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Arte-Correo: Una nueva forma de expresión (Mail Art: A New Form of Expression)


Poetas Argentinos, Buzón de Arte



People communicate by exchanging messages, employing a variety of signs with various meanings. By "vocalizing" our thoughts, we speak words for others.

Our intention here is not to wade into this broad and complex topic but instead to analyze the interaction between two communication systems, each with a clear function and operating in a different sphere.

Sending a letter by mail involves the transmission of a message and is an act of communication between two people. The use of the mail makes communication possible at a distance: it connects a sender and a recipient. The artist produces his work in the same way that people "vocalize" their thoughts. The artistic instance also involves a sender and a recipient, necessary elements in any act of communication. In the same way that man, when attempting to express himself, does so by seeking out multiple channels, the artist gives expression to his creativity through multiple forms. Both organize and contribute to the creation of language in the search for new codes. An example can be found in the research of the visual artist who employs “conventionally non-artistic” mediums, altering their function. Proof of this last point can be found in the synthesis that has been achieved in this new expressive form, MAIL ART. Here we find a convergence of two systems of communication: the artist employs the mail to disseminate a message, to reach the recipient of the work. It is necessary to draw a distinction in order to clarify this concept. When a sculpture is sent by mail, its creator is merely using a particular form of transport to transfer a work that has already been completed. This journey was not taken into account during the sculpture’s elaboration. By contrast, in the new artistic language analyzed here, the fact that the work must travel a set distance is part of its structure, is the work itself. The work has been created to be sent by post, and this factor conditions its creation (dimensions, postage, weight, content of the message, etc.).

The mail’s function, therefore, is not limited to transporting the object; instead, this function forms part of the work and conditions it. In turn, the artist alters the function of this medium of communication. There is also a change in the attitude of the recipient: he is no longer the classic collector (a fact that implies a degree of egocentricity), but an incidental custodian of the work, committed to its widest possible distribution. The recipient is a new source of information that opens a new communication circuit when he enriches the work by exhibiting it or mailing it to additional recipients.


It is difficult to establish dates, but we can speak of an increasing rise in MAIL ART in recent years, during which time exhibitions dedicated exclusively to this form have been staged: Biennale de Paris, sectio [sic] MAIL ART, 1971, France; An International Cyclopedia of Plans and Occurrences, Anderson Gallery, Richmond, 1973, USA; Omaha Flow Systems, Joslyn Museum, Omaha, 1973, USA; First Annual Toronto Correspondence and Mail Art Exhibition, Main Gallery, Toronto, 1974, Canada; Festival de la Postal creativa, Galería U, Montevideo, 1974, Uruguay; Pictorial History of the World, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas, 1975, USA; Info, MDK Laberynt, Lublin, Poland; Reflection Press Gallery, Stuttgart, 1975, Germany; The First Post Card Show, Contemporary Arts Gallery, New York University, 1975, USA; and Sluj Internationale, Correspondence Art, Mail Art, Rockefeller Art Center Gallery, New York, 1975, USA.1

The only book on the subject is MAIL ART, communication a [sic] distance, concept, Jean Marc Poinsot, published by Cedic, Paris.2

We cannot confirm that the first piece of CORRESPONDENCE ART took the form of a postcard, but this was unquestionably the starting point from which this form was developed. However, we can attest that the intentions and results of creative postcards bear no relation to traditional postcards, industrially produced for consumption by a passive public who select them to send for a specific purpose (trips, Christmas, New Year, birthdays, etc.). Recently, postcards created by visual artists have appeared on the market, but even these do not achieve genuine creativity, as in general they are reproductions of paintings, photographs of sculptures, or engravings.

With creative postcards, the creator is the sender and does not require an external event to justify sending a postcard: generally the artist produces multiple copies (a mass-produced work) and simply sends it by mail.

In this sense, it is interesting to highlight a text by the Uruguayan artist Clemente Padín, organizer of the Festival of Creative Postcards that took place in Montevideo: “You can trace all the artistic currents of the time in the exhibited postcards, from those that exploit the verbal-visual expression that characterizes Concretism and visual poetry through to those that record events and facts in a language of action; from the postcard as a work in itself through to those that use (the most orthodox manifestations of) Conceptualism; those concerned with awakening processes in line with the spectator’s own repertoire to those that bear witness to the human body’s potential to activate aesthetic processes (body art); from those that seek the spectator’s participation through ideas and projects to those that recover aspects of daily life which, due to familiarity and alienation, we ignore; from those that are a mere record of vanguardist artistic activity to those that manipulate commercial postcards, changing their original information; from those that convey attitudes of POP ART, Minimal Art, Arte Povera, etc., to those that exploit all of these tendencies, grounding their formal innovation in the social, seeking to relocate signs and texts in non-artistic discourses.”

Vigo zabala

Mail Art: A New Form of Expression


Vigo’s references contain slight errors. He refers to Galeria MDK Labirynt, Lublin; First New York City Postcard Show. Contemporary Arts Gallery, New York University; and Sluj International, Michael C. Rockefeller Arts Center, Fredonia, NY.


Vigo here refers to C.E.D.I.C.

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