Gotta Mail Somebody
Mail art, also known as postal art and correspondence art, is a creative movement centered on sending small-scale works through the postal service.
Media include postcards, collages, rubber stamps and artist-created stamps—and anything else imaginable, or not, that can be sent through the mail.
I was involved in the internationl mail-art network — sending and receiving works through the mails with hundreds of individuals in many countries during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I have 8 large bankers boxes full of these works—ranging from the plain to the sublime. I operated under a couple different nom de guerre’s, but mostly AleX(ander) TorridZone Igloo.
I’ve kept in touch with some individuals but dropped out of any movement or network by the late 1980s.
There is a self-historified history that has arisen to make sure mail-art keeps its foot in the “Art” world—with it’s own resulting hierarchical maps promising recognition and a slot in posterity by echoing the attendent hyperbole. In many ways these encroaching machinations helped calcify the radical apects of the movement a long time ago. Later the internet set fire to much of the remaining snail-mail communications.
I have never subscribed to this “history”, desiring for whatever is left of this networking to maintain a more egalitarian perspective—and have even loosened the valve to let out some of the hot air that sustains the purported originators, no matter how they draw a bunny. I hold with those that assign the origins of mail-art to Cleopatra, who had herself wrapped in a rug and delivered to Julius Caesar.) But all that is a rant for another time.]
Mail Art Shows
One regularly occuring aspect of mail-art was the creation of shows—often revolving on a theme.
Invitations would go out into the world and everyone was encouraged to send in a work. If at all possible the works would somehow be exhibited—it was an ethic of the movement that all pieces be exhibited—and some kind of documentation would be sent to all the participants.
Bob Dylan remains one of the greatest artists of my time.
His endless exploration of music—absorbing and reinventing everything from folk, blues, and rock, to country and gospel. Then there is the mad brilliant literary poetry of his lyrics. And his voice—so original, so present and raw, always reaching out with stunning phrasing.
And above and below all of that there was the pursuit of his own vision—personal evolution and metamorphoses undeterred by the styles of the day or pursuant criticism.
The first song I heard by Dylan—I remember the spot in upstate New York where I stood—was his cover of “The House Of The Rising Sun”. He was 20 years old when he recorded it.
I’d already had my ears awakened to all kinds of new music by the Beatles but this voice was something different altogether—challenging and amazing.
I have remained a fan from back then, throughout his labyrinthine journey, up to his latest new songs. I have seen him in concert at least a half dozen times.
And so—through all the network connections and resources I had—I reached out and asked for contributions to a Bob Dylan Mail Art Exhibition in 1983.
Almost 100 artists from around the world sent in works.
Images From The Catalog.
The Physical Exhibition
All the recieved works were displayed in the window of my dear friend and mail-art communicant Carlo Pittore’s La Galleria dell’Occhio — 267 E. 10th Street, New York City.
I put together a 22 page black-and-white photocopied catalog with fragments of all the works included.
100 copies of the catalog were printed.
The catalog was mailed to all participants, as well as other artists and institutions internationally.
The Exhibition, The Catalog, The Fireworks
24 May 1983 was also the Brooklyn Bridge Centennial.
I “borrowed” the fireworks to celebrate this exhibition and Bob Dylan’s birthday.
The Audio Catalog
Audio submissions were also encouraged — nine contributions were received—and a cassette—remember casettes?—catalog was produced in very limited editions.
One of the tracks, by my friend Jack Friedman, was later picked up by Nashville country/comedy act Pinkard & Bowden and released on their album “PG 13”. Their version was nowhere near as sharp.
The Catalog online.
You can see details of some of the works—and listen to the audio contributions as well.
24 May 2021 — Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday.
Many of the voices that have been part of the sountrack of my life for the past five+ decades are gone. I am so very grateful their recordings.
Frank Sinatra (still my favorite singer.) John Lennon. Tim Buckley.
The passing of Leonard Cohen in 2016 was a most overwhelming loss.
The work of Bob Dylan has been there all along and still goes on.
He can still capture my ear—whether with one of the recent covers of standards (“My One And Only Love”)—or a captivating new song on his most recent album (“I Contain Multitudes”).
A week doesn’t go by without my my visiting his amazing discography.
In an excellent article about Dylan through the years, John Harris in The Guardian sums up:
“The key can be found in another song released in 1965, and sung in ironic, weary, spectral tones — It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), whose closing line offers priceless advice to anyone either getting carried away with themselves, or in danger of facing the world’s terrors and excesses and succumbing to despair:
‘It’s life, and life only’.”
“Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie”
Something many have not heard, but truly worth a listen.
This is a poem written by Bob Dylan, and recited live during his April 12, 1963 performance at New York City’s Town Hall. He was 21 years old.
Thank you, Bob.
© AleXander Hirka 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Wearing his 38 year old Bob Dylan Mail Art Exhibition t-shirt at home in Harlem, NYC.