"A networker is a new kind of cultural worker." - Vittore Baroni

ARTE POSTALE! 1979-1995

Memories of a Mail Art Magazine Maker

by Vittore Baroni

As the old saying goes, I am not an artist, I am a networker. When I started utilizing the mail art net, I was looking for something that the traditional art system could not give me. At that time, in the late seventies, I tried to restrain myself as much as I could from creating "fine" images. I did not want to make "artworks" and develop a style or please myself aesthetically. I wanted to find new ways to communicate my ideas, avoiding all the usual traps and cliches of the gallery-museum-critic-art magazine routine. I was very young and naive, and of course I was also wrong (a style always develops in spite of yourself, and you can't hide away indefinitely your love for pencils and colours), but my clumsy idealism lead me instinctively to fully and wholeheartedly embrace this correspondence art thing. It was so liberating, the whole anarchic idea of Mail What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law. Furthermore, operating at distance (as those traveling the Internet are realizing thirty years later) permitted you to disguise yourself with harmless trickery, switching sex, age, status, credo and (pen)name as fast as you could lick a stamp. It was not art in the traditionally accepted sense, yet you could pretend it was and "play artist" with hundreds of others grown-up kids, create new real/fake art myths and throw them in the face of the official Artclique, or simply forget that such a thing as a cultural elite existed and make up your own ideal (net)working dimension, a planetary web with you at the centre.

For me, a networker is a new kind of cultural worker, with a new role in society and new tools and strategies of intervention at his/her fingertips: a sort of "cultural animator", a meta-artist who creates contexts for collective expression, instead of traditional art works. I always felt that, in the mail art medium, the "art work" is not represented by the single postcard or letter I mail, but by the whole process of interaction with my contact(s), including their replies and the spiritual link that is activated between us. A complete mail art project, a collection of contributions from dozens or hundreds of different people (not necessarily "artists"!) responding to one request or theme, is another form of what I regard as a proper networking art piece: not the single contribution, but the sum of all the interacting mailings. In this sense, photocopied (or off-set printed) and self-distributed mail art magazines, often including manual interventions and original pages submitted by various contributors, are yet another form of genuine art work generated by networking practices. I consider the thousands of copies of Arte Postale! that I lovingly hand-assembled one by one in the past sixteen years as the best single documentation of my multifarious activities as a full-free-time networker. While many content themselves with simple lists of names and addresses, I believe there are infinite ways to turn a mail art catalogue or magazine into a fully satisfying little art piece in itself. All those unexpected holes or original fragments glued on the pages, one-of-a-kind enclosures or hand signed messages are not intended to mimic the preciousness of pricey artists' books, but to make the experience of reading a mail art magazine as fresh, unique and intimate as that of reading a personal letter. If only in a few cases I have been able to achieve this, then I am an happy networker.

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Vittore Baroni
Via C. Battisti 339
55049 Viareggio

phone/fax: + 39 - 584 - 963918

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