From: Judith Hoffberg . (U.S.A.)
Sent: Friday, December 13, 2002 - 4:08 PM
Subject: (",) Lon Spiegelman passed away
Lon Spiegelman had a heart attack two nights ago and has passed away. A memorial and celebration of his life will be held in San Pedro, California on Sunday 15 December at Bartlett Center, 11th and Beacon Street. See mapquest.com for driving instructions, if you can make it. Please tell all the mail artists who knew Lon about this sad news. He was a catalyst during the late 70s and 1980s in the Mail Art World, and everyone should know about his passing.
Thanks ... Judith A. Hoffberg / Umbrella
P.O. Box 3640 - Santa Monica, CA 90408 - USA
From: VORTICE . (Argentina)
Sent: Friday, December 13, 2002 - 4:45 PM
Subject: Re: (",) Lon Spiegelman passed away
Anyone that have works or any other stuff of Lon Spiegelman, please send to VORTICE ARGENTINA to make an homage like Robin Crozier and Ivan Preissler... You can see those at NEWS in the site <vorticeargentina.com.ar> Thanks and sorry about this news... Best... FGD
Bacacay 3103, Buenos Aires, C1406GEE, Argentina
From: Sztuka Fabryka . (Belgium)
Sent: Saturday, December 14, 2002 - 3:53 PM
Subject: Re: Lon Spiegelman passed away
"Sztuka Fabryka will write an entry about Lon Spiegelman for its "Mail-Art Encyclopaedia" in the beginning of 2003. So that he will be remembered for future Mail-Art generations, a reason why we started this project. Written information about Lon is always welcome."
what I have send also to several people in combination with my in
Wait for your reaction ... Greetings, Geert
From: Mark Bloch . (U.S.A.)
Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 11:47 PM
Lon Spiegelman and I entered mail art around the same time and we both lived in Southern California. We were "Third Generation" mail artists according to, I think it was, Buster Cleveland in an interview somewhere. (The first gen was Ray Johnson and George Brecht and Yoko Ono etc. The second was Ken Friedman, Bill Gaglione, Cavellini and Klaus Groh and the Canadians like Anna Banana, David Zack, General Idea and Image Bank.) The Third Generation came in around 77 or 78. Me, Lon, Cracker Jack Kid, Pittore, Baroni, Bleus. I was on the tail end of that one. There were hundreds more in each "generation" and hundreds more generations. They seemed to speed up in frequency with each passing year (and eventually... month!) And please keep in mind this whole idea is stupid. But perhaps useful to understand the undulating waves of activity.
Anyway I recall that Spiegelman circulated an important document about mail art shows. I don't have the documents handy but Guy Bleus or Baroni might. Vittore Baroni wrote today when I asked him, "Lon issued his 'golden rules of mail art' statement after reading a similar but more tongue-in-cheek one I had made (signed by me, Ciullini, Frangione and some other Italian mail artist), he perfected it and had it signed by Mollett and circulated it (it's all plotted out with dates in my book Arte Postale for AAA Editions)..."
Thus did Spiegelman send out a summing up of some "unwritten rules of mail art" in the early to mid 80s. He did not send it alone. There were other signatures on it, I believe, (Vittore cites The Westside Agent Michael Mollett, also from LA) but it ended up being mostly Lon's battle to fight, as I recall. They included that all work is shown (no jury) (no rejections) nothing is returned (no returns) a catalogue is sent out to all participants and maybe one more thing. (no fee...)
As one who violated these rules a few times, intentionally and not, I got alot of shit from people including Lon, when I did (and am still doing, almost 20 years late) The Last Mail Art Show. I also gave him some shit. Not because I violated the rules. But because i didn't necessarily believe in them. And certainly not enforcing them. If they were written they were written. Why call them unwritten? I found this all ridiculous. Tyoical of the network at that time. A necessary evil, I suppose, to contrast all the fun that was being had.
The absurdity of this peaked when a critic (Dr. Ronnie Cohen) became interested in mail art and wrote a nice article or two about it and what did we do? We freaked out because she had a show, broke the rules and so we alienated her. Ostracized her, in fact. it was a bold, brave move but it makes me wonder if these oft-written unwritten rules did not carry in their own DNA the self-flaggelating nature of the mail art beast who carries a powerful pistol, loaded with volatile ammunition, always aimed at it's own rear paw (in addition to other pests) and ready to discharge at any time, whenever anyone outside the very democratic network (but always a bit opinionated about who was legitimately in and who was out) said anything nice about us. But perhaps that was a coincidence (or a projection of my own retarded ambivalence.)
I thought mail art was supposed to be experimental. And so who cares about shows anyway? When mail art is showing up by the bushel at your door every day, who needs shows? Either it was a new way of perceiving it all or not. Why shows? Why rules? If one wanted to do a project BY INVITATION ONLY then why not? If one wanted to NOT send a catalogue or COULD NOT send a catalogue, so what? And not everything could be pictured in the coveted catalogue, and not everything was hanging in the best possible spot, so wasn't there editing and therefore jurying going on in all of them?
(PS I have some important quotes in my archive by Ray Johnson about all this too, by the way. He credits Marcia Tucker with masking up the "rules" after doing his first mail art show at the Whitney Museum, often called THE first mail art show. He credits her and reminds me that he just supplied the names. An invitational show, from his list, basically.)
But that brings us to Lon's other important credo MAIL ART AND MONEY DON'T MIX. I also found this to be ridiculous. It seemed to me the ones with the most money were doing the best mail art. Not in all cases but some people had lots of money to do mail and they made stellar catalogues with beautiful pictures and mailed them to hundreds if not thousands of people. Others were not so lucky. Some mail artists had their wives and kids helping them make mail art. God bless them for that but it led to them being more prolific. So wealth and abundance, whether monetary or not, showed its hideous head in mail art and I always thought it was a joke to view mail art as some pure and virginal art activity, free of the naughty and corrupting money vibe. Better that mail art and money DID mix and Lon could have gotten rich off of it and sent his kid to college! Would that have been so horrible?
Anyway Lon has some interesting things to say here about it, quoted in
letters to John Held Jr.:
Anyway even though we didn't agree sometimes, I honor Lon's memory. He was
an important mail artist, he cared deeply about the activity and
the people who did it and should never be
From: Johnny Boy . (Japan)
Sent: Monday, December 23, 2002 - 3:58 AM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
Some days ago, Mark Bloch circulated his thoughts and opinions about Lon Spiegelman and his "rules". I thought they were worth further discussion, so here's my contribution -in CAPITAL LETTERS. I took the liberty of editing Mark's text. Hope I haven't distorted its meaning.
I recall that Spiegelman circulated an important document about mail art shows,the "unwritten rules of mail art", in the early to mid 80s. He did not send it alone. There were other signatures on it, I believe, but it ended up being mostly Lon's battle to fight. They included that all work is shown (no jury) (no rejections) nothing is returned (no returns) a catalogue is sent out to all participants and maybe one more thing. (no fee...) As one who violated these rules a few times,
I'D LOVE TO HEAR HOW YOU VIOLATED THOSE RULES.
intentionally and not, I got a lot of shit from people including Lon. I didn't necessarily believe in them. And certainly not enforcing them. If they were written they were written. Why call them unwritten?
I UNDERSTAND THAT A WRITTEN RULE IS SOMETHING YOU CAN'T BRAKE WITHOUT EXPECTING SOME KIND OF CONCRETE PUNISHMENT COMING -MONEY TO PAY, TIME TO SPEND IN PRISON, ETC. IN MAIL ART, THOUGH, PEOPLE BREAK THESE RULES EVERYDAY, AND THE WORST YOU CAN GET FOR THAT IS A NASTY LETTER.
The absurdity of this peaked when a critic (Dr. Ronnie Cohen) became interested in mail art and wrote a nice article or two about it and what did we do? We freaked out because she had a show, broke the rules and so we alienated her. Ostracized her, in fact. it was a bold, brave move but it makes me wonder if these oft-written unwritten rules did not carry in their own DNA the self-flaggelating nature of the "very democratic network" (but always a bit opinionated about who was legitimately in and who was out).
I AM MAIL ARTISTICALLY TOO YOUNG TO HAVE A DIRECT EXPERIENCE OF THOSE EVENTS. NEVERTHELESS, I THINK THAT, RULES OR NOT RULES, WE CONSIDER OUR NETWORK AS SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE TRADITIONAL,COMMERCIAL ART WORLD. IN MY OPINION, ONE OF THE MORE IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF MAIL ART IS ITS OPENNESS. EVERYBODY CAN BE AN "ARTIST" AND ARTISTIC SKILL OR CONNECTIONS SHOULDN'T BE A FACTOR. SO IF SOMEONE DECIDES TO ORGANISE AN EXHIBITION,HE/SHE SHOULD SHOW ALL THE WORKS RECEIVED. IT'S THAT SIMPLE. AS FOR THE "EXAGGERATED" REACTION OF MANY MAIL ARTISTS, MY GUESS IS,IT WAS A PRODUCT OF THOSE PARTICULAR TIMES. AFTER ALL, WHAT YOU CALL THE THIRD GENERATION OF NETWORKERS MAY HAVE BEEN -TAKEN AS A WHOLE- THE MOST OPINIONATED AND IDEOLOGICALLY MOTIVATED OF ALL. BEFORE THAT, I DON'T THINK THERE WAS SO STRONG A SENSE OF UNI-TY; OF AN ORGANIC NETWORK.
I thought mail art was supposed to be experimental. And so who cares about shows anyway? When mail art is showing up by the bushel at your door every day, who needs shows?
I PARTIALLY AGREE ON THAT. I'M NOT INTERESTED IN ORGANISING ONE MYSELF, EVEN THOUGH I MUST SAY THAT SHOWS ARE AN EXCELLENT WAY TO MAKE MAIL ART VISIBLE OUTSIDE OUR LIMITED NETWORK. ART IS A SOCIAL ACTIVITY AND ESPECIALLY MAIL ART, WITH ITS STRONG DEMOCRATIC, NON HIERARCHICAL VALUES, SHOULD BE KNOWN, ENJOYED AND PRACTICED BY MANY PEOPLE. AND PROJECTS WITH A SOCIAL/POLITICAL THEME SHOULD BE EXHIBITED, UNLESS YOU WANT TO MAKE THE MAIL ART NETWORK A PRIVATE CLUB IN WHICH WE KEEP CONGRATULATING EACH OTHER FOR OUR ILLUMINATED IDEAS.
Why shows? Why rules? If one wanted to do a project BY INVITATION ONLY then why not? If one wanted to NOT send a catalogue or COULD NOT send a catalogue, so what?
ACTUALLY, YOU CAN DO ALL THESE THINGS. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO DID IT AND DO IT NOW AND THEY ARE STILL ALIVE. THESE PROBLEMS HAVE ALREADY BEEN DEBATED ad nauseam, MOST RECENTLY IN MY ZINE kairan. I THINK K.FRANK JENSEN PUT IT IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY: YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, BUT YOU HAVE TO KEEP YOUR PROMISE. IF YOU SAY doc to all, THEN YOU HAVE TO SEND IT PERIOD. IF YOU HAVE A SUDDEN PROBLEM (FINANCIAL, WHATEVER) AND YOU CAN'T KEEP YOUR PROMISE, PLEASE LET US KNOW. THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO SPREAD THE WORD NOW.
And not everything could be pictured in the coveted catalogue, so wasn't there editing and therefore jurying going on in all of them?
THIS IS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT THING. NOBODY EXPECTS TO FIND ALL THE WORKS PUBLISHED IN THE DOC AND NOBODY HAS EVER COMPLAINED ABOUT THAT (well, there are assholes everywhere, but any complaint of this kind has just no foundation). THE WAY I UNDERSTAND IT, ALL THE TALK ABOUT JURIES, ETC. HAS ALWAYS BEEN LIMITED TO THE EXHIBITIONS.
That brings us to Lon's other important credo MAIL ART AND MONEY DON'T MIX. I also found this to be ridiculous. It seemed to me the ones with the most money were doing the best mail art. Not in all cases but some people had lots of money to do mail and they made stellar catalogues with beautiful pictures and mailed them to hundreds if not thousands of people. Others were not so lucky. So wealth and abundance, whether monetary or not, showed its hideous head in mail art and I always thought it was a joke to view mail art as some pure and virginal art
WELL, IT SEEMS TO ME THAT EVERYBODY UNDERSTANDS LON'S RULE IN A DIFFERENT WAY. TO ME IT'S JUST THIS: MAIL ART IS BASICALLY DIFFERENT FROM THE COMMERCIAL SYSTEM AND WE DO NOT MAIL ART IN ORDER TO BECOME RICH AND FAMOUS. AS FOR WHAT YOU SAID, IT'S NOT NECESSARILY TRUE THAT THE ONES WITH MONEY TO SPEND DO THE BEST MAIL ART. IF YOU ARE CREATIVE, IF YOU HAVE IDEAS, MONEY DOES NOT REALLY COUNT. I'VE SEEN BEAUTIFUL DOCS MADE WITH SIMPLE B&W PHOTOCOPIES, RECYCLED MATERIALS ETC.
From: Klaus Groh . (Germany)
Sent: Monday, December 23, 2002 - 9:09 AM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
Dear Johnny, and dear friends of Mail Art, dear friends, dear player, dear artist, dear ALL good to start a special edge of MA. what so? I know, my english really is bad and also really not deep enough to express, whatever I rather would like to say.
Try is Life! ART is START! old slogans from me (1964!!) and I think, Mail Art is the only possibility to open all possibilities. So, what is quality, artistic quality, or ART AT ALL?? Nobody can make ART, believe, really NOBODDY!! But everybody can make ART. And this two meanings exactly not are contradictions. Art only exist for the others!!
If there would be different levels of art, means the question, "which level"? Mail Art as one kind of thousand ways to be active. Active in expressing anything. Long ways of dicsussing and thinking about many problems -but easy to explain in a simply way!!
Everybody is creative ("WHOEVER IS CREATIVE - LIVES!!" another slogan from me :1964)
Because he lives ! (without being creative, life is not possible!!) So, everybody lives, ---BUT in very various ways, levels, intellects, qualities!
Everybody is producing permanent physically, mentally, virtously, directly "works".
And these works are very individuel projects, - projects, events, things every other body can see and react or not react upon them. I SEE! And these reactions are as different as different people react upon them. NOW I KNOW?? I MEAN, This also can be ART?! YES! But it only depents on the receiver. NOT anybody- NOBODY - can MAKE art (as an aim of action!!, he lives! Sio breathing belongs in the same box) – but ::: everybody - EVERYBODY – can make art. (as an aim of thinking!) It, of course, does not matter, if he makes an oilpainting, an aquarell, a drawinbg, a collage, a poem, a letter, mail-art, and whatever will exist from dance to walk, from speech to talk, from singing to ringing, from ... to ...
All can be art -it depends of the receiver, and his intellect, his openess, his democratic thinking, his biographie, his foung answer upon his found question!!
SORRY, happy christmas, and a healthy start for 2003 ... best wishes to you all ... yours ... klaus groh
(maybe one of the grandfathers of Mail Art)
From: Honoria . (U.S.A.)
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2002 - 12:06 AM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
Each mail artist is her own Rosetta stone using her participation to decipher the Network. Even if scholars and other participants write studies and histories of the mail art network, mail artists themselves understand the whole Network through the shifting and responsive contents that flow through their own mail boxes. So every mail artist has a different body of mail art.
It's the same with the rules. If you accept Lon's rules as a key part of mail art you abide by them and expect others to do so. People who are pouring into mail art and mail art like activities on the Internet may not ever find Lon's rules because often the rules are unstated, a silent foundational part of the culture of mail art. New rules are likely to emerge with the new participants, and new meanings for old terms too. People will be influenced by the rules and interpretations of mail art's cultural norms only if they discover them. The rules work well and I use them in my understanding, but I don't expect the changing network to follow rules; I expect the changing network to find new ways for people to communicate and respect each other through mail art networking.
Let's hope the eternal network continues to provide inspiration to anyone who wishes to create and appreciate the creations of others.
Free art and freedom.
best wishes for a peaceful and creative 2003 ... honoria
From: Snaky . (Italy)
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2002 - 2:49 AM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
< Mail ART is: Alte®naTive >
She is not only mail art, artist stamp a/o rubber stamp art, artist book, visual poetry etc.
Dialogue and orientation, shows down and satisfaction,
appointment and responsibility, respect and solidarity,
education and prevention, feeling and suggestion,
culture and therapy, chaos and harmony,
courtesy and loyalty, dream and realty,
diary and memory, science and history.
The alternative art gathers:
Pornostar and moralist, general and pacifist, lecturer and ignorant, disabled and immigrant,
American and Russian, Eurasian and African, christian and atheist, moslem and communist.
She is also:
Idealism and intelligence,
fanaticism and violence.
My "m o d e s t" dream in alternative art is:
action and exhibition, press and television,
business and corruption, politics and benediction.
PEACE and RESPECT
for the human laws in all the world.
Happy New Year and all the best by Snak-y the V.I.Per
From: Vittore Baroni . (Italy)
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2002 - 8:39 AM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
Dear networkers & friends,
(THIS IS MY WAY TO ANSWER TO THE "LONTROVERSY")
attached to this Xmas greetings message find the text I just wrote for an "instant issue" (n. 86) of the ever-changing Arte Postale! magazine, this time taking the shape of an audiocassette in tribute to our old and sadly missed friend Lon Spiegelman. In observance with Lon’s motto "mail art & money do not mix", this issue is NOT available for sale, only a private edition of 16 copies (Lon’s 61 years inverted) was produced and mailed to some of Lon’s friends on the last week of December 2002. However, I will be glad to make free extra (unnumbered) copies of the cassette + cover to anyone that will mail me a blank C90 cassette and appropriate return postage (see address at the bottom of e-mail). And yes, the David Zack "Book of OZ" tribute is also due out very soon from Near the Edge editions.
I wish an happy Christmas to you all & let’s hope for a peaceful and creative 2003!
LON’S MEMORIAL JUKE-BOX
An audio tribute to Lon Spiegelman - E.O.N.
December 2002 (ARTE POSTALE! 86)
One unwelcomed side-effect of being part of such an "enlarged family" as the mail art community is the fact that we must often weep the passing of near or distant "relatives". "On December 9, Lon Spiegelman suffered a heart attack and left this world. He had celebrated his 61st birthday two weeks prior, on November 25." The sad news of Lon’s demise suddenly arrived through an e-mail from Judith Hoffberg and again, a few days later, through a report of Lon’s memorial service in San Pedro, written by Creative Thing. Needless to say, even if I only exchanged a few letters with Lon in the past ten years, after he stopped being a full-time "militant" mail artist, I was shocked to realize that yet another great pen-pal (after Robin, Cees, Joseph…) had permanently left the building (and I never even had the chance to meet him in flesh). Lon was a concentrate of everything that made and still makes mail art interesting: a weird visionary and a great buddy, a passionate organizer of collective projects (including milestone shows like "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "HELP: ‘teach’ mail art") and a prolific creator of artistamps, postcards, stickers, publications (like the rebellious Spiegelman’s mailart rag) and dada-doodling "spiegelmisms" (like those reproduced on this cover). He was also a brave defender of the purest "mail art philosophy" & netiquette (I am partly responsible for this, since Lon shaped his notorious and controversial list of "mail art considerations", co-signed by Mario Lara and other US networkers, on the blueprint of a provocative leaflet I had written in October 1980 with three other Italians). Since I could not attend Lon’s memorial service on December 15, I felt I had to do something to be there at least "in spirit". I remembered a big box I received from Lon in 1992, after I circulated an invite for an issue of Arte Postale! magazine on the theme of "vinyl love junkies". In an unexpected act of generosity, not rare in his postal activities, Spiegelman mailed me a heavy 21x21x21 cm. box (spending $ 46.59 of postage!) containing about a hundred old 45 rpm records mostly from the 50s-60s: crooners, doo wop, early r’n’r, easy listening and more assorted nostalgia. He told me these were singles from his youth that had been gathering dust in his garage, he did not need them anymore and he thought I could enjoy them. I was surprised and delighted.
As a sort of "musical wake", I decided to play this (juke)box of records that had been sitting for ten years in my studio waiting for a thorough listening, while flipping through archive files of Lon’s old correspondence. To give some of Lon’s best friends the possibility to share and replicate (if they want) this memorial experience, I copied on cassette some of these songs, jumps and scratches included, in the same semi-casual order that I picked them from the box (but if you listen closely, you will be able to hear bizarre "correspondences", popular music has its ways of talking to us…). We are what we eat, buy, listen, and something of Lon’s personality might well be trapped among these dusty vintage grooves. May his soul now be reunited with his beloved wife Linda…
Vittore Baroni @ Ethereal Open Network, December 23rd 2002.
The cover art and the other geometrical drawing are paintings by Spiegelman color-xeroxed in 1981, the other images are stickers and artistamps produced in the late 80s (one original black & white stamp is enclosed with each cassette plus an "international cooperation" UN 5c stamp from a whole sheet received from Lon).
> ONE YELLON DOT SIDE
1. MARTIN DENNY – Stranger In Paradise (Liberty Records) 2. FATS DOMINO – My Heart Is Bleeding (Imperial) 3. B.J. THOMAS AND THE TRIUMPHS – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Scepter) 4. JIMMY DORSEY – So Rare (Fraternity) 5. NAT "KING" COLE – Unforgettable + Portrait Of Jennie (Capitol EP) 6. CAROL JARVIS – Whirlpool Of Love (Dot) 7. TOMMY DORSEY – One Kiss (Decca) 8. ROSEMARY CLOONEY – Tenderly (Columbia) 9. THOMAS WAYNE – The Quiet Look (Phillips) 10. BILL PARSONS – The All American Boy (Fraternity) 11. ELVIS PRESLEY – Don’t Be Cruel (RCA Victor) 12. MARTY HOLMES – Beyond The Sea (Tops) 13. JONI COLE AND BOB MITCHELL – You Got What It Takes (Tops) 14. THE HILLTOPPERS – The Last Word In Love (Dot) 15. RAY ANTHONY – Dragnet (Capitol) 16. THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS – My Babe (Moonglow) (excerpt).
>> TWO YELLON DOTS SIDE
1. PAT BOONE – Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Dot) 2. THE LENNON SISTERS – A Hundred And One In The Sun (Dot) 3. ANDY WILLIAMS – Summer Love (Cadence) 4. THE FOUR JOKERS – You Did (Diamond) 5. JOE VALINO – Garden Of Eden (Vik) 6. LES PAUL AND MARY FORD – How High The Moon (Capitol) 7. BOBBY DARIN – Nature Boy (Atco) 8. LES BAXTER – A Wonderful Guy (Capitol) 9. THE WEAVERS – Old Paint (Decca) 10. FRANKIE AVALON – I’m Broke (Chancellor) 11. EL RANCHO HIGH SCHOOL, PICO RIVERA, CALIFORNIA, 1960 YEARBOOK – Remember When? (no label, blue vinyl) 12. HANK & DAVE – Lop-Sided, Over-Loaded (And It Wiggled When We Rode It!) (MGM) 13. JERRY WALLACE – By Your Side (Challenge) 14. THE BLEN-DERS – Everybody’s Got A Right (Witch) 15. BONNIE LOU – Twenty Four Hours Of Loneliness (Todd) 16. LARRY WILLIAMS – You Bug Me, Baby (Specialty) 17. VIC DAMONE – In The Eyes Of The World (Columbia) 18. JOHNSTON BROTHERS – Chee Chee Oo Chee (London) (excerpt).
Near the Edge Editions - Via C. Battisti 339 - 55049 Viareggio – Italy
From: Lancilotto Bellini . (Italy)
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2002 - 6:26 PM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
IN MEMORY OF LON SPIEGELMAN,
"The most important thing in Art
is to Play like a little kid"
Postcards of Lon Spiegelman founded in my archives
From: Umbrella . (U.S.A.)
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2002 - 9:30 PM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
Memories of Lon
You never know a person well-we know people from an angle, the angle that intersects with ourselves-and Lon was so many different people to so many different groups: his family, his community house where he served as a social worker to a group of men who wanted to keep off of alcohol and drugs, his sister who was his best friend, his mail art community which I now know is vast and worldwide-and to his son, with whom the bonds have been so tight, especially after his wife, Linda, died. Lon Spiegelman, I really never knew you-I knew you as a "mail artist", a "printer", a very hospitable, generous human being, but I really didn't know ya!
And so, my friends, when he created the rules
of the road for Mail Art (and I introduced him
to Mail Art in the late 1970s, and he took off from there),
it was easy to repeat-no juries, no returns, everything is to be
shown, no fees, documentation to all
participants,-it all seemed reasonable. Lon took
many trips in his mail art life, because he wrote to hundreds of people
With all the differences we had, Lon came around when Jerry Dreva came to town and I had a party for him with all the mail art and underground artists invited to my condo to celebrate Jerry. Lon was cordial, accessible and warm. I sent him Umbrella from then on, until he didn't send me his change of address, so I didn't send it to him in the late 90s. But Lee, his son, wants to do a show of Lon's work in late spring and then needs to find a home for Lon's huge archive.
I marvel at all of you who did not know him, but certainly have heard the name wherever you are. He did travel through the mailboxes of the world and made many, many friends. Cracker Jack Kid says he has over 100 letters from Lon-long letters-so he made time for so many people.
The good years of the 70s and 80s were interesting times, since the U.S. Postal Service changed the rules on 14 July 1977 when they had optical scanners for the first time and dictated to us how thing an envelope or even a postcard could be-so we all defied the Post Office in those first months of change in 1977 to see what would happen. Not much, at the beginning. Lon curated a show at Santa Monica College with a professor there trying to defy the rules of the Post Office-and pieces of toast, artificial legs, etc. came through the mail with stamps on them too. I also did a show in early 1990s at the Armory in Pasadena where items came in from all over the world in three-ddimensions, and the Post Office of Pasadena even allowed us to have an exhibit (part of the pieces that came in) in their vitrines in the lobby, and they cooperated by handstamping many three-dimensional works made by students in Pasadena for the show.
Lon was his own man-devastated by the death of his wife, he receded into grief and into a great deal of stuff that did not do him any good. He came out of it, making San Pedro his home, helping so many people get through their nightmares too, and by some stroke of fate, fell down and instantaneously died leaving us all somewhat diminished. He made his mark. I have made my peace with him and I know that if you didn't know him, you would have certainly been impressed with him.
May we work for peace-because if we do not, war will definitely come next year.
Happy New Year-and I wish you a peaceful one.
From: Luc Fierens . (Belgium)
Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2002 - 2:28 PM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
thanks for the Spiegelman info, i'm happy he is remembered this way,
the text of Judith is touching me, i met Judith
but never Lon but Lon wrote with me several
times in the beginning of the 80's, a remarkable & open mail-artist
who opened his energy for newcomers & inspired them.
P.S.: Gianni asked me: when do you sleep, i say now: i sleep enough & still dream of a better world, make heART, social heART in spirit.
From: Günther Ruch . ( ... )
Sent: Thursday, December 26, 2002 - 6:31 PM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
In principle I have nothing to add, discussions about mailart, the network and mailartists were long times ago part of the first int. MA-Congress 1986, my personal interesse today stays in other fields than in explanations about sense of a mailart-network. But Lon is dead, he can't speak and Mark makes some mistakes, therefor some short thoughts:
1- Mark and Lon were both mailfriends of mine during the eighties (from Lon I received the first mail around end of the seventies, from Mark begin of the eighties). In 1985 I visited Mark in N.Y. and we had longer talks, walking through the streets of Manhattan, a year later he made a visit in Geneva and we saw us too during the MA-Congresses 1986 in Italy and in Belgium (his personal impressions about the whole congressyear was printed in the congress -report a year later- around dozen pages).
2- During the eighties Lon and I had lots of mailart contacts. I must say that he was a very vital and active member of the earlier network, thanks to him not alone questions like "MAILART & MONEY DON'T MIX" were discussed (at least at the int. MA-congress 86), but too he invented the pamphlet-discussion about collective facts & faults "MAILART FROM THE SIGHT OF THE PRODUCER" ("the only way to know mailart is to live mailart"). A needful discussion in that time, related to curators & historians outside of the MA-circle. With his own mag "SPIEGELMAN'S RAG" he had helped to gave a sort of overview about events, shows & people of his own circle, which was of course worldwide. I had a look some days ago in my bookarchive about Lon's earlier "handmade" publication "CALIFORNIA DADA" from 1980, which included besides the textscript a lot of original stickers, stamps and rubberstamps of several networkers. In my last stickerbook this year you will find an image of a decorated envelope of him, produced with stamps, stickers & rubberstamps of a part of his earlier correspondents (and in different Clinch's, C.P.36, or Out-press of me you will find his contributions).
3- Problems between Mark and Lon started with the more abstract experimental view of mail-exchanges from Mark's side (including experiments with Zen, Tao and Zero) and the more social view of Lon (including systemcritic, informationanalyse and coop-concepts). So, I can't and don't want judge or explain both individual understanding of "art"-processes nor their "mailart"-involvement - but a clarification about the word "art" could be needful:
4- If someone talk about "art" in the network he always talk of the concept-, strategy- and project-feedback, never (or nearly never) about a personal expressed image-production (only in the case if the image-production is coupled with cooperative small media, like rubberstamps, copyart, artistamps, stickers or other mailart media). Therfor typical questions of "art" -avantgarde or arrieregarde, of contemporain- or traditional exercises and so on, became only sense if the project is meant (which depends of course of participants-feedback = MA-network). A reason why it gives "rules" for such participants, who are not only receivers but senders too. These "rules" were under others mentioned through Lon in his pamphlet from the earlier eighties -and if Mark is proud to break such rules intentionally he shouldn't wonder that he got "a lot of shit from people including Lon". A mailart-project is only than finished if the participants became their awaited information or catalogue about that project. If Vittore Baroni made a time ago a project to break all rules & tabous, he sent anyhow catalogues to all contributors (it was thanks to those participants that the project could be realized).
5- Mark's statement that "the ones in the network with the most money were doing the best mailart" seems to be a little bit easy or stupid and of course is a slap in the face of every networker -even if he means probably the fact of sending out the stuff & catalogues, which of course could be expensive with the number of receivers. Several exhibitions in different museums and institutions of the last years in which mailart, artists books and network -catalogues were shown, demonstrated that not those books which were produced in an expensive way had the most impact, but contrary those which were made in a simple, personal and unexpensive process.
6- Not alone Mark, but Lon too (from a total other side) defended a network-concept in which it would be better to have a more one-to-one contact with some selected mailers than a mass-mail with copied or printed infos to thousands of people. I would add that in the moment if someone talks from "communications", "exchanges", "art-processes" into the mailart-field the one should precise exactly from what he speaks and in which context, the dilettantisme into a part of the network brings really frustration (Mark's conclusion "why rules, if one wanted not to send a catalogue, so what" --oh, my god--, Mark, you can do that if you print a catalogue for yourself, but if you manage to include other contributors in that catalogue you have to send it to these contributors -it's a question of trust, of information and of ethics). That all was long time ago discussed and I'm a little bit afraid to repeat such things here... and that in memory of Lon
best to all ... Günther Ruch
From: Klaus Groh . (Germany)
Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2002 - 11:42 AM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
I feel like many of you. Lon is gone.
Three for me very important documents must show you.
That all was in 1980 and 1981!!
I think of him and he has an important influence in my art as part of alternative activities ... Klaus Groh
From: John Held Jr . (U.S.A.)
Sent: Saturday, December 28, 2002 - 12:39 AM
Subject: Re: Lontroversy
MailArt and Lon Spiegelman do Mix:
need not be an 'artist' in the classical sense to be involved in the
communication phenomenon which is termed 'mail art'. It is strictly
communication between two parties (the sender and receiver). It is a one
to one communication and no one has control or censorship over the
pathway. Therein lies the anarchistic, revolutionary aspect of mail
communication. It crosses boundaries as ideas fly with the wind."
Lon Spiegelman was an inspiration to me throughout his active Mail Art life, especially in the eighties when he seemed to be everywhere: in the mailbox, a fixture in Mail Art exhibition catalog listings, publications of his own or others and generally on the tip of everyone's tongue, many of whom visited him at his pleasant bungalow in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles, where one bedded down on his "Mohammed" couch and looked through his outstanding archive. After viewing his collection of Mail art catalogs, I decided to embark on the research project culminating in the publication, "International Artistic Cooperation: Mail Art Shows, 1970-1985." His was the conscious of Mail Art. If you strayed to far from his "Mail Art Considerations," Lon would rush to protect the freedom in Mail Art he relished. If you got too serious about this or that, Lon reminded you that it was all about joyful play. Lon was a Mail Artists' Mail Artist. He wasn't a painter, or a sculptor... and wouldn't have called himself an artist at all. But he became a towering presence in networker culture, withdrawing in the wake of the death of his wife Linda in the early nineties. This withdrawal was symptomatic of his large and sensitive heart. He cared deeply. Many cared deeply for him. I'm proud to be one of those. On the occasion of his passing (November 25, 1941-December 9, 2002), I've compiled some previous writings of mine in which Lon figured.
(from "Key to the Collection: Selected Correspondence, 1976-2001" A Donation to The Archives of American Art)
I don't know anyone who took Mail Art more seriously than Lon Spiegelman. "Mailart is the portent of whether or not man will survive on this planet in his present form. Just take a look at the current atomic world situation to see if this is on the money or pure bullshit. The name of the game is communication. Communication is the name of the world that we are living in this year of 1984, and it is projected to grow further in this direction by most of the learned minds in the present-day cesspool...Every study and survey and projection that I read dealing with the future, all refer to 'communication' as the wave of the future, from the satellites spinning around the earth to computers which specialize in everything from dating to resources of everything for everybody. It's all information- the gathering of information and the disseminating of that same information. Mailart is synonymous with 'correspondence art'- sharing information. The world has really gotten small since the atomic bomb of 1945 and the resultant communication satellites projected into the heavens on top of these rockets. Anyway, the world is smaller and we communicate more. BUT, THE BOTTOM LINE IS, 'We in the east have to make friends with those in the west' if we, as a people, are ever to convince our respective governments into the realization that we are family, living on the same speck of creation, and when the toilet flushes, it flushes for all. Now, name me one other 'art' whatever in the world today that comes closer to accomplishing this reality than 'the international mailart network'" (July 2, 1984). Not that I needed convincing, but it was always great to have Lon around, just as loony about the field as myself. And if I ever got too serious about anything, Lon would always bring me back to earth.
This file is as penetrating as any in the Collection, both to the major events that shaped the field in the eighties, and the reasoning and machinations behind them. The publication of the Mike Crane (see file United States) Correspondence Art book, Inter Dada 84 (see file United States), the Franklin Furnace/Artists Talk on Art controversy with Dr. Ronny Cohen and the Mail Art Congresses of 1986 are all discussed and analyzed by Spiegelman in detail. Famous for his phrase, "Money and Mailart Don't Mix," which has been greatly misunderstood and maligned over the years (see Dorothy Harris, United States), Spiegelman clarifies his own stance. "You know, when I talk about 'Money and mailart not mixing' all I'm basically referring to is the operation of mailart shows and periodicals where mailartists have to spend the time creating a piece of work and then sending it free of charge to a show's host or a publication's editor. That's really all I mean by that statement. I'll do a piece and send it to you free of charge. What I expect in return is a catalogue or a copy of the publication without any begging for money to produce the finished thing. It's like every mailartist does the work and sends it in at his/her own expense. That's one side of the street. The other side of the street is that the originating artist gets a catalogue or publication in return, free of any money entanglements. That's what I mean, by 'Money and Mailart Don't Mix'" (July 2, 1984).
Lon had more sage advise for me on the subject of writing about Mail Art. "I had a desire, which I have had for a long time, to write a book about mailart...I feel that I could do a good book on the subject, which is perhaps (one of) the most difficult subjects to write about in the world. How does one formalize a book on a subject, which by its very nature is informal and anti-classification in its philosophy. It's a real enigma-a subject which has to be handled very carefully, if not to destroy its own subject matter in the process. Takes a special kind of person and approach to handle a job such as this. Not just documenting what has gone on in the past, but someone who has the contacts, deep into the bowels of the beast in order to make future contacts and extract information to fill in the gaps, from people who really don't want the gaps filled in. It's no easy job, and one, which I still to this day have not decided whether or not is proper to do. Any attempt at formalizing mailart will kill it...On the other hand, I feel that mailart should be written about and somehow documented. It's a very nebulous ambivalent feeling which I have, and one which a lot of other mailartists have which we are all finding very difficult to deal with. There isn't any easy answer to this conundrum" (March 3, 1985).
Mail Art lost a great friend and philosopher when Lons' beloved wife Linda died, and he retreated to a world without mailart.
1 loose note
(from "Mail Art Periodicals: An Annotated Inventory", 2002)
Spiegelman's mailart rag.
Lon Spiegelman, Editor.
Los Angeles, California. 1983-1986.
Photocopy and Ink. 11"x8 1/2". 2 pages. "Penis Fudsworth's backlog attributed to new job," by the editor (aka Penis Fudsworth). "After two years of being out of work, I finally landed a job... I have been hired by the journalism department at California State University (Northridge campus) as the supervisor in charge of producing the daily campus newspaper... In the past six years of mail-art activity, this is the first major backlog of regular correspondence which I have experienced. Usually, I had managed to get in 40-60 hours per week." "News Briefs," notes the editor's progress with "Commonpress #21" and Mike Mollet's (USA), "VW Bus," project. "It's now time to take the vehicle apart, piece by piece, and mail it through the network... This is a real conceptual, performance, mail-art piece."
Vol. 1, No. 1 (November 1984)
Offset and Rubber Stamp. 11"x8 1/2". 20 pages. "I've tried getting together as much mailart information as I can to share with everyone in this issue. Like I say, this is a personal 'Rag,' not a public 'Rag.' Please consider each copy a personal piece of correspondence that I didn't have time to sit at my old Royal typewriter and bang out to you, one at a time." "World's Youngest Mailartist," a notice of the birth of Benjamin Karl Bennett, born September 20, 1984 to John M. Bennett (USA) and C. Mehrl Bennett (USA). "About this Issue...," by the editor. "I've been writing to people who dabble in mailart and want SASE's, or money for catalogues or want to auction shows off to cover their expenses, etc...something is happening within the Network that just doesn't set right with me...They not only want us to send them our work for free, but they want us to send them money to cover their expenses. That's bullshit, and it's been happening so much recently that I'm to the point that I don't want to send work to anybody who I don't know. That's too bad, because in the past I've always sent work to any show or publication or project that has labeled itself a 'mailart' project, thus offering support for a kindred spirit...This problem has to be dealt with if the Network is to survive as we know it today. Any suggestions?" "Book Review: Mike Crane: A Modern Quintilian: A Review of 'Correspondence Art' by Mike Crane," by Ernest J. Stroh-Symtra. "Special Mail Art Edition Retraction," in which the editor apologizes to Judith A. Hoffberg, editor of "Umbrella" magazine for an unauthorized issue (Vol. 7, No. 2). "From the Editor & Publisher: A Special Mail Art Edition came out in late March, edited by Lon Spiegelman, which was sent to some mail artists and friends of the 'editor' as a Volume 7, Number 2 edition of 'Umbrella.' As indicated above, it was unauthorized by me and thus, the retraction." "On the road with lhs...Spiegelman leaves 1/2 his beard at Interdada '84," an overview of the editor's experiences at "Interdada 84," in San Francisco, California, organized by Ginny Lloyd (USA) and Terrence McMahon (USA). "Off the road with L. Alien: Mollett lands on InterDada festival," by Michael Mollett (USA). "(Thoughts on InterDada '84)," by John Leslie Fox II (USA). "A report on InterDada '84 by John Held Jr." Photographs of Inter Dada Festival by John Leslie Fox II of Skooter (USA), Pat Fish (USA), Bill Gaglione (USA), Rockola (USA), Steve Caravello (USA), John Held, Jr. (USA), Turk LeClair (USA), Victoria Kirby (USA), Anna Banana (USA), Lisa Sellyeh (USA), Chuck Stake (Canada), Cavellini (Italy), et al. "1981 Interview with Buster 'Dada' Cleveland." "Mailart News and Notes," with information on the activities of various Mail Artists, as well as Mail Art exhibition, project and publication opportunities. Separate listing for "Mailart Shows" and "Mailart Publications." An "open letter" from Carlo Pittore (USA) objecting to "filing fees" for juried exhibitions. Contributions by Al Ackerman (USA) and John M. Bennett (USA). Edition 7/400.
Vol. 1, No. 3 (September 1985)
Offset. 11"x8 1/2". 20 pages. Review of Michael Crane's "Correspondence Art," by John Evans (USA). "Thoughts from the League of Nations," by the editor, in which he states that he has documented participation in 1,068 Mail Art exhibition, project and publications from 1978-1984. "Mailartists share their work with each other, support each other spiritually, show each other's work in shows, publications and projects and never pay a fee or enter a juried show... Simply put-mailart is a pure and fee channel of communication between artists. The primary objective of mailartists is to keep the channels of communication open to all." "1984 mailart events: shows-projects-publications-shows," a listing of the editor's 1984 participation in the Mail Art network by date, name of exhibition, project or publication, and place. One of the first significant detailed Mail Art documentation projects. "Letters to the Editor" from Earnest Ftroh-Fymtra (aka Al Ackerman?, USA). Ray Johnson (USA), Jack Saunders (USA), Guy Bleus (Belgium). "Mailart News and Notes," includes mentions of Richard Meade (USA), Chuck Welch (aka Crackerjack Kid, USA), Musicmaster (USA), Ruud Janssen (Holland), David Zack (Mexico), Pat Larter (Australia), Al Ackerman, Pete Horobin (Scotland), Waclaw Ropiecki (Poland), Pawel Petasz (Poland), Rod Summers (Holland), Klaus Groh (West Germany), Creative Thing (USA), Stephen Perkins (USA), Pat Fish (USA), Tomasz Schulz (Poland), et al. "Mr. Network," an open letter from the editor to Shozo Shimamoto (Japan). "No Boy," by C. Mehrl Bennett (USA). Photographs of Mail Artist visiting the editor including John Evans, Creative Thing (USA), Minoy (USA), Richard Meade (USA), Michael Mollett (USA), John Fox (USA), Al Ackerman, Anthony Bradley (England), H. R. Fricker (Switzerland), Bill Gaglione (USA), Rudolph (USA), Michael Hyatt (USA), et al. Personal note from the editor to John Held, Jr. (USA) on back cover. Edition 19/500.
Vol. 1, No. 4 (December 1986)
Offset, Rubber Stamps, Ink and Sticker. 11"x8 1/2". 20 pages. "Baroni views Italian mailart: The Current State of Mailart in Italy," by Vittore Baroni (Italy), an indispensable text on the subject. "Ma publications total over 130," by the editor. "With all of the recent discussion about the mailart network, publications seem to have taken a back seat to the more-talked-about shows. People just seem to do publications any way they want- ever hear of a bunch of 'considerations' for a 'mailart publication?'... Some publications devote only a small amount of their issue to 'mailart.' Some are felt to be 'mailart publications' merely because a large number of contributors are themselves considered to be mailartists. Some mailart periodicals are totally personal while others request the actual pages from contributors...Myself, I feel the best definition of a mailart publication is that its editor is a mailartist, because if they weren't a mailartist, then they wouldn't be doing a mailart publication...Anyway, I started thinking about all of the mailart publications that I've played with in the past. After coming to a short list from memory, I began going through my archives in search of the names of publication I couldn't remember. The final tally blew my mind. I didn't expect over 130 during the last nine years. And, I'm sure there are a bunch that I have forgotten...What makes my particular list valid to me, is that they are periodicals that I've played with during my mailart internment...I wish to dedicate this article on mailart publications to Pawel Petasz, the father of 'Commonpress,' which many of we mailartists consider the epidome (sic) of the genre." Publications listed by title, editor, and editor's address. "After Tourism Comes Spiegelmism." "Tourism valid if separated," by Pete Horobin (Scotland). "mailart news and notes," mentions the activities of Creative Thing (USA), Temporary Museum of Temporary Art (aka Miekal And and Liz Was, USA), Fred Truck (USA), Uncle Don (aka Don Milliken, USA), Carol Pittore (USA), E. M. Plunkett (USA), Musicmaster (aka Thomas Michael Cassidy, USA), Edgar Allen Bushmiller (USA), Sonja van der Berg and Margot van Oosten (Holland), John Held, Jr. (USA), Nenad Bogdanovic (Yugoslavia), Frank Gaard (aka Artpolice, USA), Bob Black (USA), David Greenberger (USA), Ginny Lloyd (USA), Cavellini (Italy), A-1 Waste Paper Co. Ltd. (England), Stephen Perkins (USA), et al. "Leboeufism, mailart congresses, symposiums spark 'New Audiencelessness," by Al Ackerman (USA). "But today, in terms of audience appeal and packing them in, mailart is definitely rivaling things like Morris Dancing and bee-keeping. This is called 'audiencelessness'-or the New Audiencelessness, if one happens to be speaking recently-and, you know what they say, once an art form or narrow-focus activity achieves this kind of non-recognition through all-out public apathy, then those of us who practice it find that we have, in a measure, been delivered from the constraints of public scrutiny and expectation." Lists of Decentralized World-Wide Mail Art Congresses," as complete a listing of mailart congress sessions as 'The Rag' could compile." Forty-eight sessions listed from January 9-October 16, 1986. "The First Family Fun and Games Los Angeles Mailart Congress." "Symposium lost in shuffle," a report of the "International Mailart Symposium" at the Canadian Correspondence Art Gallery, organized by Chuck Stake (Canada). A letter from buZ blurr (USA) describes the event, which drew the participation of Jürgen Olbrich (West Germany), Cracker Jack Kid (USA), Mark Dicey (Canada), and Sandra Tivy (Canada), et al. "Archives," by the editor. "Archives are merely the physical results of mailart activity which has taken the form of artists communicating with each other to share works and ideas, and collaborate on joint ventures, thus keeping their creativity alive and growing... More and more mailartists are expressing their concerns in trying to reach some kind on consensus on the vast amounts of property being amassed in private/public archives, including the results of mailart shows. This has come to the forefront of discussions given the recent rumors pertaining to the sale of the Jean Brown Archives and Judy Hoffberg's Umbrella archives... Jean Brown wrote back, in part, '...the Getty people who are handling the transaction of the archive sale and transfer are among those who have never heard of mailart and have asked me what mailart is. I've explained it twice and am prepared to do it again. It's so disorganized and nebulous. Meanwhile all the participants will be on file at the Getty Center for the Arts and Humanities where I think it correctly belongs. I have no doubt that am ambitious scholar will come along, study it and collate the philosophical intent and relevance of it. It will then become elevated to the status of a valid art form. I went through this with Dada for so many years..." Rod Summers (Holland) is featured in "Homage to the network's 'audio man'." Bern Porter (USA) visits Los Angeles. Contributions by Dazar (USA), Al Ackerman, et al. Edition 132/500.
(from "Mail Art Exhibition Documentation Collection Inventory, 1970-2001")
Spiegelman, Lon. Help: Teach Mail Art. Otis-Parsons Art Institute, Los Angeles, California. October 13-19, 1980. (24 pages). Offset. 8 1/2"x7". Essay by curator. Reproductions, including exhibition installation. (An important theme show eliciting informative responses on the subject of teaching Mail Art from such figures as Robin Crozier, Ken Friedman, Andre Stitt, Ed Varney and Rod Summers. Lon Spiegelman, perhaps at the time of this exhibition the most active person in the network, contributes an excellent, "Statement," ranging over a number of topics central to the mail Art experience. The tone of the essay, with the emphasis on the maintenance of an open system of artistic interaction, would dominate the eighties. -50 Favorite Mail Art Catalogs.)
Spiegelman, Lon. Name the Dada Brothers. Jetts Cafe, Los Angeles, California.
May 8, 1980. (4 pages). Photocopy. 8 1/2"x11". Reproductions. Participant list.
Spiegelman, Lon; and Mollett, Michael. The Postman Always Rings Twice. Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, California. 1980. Offset Poster. 12"x9" folded. Exhibition installation photographs. Reproductions. Essays by Spiegelman, Mollet, and Don Emery.
Spiegelman, Lon; and Taylor, Neal. Target Earth: International Mail-Art Exhibition Opposing Nuclear Proliferation and Militarism, Their Causes and Their Motives...and Promoting a Non-Nuclear Future Which Celebrates LIFE. Double Rocking G Gallery, Los Angeles, California. May 1982. Poster. Offset (2 color). 24"x19 1/2". Participant list on verso.
Hyatt, M.; with Spiegelman, Lon, Leslie Caldera, Michael Mollett, Richard Meade & Skooter. International Mailart Show: Olympic Games, Music & Orwell's "1984." Base 2 Gallery, Los Angeles, California. July 22-August 112, 1984. Poster. Offset. 21"x12". Participant list on verso.
(from "One-Week Mail Art Performance Party in Los Angeles", by John Held Jr. and (Al Ackerman).
(Al Ackerman would add to the diary when I wasn't looking. His entries appear in (italicized parenthesis).
Saturday, April 20, 1991
Leave Dallas (Central Time Zone) at 8:30 AM. Change plane at El Paso (Mountain Time Zone), Texas, for Los Angeles. Arrive in Los Angeles at 2:00 PM (Pacific Time Zone).
Rent a car. Call Lon Spiegelman's house and get directions from the airport from Mike Mollett, a performance artist, poet and actor who has been living with Lon for about two years. Mike was at one time very active in Mail Art, and initiated a great project sending parts of his VW bus around the world to various Mail Artists. When I get to Spiegelman's house I knock on the door. The door knocks back. I knock again. The door knocks back and then opens. I am handed a note by a person wearing a gorilla mask, a sleeping bag over his shoulders, a white tube sock hanging out of his mouth, barefoot with painted toenails, and carrying a bamboo walking stick that rattles. The note reads:
Hello. Come in. I am Elliot,
Well, I think, this is an unexpected welcome. When I go out to the car to get my bags, I get out a Mexican wrestling mask that I use in performances and put it on to make Elliot and myself more comfortable with each other. While I releax on the couch, Elliot wanders about the house. Shaking his staff. Putting little objects, like driftwood, on my shoulder. About a half-hour later Lon comes home. He tells me Elliot is harmless, not to worry, and that he's been staying there for about a month. We continue talking and catch each other up on things. Elliot hands me a note that says, "Later will you dance for us?" I write back, "I'm a good dancer." Elliot is barefoot with his toenails painted red. They are the most beautiful feet I've ever seen. They are white and look like marble. Finally, Elliot lifts off his mask. It's Al Ackerman.
Ackerman and I have been correspondents since the early eighties. I first met Al in 1986, when he came to Dallas from San Antonio to give the Keynote Address at the Southwest USA Worldwide Decentralized Mail Art Congress that I hosted. We've met several times since, and I consider him a mentor, a brilliant writer and painter bordering on the genius level, a friend, and perhaps the very soul of Mail Art (or at the very least, one important strain of Mail Art - it's wild, unpredictable side).
Al had been in San Francisco for a month previous to coming to Los Angeles. I guess several of my close correspondents had known he would be coming for my visit. But it was a surprise to me. A happy surprise, for it meant we would be spending a significant amount of time together for the first occaision.
Lon, Al and I go to the Galleria to pick up Lon's thirteen year old son Lee, who was getting some mice for his python. Al and I call Darlene Altschul (Tarzanna Savannah). Bill Gaglione calls. He's in town from San Francisco. Lon, Al and I get some burritos at Burrito King. Al shows us his new cat series done with oil stick on valour paper.
(He has the most beautiful feet I have ever seen. I dream about them constantly.)
Sunday, April 21, 1991
Al and I leave Lon's at 8:00. We have breakfast at the Astro Diner and then go to the Holiday Inn in Burbank for the Rubber Stamp Frenzy rubber stamp convention, where I have rented a booth to sell perforated gummed postage stamp sheets. Al sets out a portfolio of his "Are You Drunk" drawings. Throughout the day he tells passer-bys that the 8x11 inch prints are from carved rubber stamps that are now in the Smithsonian. E. Z. Smith stops by with his friend Mallory Moad. They have come all the way from Fresno. Darlene Altschul (Tarzanna Savannah) also comes. It is the first time I've met this long-time correspondent of mine. Mollett picks up Al at 1:00 to get things ready for a party at Scooter's (Neal Taylor) later in the evening. At 2:00 I give a talk on rubber stamp art. Judy Hoffberg is there as well as Bill Gaglione. While I am talking, C. Steven Short comes in with author Leo Buscaglia, for whom he is the office manager. C. Steven is a new correspondent of mine who now lives in Nevada. Gaglione and I man the booth. Buscaglia and I discuss Mail Art, and he tells me how impressed he is with the strength of the international community it has forged. Lon stops by. Gaglione and I leave around 5:30 for Lon's. I've sold around $100 worth of perforated papers.
Gaglione and I drive to Scooters with Lon. Judith Hoffberg, E. Z. Smith, Richard Meade, Mollett, Ackerman, C. Steven Short, Johnny "Oh Boy!" Tostado, Jules Davis, are some of the Mail Artists there. Leave about 11:00. Talk to Ackerman for another hour or so.
(Masterbate violently for 2 hours)
Monday, April 22, 1991
Get up at 9. Talk to Al and Lon. (Dizzy) Al and I go out for breakfast at Burrito King. Lon goes to the dentist.
Spiegelman has ordered all twenty parts of Peter Küstermann's "Endless World Video," which features interviews with Mail Artists he has visited throughout the world. I start to watch these in order and continue to do so throughout the week.
Lon, Al and I go to the University of California at Los Angeles where Lon works as a Production Manager for the daily campus newspaper. It is here that Lon has begun working on his first Mail Art project in three years -making logos on the Macintosh for his correspondents.
Ackerman and I drive back to Lon's. We talk to Mollett and he practices reading some of Ackerman's poems for a cable TV broadcast. Watch Küstermann's "Endless Video" (H. R. Fricker, Joki, Henning Mittendorf, Pawel Petasz). Postcard from Fa Ga Ga Ga. Ackerman makes a dinner of baked potatoes and beans. Mollett, a gardner by profession, picks "something like spinach" from the backyard for a salad. Mike, Al and I go to the Onyx coffeehouse. Back to Lon's at 11:30.
(Masturbate violently for 3 hours. Spend another 2 hours brooding over Minden the Mail Art Mecca. Go to sleep at 4:00 and dream of Ackerman's feet.)
Tuesday, April 23, 1991
Wake up sick to my stomach, either from Ackerman's potatoes and beans, or Molllett's "spinach" the night before. Maybe it was just the thought of eating them.
Drive to Santa Monica for an appointment at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities. Lad Pugel, a reference intern, brings me out a checklist of the Jean Brown Collection prepared by Eric Vos, a Dutch scholar, who has arranged the Collection.
Jean Brown is a dear friend of mine, who I had the pleasure of spending many an hour with at her Shaker Seed House in Tyringham, Massachusettes. Her archive, which was situated in the second story of her home, was designed by Fluxus coordinator George Maciunas. While the Getty acquired her archive chiefly for its Dada, Surrealistic, Situationist, Fluxus and Lettrisme components, Mail Art was an interest of Jean's and formed a major part of her Collection. It couldn't be ignord, and it hasn't been. The Getty has done a remarkable job shaping the Mail Art section into a research series that will be an important access point for scholars in years to come. I spent my time looking at the Robert Filliou, Ray Johnson, and Artist Postage Stamp folders. My own folder had material that I hadn't seen for many years, including the first pieces of correspondence that led me to my Mail Art involvement.
>From the Getty, I went to talk to Steven
Durland, the editor of High Performance magazine, and an old correspondent
of mine. Back to Lon's at 5:00. Ackerman, Mollett, Lee Spiegelman and I
go out for sushi. Home to watch more of the Küstermann video (Istvan
Kantor, John Evans, E. M. Plunkett).
Al and I go to eat breakfast. Drive to Darlene Altshul's print shop in Tarzana. Drive back to Lon's house. Shower and watch more of "Endless Video" (Pat Fish, Private World) Drive to the Beverly Hills Public Library. Introduce myself to my sponsor Michelle Merrill, who has arranged an exhibit and lecture for me. We view the exhibit in the Fine Arts section where I have curated a display of Mail Art by Los Angeles Mail Artists. The lecture at 7:00 on the history of Mail Art told through publications about the subject attracts a crowd of about 35 that includes Mollett, Ackerman, C. Steven Short, Darlene Altschul, Jesse Edwards, Johnny Tostado, Jules Davis, Judith Hoffberg and Peter Frank. Peter is a friend of mine from New York who is now teaching at Cal State Fullerton, editing Revisions magazine, and reviewing for the L. A. Weekly. Always the busiest man in the artworld.
(With the rear of the auditorium in semi-darkness,it took me several minutes to spot him [I was standing on stage at the podium telling the auience about Jasper Johns, the "Father of Mail Art" and needless to say my mind was not on danger but rather on the motel rendezvous I had arranged for later that night out at the My Alibi Courts in deep east L. A.] but when I finally did see him my old bunghole immediately puckered and I felt my hitherto throbbing "love nuts" crawl up inside my craven body cavity and hang there quivering like Gilbert & George [the "Aunt and Uncle of Mail Art"] for there could be no doubt that the hectic-looking figure crawling around on all fours at the back of the auditorium was on an errand of true and gravest dementia, what with the foot-long butcher knife he was gripping between his slavering jaws and the light of homicidal intent shinging in his eyes like the headlights on a Lincoln [the "Fifth President of Mail Art"] Continental.)
Nine of us stop at the Manderette Cafe on Beverly Boulevard after the lecture. Drive back to Lon's. Watch "Endless Video" (Achim Schnyder, Marcello Diotallevi, Aloys Ohlmann).
Thursday, April 25, 1991
Al and I go to breakfast at the Crest on Hollywood Boulevard. Pick up Lon's photos and get a light fixture for the ultraviolet light tubes, which I will be using in the performance tonight. Back to Lon's. Lon and Michael are there. Lon has a bad toothache from an infected extraction and has stayed home from work. Watch "Endless Video" (Daniel Daligand, E. M. Plunkett, Matty Jankowski, [John Sloan]). Gaglione calls and mentions he is making a Mail Art Bull to commemorte the Sunday Mail Art Party at Scooters. Asks me to consider working on a book with him on rubber stamps. Watch "Endless Video" (Cavellini, Vittore Baroni, Serse Luigetti, Ulli Kattenstroah). Skooter comes over for dinner with Ackerman, Mollett and myself. Lon (drunk and) sick.
Go to Raji's, a club on Hollywood Boulevard, at 9:00. Introduced to Elayne Levine, a high school friend of Johnny Tostado, who is assisting me in the performance. Darlene Altshul doesn't show up as planned, so I draft Lorraine Perrotta into the act. She's a Serials Librarian at the Getty Center for the Arts and the Humanities. Mollett, Ackerman, Scooter and Johnny Tostado perform first. My performance is done under ultraviolet light. I spray and squirt Lorraine with invisible rubber stamp ink while Elayne, who is dressed in leather and is heavily tatooed and pierced, whips me. It's supposed to represent the difficulties of creation. I feel like I have a sunburn for several days after. (Over 8 people in the audience!!!) Ackerman, Mollett and I go to Scooters to watch the video of the performance. Back to Lon's at 2:00.
Friday, April 26, 1991
Wake up at 9:00. Ackerman and I go to the Crest for breakfast. Al works on a painting for Lon. I go to LACE to check out the performance space. Wander around Little Tokyo. Back to Lon's. Watch "Endless Video" (Gerard Barbot, Buster Cleveland, Skooter, Judith Hoffberg, Mark Bloch, Lon Spiegelman), and the "Window on Gaines Performance Tape." Lon, Al and I go to Tommy's for some cheeseburgers. Call Creative Thing.
(Get up in the middle of the night and reread this page. Notice that my handwriting seems to be degenerating? Brain syndrome? Also I am experiencing strong desire to love up a colored man. Having many strange desires. God help me. Ackerman's feet, Ackerman's feet.)
Saturday, April 27, 1991
(Through it all I screamed in ecstacy. Can't wait to be whipped tonight. And -who knows?- maybe I can get someone to dip me in a big glass of ice cold gravy, my favorite.)
Ackerman and I go for sushi at 6:00. Drive to LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) at 7:00. Performances in the Rough Cuts series organized by Dennis Cooper start at 8:30. Nayland Blake from San Francisco goes first. My peformance is last. Lorraine assists me again. I explain to her beforehand that the performance is based on the idea that the creator is in fact created by his creation. No whipping this time, just the ultraviolet light and invisible rubber stamp ink. We are both in wetsuits and Mexican wrestling masks. Wasn't very pleased with the performance. The audience was a bit raucous for the poetic mood I had in mind. Probably should have had myself whipped again. Seems to be a crowd pleaser, but it misrepresents my intentions. Mollett, Ackerman, Darlene Altshul, Johnny Tostado, Jules Davis, and AC, Lorraine's boyfriend are there. AC is an actor, who appeared in "Twins," among other movies and television programs. We meet at the Pantry afterwards. Home at 1:00.
Sunday, April 28, 1991
Al and I go to breakfast. Back to Lon's to get ready for his Los Angeles Mail Art Congress. Festivities start at 1:00. Richard Meade, Rudolph, Creative Thing, Jesse Edwards, Mollett, Skooter, Darlene Altschul, Johnny Tostado, Jules Davis, Gonzola, AC and Lorraine, Lon and Lee Spiegelman, Al Ackerman party till 6:00. Pat Fish arrives from San Francisco with a friend. Fran Rutkovsky calls from Tallahassee, Florida.
Full moon comes out. Go to Tommy's for cheeseburgers with Al and Lon. After a week of constant good humor, Al and I get into a big fight about me trying to historify Mail Art, careerism, etc. Lee freaks out. Watch "Endless Video" (Jonas Nekarius, Serge Segay, Rea Nikinova). Al and I work out our problems.
Monday, April 29, 1991
Leave for Dallas at 1:00 (Pacific Time
Zone). Al gets ready to leave for New
Appendix One: Letter to Monty Cantsin from Al Ackerman in David Zack's Crazy Old Poets Magazine, January 1984.
"Whatever the impulses may be that cause people to explain themselves in interviews, my impulses don't work that way; in fact, my impulses all seem to scuttle in pretty much the opposit direction. I took up your questions with the best of intentions in the world but immediately found what I'd known all along, that trying to 'expain' myself, trying to lay everything out in clear, straight-forward, categorical-type terms off a questionaire gives me the same feeling I get at a gallery or when there's political speech-making going on: it fills me with this immense anquished lassitude, is what it does. You don't want me to go around being filled with immense lassitude, do you?"
Appendix Two: "Prospect From the Past" by Lon
Spiegelman. From Sorbo Rosso
"Somehow mail art bridges the gap of isolation. (But), I also find it troubling that the term 'art' is used in this context of communication. Maybe it should be called 'mail communication', because that is all that art really is, i.e. communication. One need not be an 'artist' in the classical sense to be involved in the communication phenomenon which is termed 'mail art'. It is strictly communication between two parties (the sender and receiver). It is a one to one communication and no one has control or censorship over the pathway. Therein lies the anarchistic, revolutionary aspect of mail communication. It crosses boundaries as ideas fly with the wind."