Mail Art as a Precursor to the World Wide Web

Dead Postcard

I used to send out a lot of letters to people.  I had a post office box in the Fisher Building when I worked at Crowley’s.  Before there were web sites and email, there was a lively scene involving stamps, paper and envelopes.

There’s a lot in common with the present internet scene.  Yet this was from 1975 to 2000, when not everyone had computers.  It’d be interesting to compare and contrast the differences and the similarities; snail mail versus lightning fast mail.  In this race, the tortoise seems to have more obvious charms than the hare does.

I still have boxes of letters that people wrote to me.  Then I have carbon copies of letters that I wrote to people, by pen or by manual typewriter.  Email sits encased in digital murk, waiting to be retrieved.  Letters take up physical space.  They need to be sorted and stored.

I got some cool mail art.  One thing came in a decorated metal can.   Another, from Roger Hayes, had a drawing on a block of wood.  He stamped and addressed the wood itself on the other side, unique.

I always collect unusual stamps to use for “special post.”  There are so many cool stamps.  Then I’d always draw on the envelope and glue things onto it.  The examples here are when I wrote intentional dead letters addressed to the Hudson’s Building when it was waiting to be torn down.  They were, of course, postmarked and returned to sender.  At the time, that building was covered with around 400 of my chalk drawings.

I had a lively arts correspondence, especially with Jacques Karamanoukian and with the Surrealists.  Then there are all the love letter and letters of friendship and solidarity.

I yearn to get back to it.  The problem is that postal mail is time-consuming and labor intensive.  I still send out actual letters to people 5 to 10 times a year.  Someday, I’ll return to this path in earnest.

"Returned: due to in sufficient ferocity" from January 1998

“Returned: due to insufficient ferocity” January 1998

Dead Letter 4b

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: