Mail Art as Knobs Instead of Nodes.

Dutch artist Jan W. Vugts' contribution to Nielsen's Send a Piece of Your Nature (1985-87).

Dutch artist Jan W. Vugts’ contribution to Nielsen’s Send a Piece of Your Nature (1985-87).

When we talk about networks, we usually imagine a structure of dots with connection lines. However, the images of networks show a peculiar place where dots and blobs are suspended in empty space. The blobs constitute a non-hierarchical and distributed system, where something might travel from node to node. Information travels across thin, straight lines to a focal point. In here, everything can happen. Outside, there seems to be nothing but a vast, empty space.

When we talk about networks, we could talk about lines and knobs instead of nodes. Talking about lines, we can imagine a place where everything and everyone move about and along lines. Our lives and things consists of bundles of lines whether we talk of tissue, veins or textures. For Scottish anthropologist Tim Ingold, the world is made of lines, not dots:  “For the tissue is a texture formed by a myriad of fine threads tightly interlaces, presenting all the appearance, to the casual observer, of a coherent, continuous surface.”[1] We are bundles and knots of lines, and our things are part of these bundles. We are entangles in meshworks, and always in the middle and forever in-between.

Mail art pieces are meshworkings. They are threads, lines, or bundles of lines rather than small entities. Of course, the notion of “meshwork” is not mentioned in the mail art network’s pieces or texts. Nevertheless, the idea and image of meshworks makes sense. At first, the abundances of meshwork motifs such as strings, threads, and other lines in Nielsen’s archive show an affinity or predisposition towards the idea of meshwork and a world of lines. Secondly and most importantly, the mail art pieces act, move, and makes sense in the manner of meshworks. These pieces are lines between artists, albeit rarely in the manner of a telephone wire or another connecting point – seemingly – transporting a message from a to b. The lines are never straight in the mail art network, but bends and breaks. The pieces are going along lines, not from node to node. In this way, mail art pieces are more like the knob, less like the autonomous, self-enclosed art-work. They remain open to the world, unfinished and always in the middle of it.

[1] Tim Ingold: Being Alive, 2011, p. 86.

 

 

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Moth art

One of German artist Karla Sachse's contribution to Nielsen's archive (from 1986). There are plenty of organic material, i.e. insects, leaves, sticks, flowers, glued on pieces in the archive.

One of German artist Karla Sachse’s contribution to Nielsen’s archive (from 1986). There are plenty of organic material, i.e. insects, leaves, sticks, flowers, glued on pieces in the archive.

SachseKarla Sachse Ring Binder_15SachseKarla Sachse Ring Binder_14SachseKarla Sachse Ring Binder_19

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Swarms in the Archive

HeplerSwarm  Flight_2

American artist Anna Hepler’s “Swarm/Flight” from 1998 was found in a canvas bag in a box filed under Ted Purves in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet. Moving about in the archive, opening small envelopes, bags, or containers only to find smaller pieces connected to something or someone else – this sense of going in a möbius band – is somewhat similar to Hepler’s entanglement of thin threats on a piece of cardboard.

HeplerSwarm  Flight_1HeplerSwarm  Flight_3

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Mapping Not-arrived Letters

NikonovaVacuum_2Russian artist Rea Nikonova’s mail art piece with an “architectual” treatment of Nielsen’s letter to her + invitation to send contributions to her Vacuum exhibition including not-arrived letters, empty cases, and people without heads. (note to self: needs a new photo).

 

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Inappropriate tagging

  • Sender UnknownSend a Piece of Your Nature (3)_1
  • Nielsen’Sender UnknownSend a Piece of Your Nature (3)_2s archive has been moved to a relational database. In the database, all our work describing, scanning, photographing, and tagging are finally structured and connected. As a test, I search “nude”, and this piece from an unknown sender was one of the hits. Our tags were quite … explicit. Send a piece of your nature, 1985-87.
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A Modernist Construction

British artist Keith Bates reworking of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.'s famous chart “The Development of Abstract Art” from ca. 1936. Bates replaced the original content with bus tickets, postage stamps etcetera. This chart was filed with material related to The Pocket Museum .

British artist Keith Bates’ reworking “A Modernist Construction” (ca. 1984) of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.’s famous chart “The Development of Abstract Art” from ca. 1936. Bates replaced the original content with bus tickets, postage stamps etcetera. This chart was filed with material related to The Pocket Museum.

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Dot Cow

StagnaroCow

Italian artist Umberto Stagnaro’s poster from 1982: An indifferent cow surrounded by colour pencil strokes.

 

 

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