actually kept these items and how they stored them.

In a moment of pure vanity I sent a message out to three friends I thought might have kept a few of these things. I asked them if they’d send me video of the collection, something I could piece together in a short YouTube clip. I didn’t want to press things too much. I didn’t want them to feel like they had to comply. I didn’t want them to feel guilty if they hadn’t saved any of the items.

Maybe it’s not vanity, maybe it’s something else? With mail-artists you expect an item in return, but with my friends I don’t. If I sent to a mail-artist over and over with no reply I’d stop sending. With friends you send and hope they get a kick out of it, and that’s pretty much it. If they get a chuckle then I’m happy, that was the purpose. Occasionally someone will send me a card in return but that’s a super rare instance. I cherish those cards, they’re mostly postcards. I’ve kept every postcard or altered bit of mail (one budding mail-artist is my over seventy aunt and uncle) that has ever been sent to me. I keep them all.

Bruce was the first (I’ll share his work later) to send me a video of the collection. He said years ago that he was collecting everything in a photo album. I’ve sent to Bruce at multiple addresses in multiple states for eight or nine years. I send my stranger things to Bruce, things I know wouldn’t fly with the strangers that make up the majority of my mail-art correspondents. I don’t want to freak them out too much, or at least not offend them by sending the back of an opened pair of scissors that’s outline looks exactly like a penis. I know Bruce will like that sort of thing.

The video that I’ve shared here comes from my friend Stef. She currently lives in Durham North Carolina. Out of all my friends I have sent more items to her than anyone else. Just look at the video, it’s kind of crazy but also spectacular to see it all displayed like that. It really is a lot of shit, a lot of time for such silliness. I met Stef my sophomore year in high school. I probably started mailing things to her when she started college in 2000. Some of the mail presented in the video may go back almost seventeen years, which is undeniably awesome. That’s a lot of trashy mail. It’s heartwarming knowing she kept it all.

Stef…the five different envelopes that look exactly the same contained all of the Grayson focused work. Since some of them had a little nudity I thought it was best to clothe them in an envelope.

If anyone else is interested in sharing their archive that would be great.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My Failed 2005 Mail Art Mission

The first time I ever heard about mail-art was from the movie How to Draw a Bunny. I was so excited that I took to the internet to find out more. It is there that I discovered IUOMA, the first time. This was 2005. I distinctly remember asking folks if they wanted to share creations through the mail with me. A couple of folks said yes. I don’t think I ever sent anything to my friends. In my hastiness, I did set up an account on IUOMA and asked folks if they wanted to share with me. I got two things in the mail. I didn’t send them anything.
Not getting things back from people is going to happen. It happens a lot. If you send out blankly to strangers there’s not a great chance you’re going to get things back. When I do one on one collaborations I expect about half of them to come back. When I do add and passes I’m thrilled if any of them come home. When I send things blindly to folks I get a response about half of the time. In order to keep all of this straight I keep meticulous notes about what I’ve sent and who has sent to me. I try and keep a fair balance with things. I do this so as not to “sin” when it comes with the back and forth. I try and be a “generous mailer”
This wasn’t always the case. The two cards that I have shared here are the ones I received during that first flirtation with mail-art. I found them when I was looking for random ephemera in one of my many plastic boxes. I tend to keep a lot more things than I should.
Thankfully the names on the cards aren’t recognizable to me, they’re not people that I have sent things to in the interim time. Maybe they were making things for a longtime and stopped once I got going for real? Maybe these were the only two cards they ever sent? I know nothing about them.
I’d like to publically apologize for not sending anything back. You fine folks made something for me and I didn’t return the favor. I’m publically announcing over ten years after the card came to me how grateful I am. I wasn’t committed then, you see. It took a few more years before I dove into the deep end of mail-art. But that’s where I live now; I hang out in the deep end all the time. Anyway, thank you for my first specimens of the genre.