Saturday, August 14, 2004

When Mailart Sneaks in through the Mailslot

Still Point, Garlock Road, Caroga Lake, New York

Each of these three pieces of mailart didn't strike me as mailart at first glance, so I wonder why that is.


Reed Altemus is a talented copy artist, even in such times as these when copy art is less common that it was during the 1980s and early 1990s. So when I received a small flat, sans note, from him yesterday (Friday, August 13th), I was pleased. It included a book of poems he and John M. Bennett collaborated on in 2001 (Yr Cream Dip) and a few sheets of folded paper. But what were those sheets?

One is a green sheet of paper with a photocopy of an advertisment for "the first multi-purpose photocopy duplicator!" Strangely, Reed has scored the sheet as if it's a sheet of artist's stamps. Well, that was my hint to see this as mailart, but it took me another day. Even the titled photograph of Reed Altemus & Luc Fierens on a "Fluxpedition along the Rhine" wasn't a good enough hint. But the overprinted multi-colored, perforated sheet, signed and released in an edition of 15, well, that finally made me understand.

Reed Altemus, Perforated Copyart?

The I's Have It

I must say, I never think of my friend endwar as a mailartist. But what else can I make of a guy who sends me a postcard of what appears to be a found visual poem? especially when he adds a little visual poem on the letter i on the reverse. This poem, "decapitation of the i" is certainly inspired by his friend paloin biloid's interest in the letter i but also (it seems) by my series of visual poems, the disembodiment of the alphabet, which I've been slowly publishing on my dbqp weblog without comment. I might claim that endwar's poem is not what the concretist from mid-century would call the "perfect copy," but it shows a good understanding of the infraverbal power of the simple tittle. And he knows that isolated letters I always have unavoidable secondary meaning.

endwar, "decapitation of the i" (2004)

Don't Shake a Gift Drawing by the Mouth

Roy Arenella has sent me a greeting card featuring a Shaker gift drawing from 1857 and a poster advertising an exhibit of such drawings that took place in New York Citty in 2001. So there is a theme here, but why is this mailart? Well, for goodness' sakes, I said to myself after finally understanding, Roy is pointing out how the Shakers' gift of a verbo-visual drawing was the same as the gift of mailart. The reproductions of these drawings are his gift to me and his mailart of that moment. And so he explains:

The first & main attraction was the drawings themselves, physically, their pure force, their idiosyncratic (sometimes wild & whacky) approach to combining pictures (drawings) & words. But also i liked the idea of the drawing as a gift, from another realm to the drawer & a gift from the drawer to her (most were women) community. This was a good example of how I see the art process
As a gift
Both ways--
To & from
Its maker.

Detail of a Shaker Gift Drawing

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