avant / garde / under / net / conditions (vormals: perspektive | issue 43 | 2002 )

code.poetry.loop | dada.lodge | experimental.bungees | < mail.art.ocular > | post.dogmatism | surreal.sheets | theory.proxy | visual.tray
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[/] interview (deutsch)
[/] interview (english)


[/] F.U.N logo (25.54 kb, jpg)
[/] FUNTASTIC UNITED NETWORK (33.63 kb, jpg)
[/] THE EVOLUTION OF ART (45.92 kb, jpg)

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> anna banana - [canada]
> vittore baroni - [italy]
> blah brothers - [UK]
> susanna lakner - [germany]
> pips dada corporation - [germany]
| - - -< vittore baroni >- - - |

/->/ mail artist "haudegen" - fluxus flagge und luther blissett nachbar // viareggio - italien

>> Mail art and Manifestos Do Not Mix
>> / interview /
[question-1] :v: [question-2] :v: [question-3]

> [question-1//perspektive]
most of your project proclamations are manifestish or manifesto-like. all avant garde rangers used the technique of manifestation to promote their information highway. mail art propagates a new "old" version of avant garde - ism: no ism and no dogma. but most of your (graphical and/or written) statements are like a manifestation. why do you still believe in the usefullness of manifesto stuff? is mail art the last evolution stage of avant garde? :-)

>> [question-1//response]=[vittore baroni]

I am not consciously shaping my mail art writings in a manifesto-like fashion. Since I have willy-nilly become - like many other veteran mail artists - a sort of "historian" of the correspondence art genre, I have a tendency to try to explain in a simple way how the postal network functions (like in the case of my often reprinted Evolution of art or Organic Tree schemes). It is an attempt at "objective" (and/or ironical, like with my Mail Art Handbook of 1986) description of what the network truly is, and not a set of guidelines to be undersigned by others. As I wrote in the book Arte Postale (AAA, 1997), in forty years of correspondence art only a handful of self-proclaimed "mail art manifestos" have happeared (none of which I started, though I signed a couple), and thankfully they have all been
quickly forgotten. Mail art and Manifestos Do Not Mix: how can a text with ten or twenty signatures represent such a varied community of thousands ? And if "anything goes" in mail art, who needs a manifesto? On the other hand, you are right, some of my invites and texts related to specific projects (Trax, the Incongruous Meetings of 1998, Funtastic United Network, etc.) tend to be somehow didactic and schematic, but that happens because I am trying to explain how these concepts work. A mail art project is often a challenge to draw a sense of coherence from the chaos of the mail-streams. So I set the rules for specific "games" to which everyone is free to participate or not participate. I would not compare this with the manifestos of the historical avantgarde, that always had a certain
hierarchical ring to them. In mail art you are always free to enter or leave a project at your own wish/risk. Luckily, mail art does not have its Bretons or Debords who can "expel" you from the Movement at any given minute, though
something similar has happened in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, when Ray Johnson publicly "dropped" people from his list of correspondents. After all, making fun of the avantgarde clichés is a rather common sport among mail artists.
But is there still an avantgarde? Postal art godfather Robert Filliou ruminated decades ago that if one single person cannot physically monitor everything that happens simultaneously in the art world, because of the growing mass of flowing data, then you cannot determine anymore who is in front and who is on the back... I think avantgarde has become just another commodity genre to sell product to a target audience. Just look at what goes under the term "avantgarde" in fashion and art magazines: it is usually ten or twenty years old ideas recycled for new generations of spectators (the same happens in "experimental" music). If this is art today, I am not interested, I'd rather be a "networker". Maybe the specific value of mail art resides exactly in the fact that it was the first large manifestation of a "network culture" that can finally leave behind the very concept of avantgarde: inside mail art all sorts of different approaches, techniques and even ideologies coexist uncompetitively side by side. Who cares if what
I do is old or new, art or poetry, deep or naif, since it is useful to my own life? The world is about to explode in a fit of hate, and mail artists are a living proof that peaceful coexistence, mutual help, friendship beyond barriers of age and language, of race and religion, is possible on a large scale. What really makes a difference is the OPENNESS of the circuit: in mail art everything is traded freely, no contribution is rejected. It is a true two-way system, like playing the art game in a small prosumer heaven. You are then amazed to find inside the "amatourish" postal community the same percentage of mindless trash and hidden gems that you can find in the commercial art world, so you start asking yourself questions... Mail art lets you see the full nakedness of the Kings & Queens of high art. And why not play the politics game next time, or the literature game (like the Wu Ming "writers collective" is doing now in Italy, after leaving the Blissett project)?

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> [question-2//perspektive]
for gene youngblood the last refugium to be subversive is being absent and to build up a kind of autonomous zone (like hakim beys TAZ zones). you state that your are not an artist. but a networker. mail art adopts mc luhans prophecy of "medium is the message" as "exchange is (in) the message". opens up an autonomous zone across the borders of hegemonial art/political space/r. mail art as a kind of global cultural jamming session as mark dery would suggest. is mail art NETLAND the last dérive across the dominant surface? is F.U.N. (funtastic united nations) in the "old" tradition to protect ones own virtual pirate eyes?

>> [question-2//response]=[vittore baroni]

Yes, mail art has been a conglomerate of mental and physical "autonomous zones" from way back in the 60es, long before Hakim Bay (who, by the way, did organize at least one mail art project in the 80es) conceived the TAZ
idea. These zones are ethereal and invisible, that is what makes them strong (hard to find and eliminate) and weak at the same time (little internal structure, for example). Mail art is a totally hetereogeneous, contradictory, puzzling globalcultural jam, often unintentionally subversive (for the mere fact of being free from the handcuffs of commercialism). I see it as a sort of prank the fact that I am not submitting, probably at my own expenses, to the logic of contemporary art (to have a gallery, an art dealer, works of saleable sizes, etc.), but I prefer to earn my bread in different ways. Netland is an imaginary land, so it's here there and everywhere, not the last dérive but just one among many: new dreamers are born every day. Fourteen years after the end of the Trax multi-media group/label (in itself a diversion from the concept of pure mail art), F.U.N. is just another project conceived together with my often collaborator Piermario Ciani, intended to involve participants from both inside and outside the mail art network, and focussed on the concept of imaginary lands, individual "States of Mind" for a creative de-globalization of the planet. A first publication, a "box" including stamps, rubberstamps, postcards, folders, etc. will be released in early 2002. Another quick shot at utopia: in a world gone wrong what else do we need more?

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> [question-3//perspektive]
avant garde sometimes has to live in a kind of farradayic cage to operate from and test its techniques. to observe the established measures and politics. mostly its a kind of conspiracy groupi(e)ng. your project TRAX was - as in "mind invaders" to be read - this sort of conspirant project. and mostly there are traces that luther blissett is a nephew" of yours. is your neoistic trace a lost feather or is your manifestation zone combined to a more complex pirate membership/ing? :-)

>> [question-3//response]=[vittore baroni]

When I first jumped into networking in the late 70es, I was like a very young bird without feathers. In over twenty years of uncertain flights, I met many extraordinary and less extraordinary wo/men, learning from their
obnoxious theories and bizarre works. So I gathered feathers of different shapes and colours along the way, and they all helped to stabilize my flight. Mail art is a very INCLUSIVE experience, you tend to participate freely to other networkers' projects just like they do to your own: that's why I did someting for Neoism (some publications and works as Agenzia Neoista in the early 80es), for Cavellini-sm, for V.E.C., for Futurgappismo and for so many other fake or spoof one-man-"isms": you enter in somebody else's project giving your own vision and twist of it. But you never throw away the old feathers, you keep them all to build stronger wings. It's a net of ongoing collaborations, some of which may remain silent for years, and then you discover the fire is still burning under the ashes (for example, I will be working soon on a tribute publication dedicated to David Zack, a founder figure of Neoism).
I see Luther Blissett more as a younger brother or a very smart son rather than a nephew, since my collaborator Piermario Ciani was behind the LB Project from the very beginning and I also joined at an early stage: in fact, the Blissett concept embraced some networking ideas directly from the "modular" structure of Trax and from the "multiple name" tradition of Monty Cantsin, from Stewart Home's writings, etc. The LB Project was much more
successful than Trax, Neoism and other preceding networking group efforts because it was able to expand and make its effects felt well outside the (mail) art circuit, into literature (with Q and other books), and into the global media (through its multifarious pranks). Internet played a much larger role than postal correspondence in the Blissett saga, and the networking projects of the future will have to rely more and more heavily on Internet and other newer technologies. Other mail artists may see it differently, but I think the historical role of (snail) mail art was somehow
concluded with the arrival and spread of Internet, and we can take the death of Ray Johnson in 1995 as end limit for the "golden age" of correspondence art. It was a fascinating trip, forty years of alternative routes, a huge data-bank of experiences that now can be studied (inevitably more books will be published on the subject: check out Craig J. Saper's Networked Art, University of Minnesota Press 2001) by young media pirates for pure enjoyiment, or to find incentives and ideas for new collective, horizontal, open projects. I'd like many new nephews with weird names and extraordinary plans!

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