Four X Four Add And Passes

The Front
Back Directions

I find myself awash in Add and Passes. For years I didn’t do them, but I’ve recently relaxed that position and find myself making a lot, and adding to a lot. Some mail-artists hate them. I once was that person that dreaded seeing them show up in the mail. I imagine that my archives from the first few years are filled with un-passed-on (I know that’s bad) Add and Passes.

Part of the reason I wasn’t a big fan is that I’d look at them and have no idea what to add. When I see a blank page I’ve filled with possibilities. I can put something over there or over here. I can add color; I can add an image, or a stamp. When I get piece of paper that’s full of stuff I don’t know what to do. It’s just too much, I feel overwhelmed. I don’t want to completely cover someone else’s work but I want mine to stick out. It doesn’t seem like a proper negotiation. One side note, when they’re filled up they look like “mud.” You know that feeling when you start to put too much on a surface without letting the one before dry…yeah it feels like that. Like Easter egg dyeing. There’s no separation and often the personality of the piece is lost.
Adds From Tiina Kainulainen (Finland) + Bruno Chiarlone (Italy) + Maria Teresa Cazzaro (Italy) + Tiziania Baracchi (Italy)
Adds From Lubouyr Tymkiv (Ukraine) + Dave Araki (USA) + Dan Mouer (USA) + Terri Jones (USA)
Adds From Diane Keys (USA) + Toni Hanner (USA) + Strangroom (USA) + Gerda  Ostereek (Canada)
When I started making Add and Passes I used the whole surface of the piece of paper. [Another side note, I hate that paper sizes around the world (especially from Europe) aren’t the same. When I place finished sheets in my notebooks, at least an inch sticks out of the top of the plastic protective sheet, my thing, not a real gripe…silly, I know.] With an allover Add and Pass you end up getting the “mud” effect. Mail-artists will put stuff all over the sheet since there’s no real direction of where things might go. A guide sometimes is helpful with such thing. If the overall effect of the composition is cleared up a bit, I think the eye rejoices. Too much just looks like too much.

The only Add and Passes I’ve continued to move around (I often put new ones in circulation every couple of months) are the 4 x 4 ones. The idea is that each mail-artist will get one block to fill up and then pass on to the next person. When the four blocks are filled up the directions tell them to mail it back to me. I’ve gotten about twenty of these back and strangely they pretty much follow these rules. A couple folks have filled up all four blocks and signed. I’m fine with that. I like seeing the white space. I’ve always liked controlled chaos more than control or chaos just by themselves.
Mike Dyar (EAT ART) took the 4 x 4 and the Hugo Ball Add and Pass I made and incorporated them into a book on his signature paper.
Recently I’ve started to print these on strangely colored paper or paper I found in recycling to change things up since a lot of people end up getting these over and over again. Part of the problem with Add and Passes is reaching a new audience without too many repeats. Getting too many can be more of an annoyance than joy.


A. Sleep said…
These are great.
Terry O. said…
Jon, I agree with a lot of what you said about Add & Passes. I understand your position and why you didn't do much with them at first. (If you still have the unfinished ones in your archives, you could always pull them out and send them on without adding anything.) :-) Your solution to the issues you had with A&Ps was brilliant in making the 4-square sheets! You said, "With an allover Add and Pass you end up getting the “mud” effect. Mail-artists will put stuff all over the sheet since there’s no real direction of where things might go." That comment helps me verbalize what I've been thinking about A&Ps for a long time. Maybe it could be called "mud" but, more so, it was your "no real direction" comment that helped me clarify my thoughts. For me, it's not so much knowing where things go but, rather, not staying with a "theme", or composition. When I see papers pasted down every which way with nothing in common, the A&P doesn't "speak" to me and I don't see the point. But some have great work with obvious time taken in adding one's art (ex: Lord Fugue with his copier art and Brandon Haney with his drawings) I finally sent out a few A&Ps after several years of just adding to others' pages. When my first A&P returned home, my image had been covered and nothing added related to it. Maybe I don't understand the real reason for Add & Passes as I wasn't there at the beginning. Maybe they are meant to be mud and confusion. But I for one enjoy your clean, artsy 4-square page. I am curious as to your opinion and the opinion of others on this. Thanks for the great article.
zzzzzzzz said…
@A. Sleep - thanks!

@Terry - I'm thinking about going through all of the old bins and send as many as I can back out into the wild. Some of them might have started six or seven years ago.

I'm not sure that their is one way at all, just a whole bunch of them. I'm not saying that I don't like those "muddy" images they're simply not my favorite. This is strange because I rarely like mannered mail art where everything looks a bit too perfect. I like a little noise in the tight composition, I guess?

I think with the four boxes people might have just a little more context. It's strange how no one has really "gone out of the lines" with those, not that going out of the lines would be a problem...just odd.