I’ve been wanting to do a mail-art centered audio project for some time. I even out a half-cocked idea about this many years ago, that I never followed through with. Obviously, nothing came of it. Like so many projects, they fall by the wayside before they start to come together. Like so many projects that make it from conception to reality, CALL ON ME was done quickly and without much thought.
I was at work, sitting in my office without much to do. The grading was done for the day, and I had an hour to kill before I could officially leave. When I find myself in these situations I try and make something, squeeze every minute out of the day. It was early April. What I ended up making was a broadside for a project called CALL ON ME. I named it that because of a Captain Beefheart song. The general structure came together in as many minutes as it took to make the broadside. Quick and easy. The directions were simple, call and leave me a message about mail-art. I was a little apprehensive about giving out my real number, but it’s not like it’s sacred, everyone already has my home address. I posted the broadside online, and then waited for some calls.
Hand drawn and digitally manipulated cover.
Pretty quickly I got messages from people, which I think was the motivation to keep going. Making a call and leaving a quick message, asks very little of anyone…there’s no money involved, and you can be done in a couple of minutes. The first person that I got a call from was John Held Jr in San Francisco. He told me about his upcoming trip to Europe where he was going to give a paper in Hungary at Artpool (it’s online, I watched) and then end up in England. Carmela called right after him and read a poem. Those first two entries within the first couple of days, meant I had enough inertia to push me forward. People seemed interested so I was all in.
Not giving too many directions meant people could do pretty much whatever they wanted, which meant the responses varied greatly from one another. In the 38 submissions I received, I had people to sing songs, try and define mail-art, channel Ray Johnson, send in noise pieces, ramble beautifully about nothing, and talk about their own history with the subject. Put together, I thought it worked perfectly to define what mail-art is at this exact moment. Many of the callers mentioned the current health crisis the world is dealing with. Direct response and nonsense.
Some people sent in more than one submission, some four or five. Some folks got cut off after three minutes and called right back only to go over the same territory, again. Joey Patrickt would periodically call in and leave noise pieces as messages. I only took one from each person, which meant I had to choose the best one. Just like being a teacher, when I announced that the project was ending and I posted a due date, I got a lot of calls in quick succession. No matter what, you can make something due next week or next year and people will turn it in at the last possible moment. In those last three days I had 5-7 people to submit. And just like teaching, I had a couple folks to ask if the project was done after I posted it.
A week after I collected the submissions, I ordered pink blank CD’s and cardboard sleeves. I knew from the start I was going to make physical copies. Putting it online and then leaving it there didn’t make much sense to me, like most digital things, it would be gone in week. In my mind (I know this is outdated) if it exists in some physical form, it takes up space that people must reckon with. Plus, it gives me something to mail and this is mail-art after all. After collecting the materials, I created and then printed out covers that I meticulously glued to cardboard sleeves. I then made a track list and a brief description of the project that I printed and then cut. For two days off and on, I burnt CD’s, about 50 of them. I then put everything together, making 12 packages with CD’s and other nonsense to send to my longtime correspondences and collaborators. For the online release, I had Eddie Garcia help with some technical problems. After he emailed me the correct files, I worked on the Bandcamp page for a few minutes, and then uploaded the sound files. The whole digital process took me about fifteen minutes to complete and cost me zero dollars.
|Front and back of the physical CD's.|
I shared the link and people seemed to enjoy it. Lots of people were sharing it, so I guess that means they were enjoying it. The common sentiment seemed to be that folks like hearing voices they’d never heard talk before. Some mail-artists might have corresponded for years and years without knowing what the other sounded like. The project felt like a success. Strangely, no one publicly complained about something I did or did not do, which surprised me. Mail-art has no defined structure, but many defend an invisible structure of their own making. If Ray Johnson didn’t do it, then it cannot be done. A few days after putting the digital release out there, I shared that I also had physical copies available for a small donation. No takers there. Not one. So, the thing costs me a little bit. So, it’ll take a while for me to slowly mail out the CD’s…so what. I think it came together nicely and I might do something like it, again.
Participants include: 1.A.T.M.O.T.W. / 2. Bibiana Padilla Maltos / 3. Bonniediva / 4. Carmela Rizzuto / 5. Carmen Kennedy / 6. Catherine Mehrl Bennett / 7. Chorianopoulou Maria / 8. Crackerjack Kid / 9. Darja Mrdjen / 10. David Nadeau / 11. Ed Hanssen / 12. Edna Toffoli / 13. Erica Durante / 14. Hermexial Derxilus / 15. Jacqueline Perkins / 16. Janys Oliveira / 17. Jayne Barket Lyons / 18. Jean Charles Boilevin / 19. Jessica Manack / 20. Joey Patrickt / 21. John Held Jr. / 22. Julie Jefferies Paquette / 23. Julie VanBortel Metevish / 24. Lars Schumacher / 25. Lova Delis + Cathead Reynolds / 26. Mark Bloch / 27. Michael Orr / 28. Pedro Bericat / 29. Picasso Gaglione / 30. Pierpaolo Limongelli / 31. Rafael Gonzalez / 32. Richard Canard / 33. Sinclair Scripa / 34. Stan Askew / 35. Stefano W. Pasquini / 36. Terry Reid / 37. Tim Collapse / 38. William Mellott