Started on 15-5-1995
RJ: Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?
Reply on 19-8-1995
AB: I have been involved in mail art since 1986, when I exhibited my artistic works in Milano (Italy) - by Centro Lavoro Arte - where I met Ruggero Maggi who talked to me about mail art and invited me to participate in a project "DON'T KILL THE 'PEACE' WORD". I took part in that project with pleasure and when I visited the show (by the way, it was made just in Bologna) I felt immediately a strong emotion. I realized to be in front of a wonderful networking circuit. From that moment I have never left off to make mail art.
RJ: How did things develop after participating in this first project, how did you get in touch with other networkers?
Reply on 25-9-1995
AB: The mail artist MARCO LORENZONI, living at that time near Bologna, sent to me a beautiful coloured envelope, duly signed and numbered, containing one elaborate on which I put my intervention and returned it to him. This was my first personal contact in mail art. Marco said to me he was moving to another Region and in fact I never had any news from him since. Successively I participated in the "WINDOW" project by Maria Rosa Simoni, and also to the "SELFPORTRAIT" project in Ireland, and other mail art projects in Italy and abroad.
At the beginning I made mail art in small doses, because I wanted to realize well its meaning. I wrote to some networkers asking more information about mail art and at once m.a., magazines, fanzines etc. etc. reached me.
RJ: At a certain point you probably thought of doing your own mail art project. How did you realize your first project?
Reply on 23-10-1995
AB: In 1990 there was the centenary of the GIORGIO MORANDI's birthday, the famous artist of Bologna (Italy), sensible interpreter of humble things, as just the bottles. I wanted to pay homage to him with the "BOTTLE PROJECT", a mail art project. I received 100 wonderful works (30 real bottles and 70 bi-dimensional works) from 19 Nations and I organized the exhibition in Bologna - by KAOS ex MABUSE space. I was very happy for the success of my first project.
In the catalogue I expressed the connection between mail art and the bottles: . . . . . . MAIL ART as container of different emotion's states, expressive potentiality free from markets and system conditions, wish to make and transmit art, but especially container of sensitive human relations overcoming any geographical/cultural/ideological frontier . . . . . . BOTTLE as container of thoughts, ideas, messages (in fact, in the past, it was thrown in the sea to send appeals or call for help), but mainly container of human history, as time symbol . . . . . .
RJ: Doing a first mail art project is mostly a difficult task. What did you learn from this first project?
Reply on 1-12-1995
AB: Before I got involved in the mail art network, I attended only the "official" circuit but, notwithstanding my great passion for the artistic work, I often felt uneasy, probably caused from the unreasonable competition that originates false friends, from the personal interests, from the criticism' conditioning and discrimination etc. After my first mail art project I immediately realized to be in human contact and especially freedom. Yes, I learnt this: MAIL ART IS A FREE ARTIST! And this is not a small thing!
RJ: How large is the network you are in contact with nowadays?
Reply on 24-1-1996
AB: Nowadays I am in contact with a great number of mail artists all over the world and, like you, I have to select. I am very sorry for it, but it is not possible for me to write to everybody. So I prefer to stay in touch with the networkers with whom already exist a "mail art feeling", a mutual exchange, a frequent mail and work, friendship etc., etc.
However, often, beginning artists write me asking about mail art and in this case I send them a little documentation with projects, addresses and other news, and naturally my contacts augment. Usually, when I organize a mail art project, I receive works from 25-30 nations (thanks networker friends!!).
RJ: Which mail art project are you working on at the moment?
Reply on 4-3-1996
AB: At the moment, besides several participations to various mail art projects, I am working on two of my projects: Centenary of the Radio's invention (GUGLIELMO MARCONI) and PREHISTORY IN FORLI, the last one together with Lia Garavini of Forlě.
Concerning the MARCONI project. Now I am taking care of organizing the show soon. I received 180 works from 25 Nations and I hope to exhibit them inside a private "Marconiano" Museum of wonderful old radios, phonographs and other communication sets. This museum is denomined "THOUSAND VOICES.... THOUSAND SOUNDS....." However I am not yet sure to realize this initiative. In a different way, I shall care for another space.
Regarding instead the PREHISTORY project, the show will be on next september, just during the XIII Congress of the International Union of Prehistoric Sciences in Forli' (8-14th September 1996). Even if there is to do so much, I am always glad to organize mail art exhibitions, because I think it is good to make known this international artistic circuit, as fraternity message, without frontiers and discrimination. Also during the III-rd edition of the "MAILARTINCONTRIAMOCI a CASTEL S.PIETRO TERME (8-9-10th September 1995)", besides many performances and installations made by the participant networkers, I prepared a mail art show with fragments of the "Bottle Project" - "1962-1992 - 30 years of M.A. in homage to RAY JOHNSON" and "FELLINI" projects, with one installation of envelopes from all over the world in the centre of the room. It was so much visited and many young artists asked me how to be involved in this circuit. And thus the mail art goes....
RJ: How do you explain the mail art network to those new young artists that want to participate?
Reply on 12-4-1996
AB: I don't make particular effort, because the exhibition tells by itself. The artists who feel (as you say: TO FEEL MAIL ART) something different from the "official" artistic circuit, want to know better this network and ask me information about the possibility to come into communication. So, I give them explanations about mail art projects, with some addresses, notes, articles, etc., etc.
Many young artists think the mail art is like a chain of postcards and enveloped, without knowing the real meaning of this circuit, besides the various ways to interpret mail art.
Personally, I don't like chain-letters because I find them "very cold", without soul, only made to receive an avalanche of works, and I prefer to participate to mail art projects and write directly to the networkers, privileging the human contact, the personal acquaintance, the friendship etc., etc.
RJ: In 1992 there were the Decentralized Networker Congresses (DNC), where mail artists were encouraged to organize meetings. Were you active in this too?
Reply on 18-6-1996
AB: Yes, I was active in that period. In April 1992 I organized the show about my mail art project: "30 YEARS of M.A. in homage to RAY JOHNSON", in Bologna (Italy) at "PRIMA PAGINA space". Baudhuin Simon from Belgium came to Italy to visit it and during the exhibition we also met Fabio Sassi and Rosa Biagi of Bologna, and we had one little congress.
At the inauguration were present many other mail artists too (Alberto Rizzi, Fulgor C. Silvi, Marco Pasian, Giovanni Strada, Nielsen Gavina, etc.)
Successively, Baudhuin Simon (on August 1992) returned to Italy and together we went to VILLORBA (TV), where Ruggero Maggi and M. Pia Fanna Roncoroni had organized one big Congress (4 days), very interesting, with installations, performances and video - meetings, etc. I stayed there 2 days because then I started to SPOLETO (PG) where I redid the show in homage to RAY JOHNSON, in public space. On October 1992 I took part in the meeting at the ARTESTUDIO SUMITHRA by Rosetta Berardi in Ravenna, a whole day with collective works, performances, poetry, etc. Very beautiful meeting, with friendship and human contacts! I finished the year (on december 1992) with another show in Milano (Italy) by Avida Dollars Gallery - always dedicated to Ray Johnson.
RJ: Why do you focus so much on Ray Johnson?
Reply on 24-7-1996
AB: At the beginning I strongly admired this artist who gave life to an artistic universal networking circuit, beyond every cool, conditioning and restrictive rule of the "official art". And in the 1992 DECENTRALIZED CONGRESS YEAR, I considered dutiful to pay homage to his (HE)ART, so I dedicated to him one big mail art project. (Sincerely, today I am very glad to have celebrated Ray Johnson when he lived!)
Successively, reading about him, I was more and more interested to understand this artist, so ironic in his art and in the same time so lonely and private in his life. I'd have wanted to know him personally for better realizing the extraordinary sensibility of a man able to refuse the personal success (a thing so rare in the artist!), in behalf of an artistic collective expression, without celebration, money and honours.
RAY is an interesting and mysterious rebus, like his death. Why 13? Day 13 - Hours 13 - Room 13 !
A great man, with a great art, with a great idea debouching in the international mail art circuit, but I think also with a great human solitude. WHY? I often ask myself. Yes, it's true, I focus on Ray.
RJ: Another great mail artist that is dead for some time is the Italian Cavellini. What do you think was his role in the mail art network?
Reply on 14-10-96
(Together with Anna's answer she sent me two beautiful catalogs of mail art projects she has worked on.)
AB: I like very much Cavellini. He was (is) a great artist, but I find his role in the network much different in respect to Ray Johnson's. First of all, I think Ray gave life to the mail art circuit without being aware of this, through his choice, nearly oriental, to send small signs, little ironical messages, discreet provocations, pointing on the commonplace and myth's absurdity, while Cavellini utilized mail art to auto celebrate himself, affirming the artist's freedom.
He came from the collectivists, had money and could easily travel round the world to meet other artists, playing funnily with his performances, affirming "I am the sole, I am a free genius! " Therefore, I admit to know superficially Cavellini. I read his book A Genius Life where is described also the funny meeting between him and Ray. Wonderful! However Cavellini is loved very much from the artists, and I like his work strongly, too, but my "feeling" is with Ray.
When I paid homage to Ray Johnson with the mail art project "1962-1992 - 30 YEARS OF MAIL ART", the american Lon Spiegelman sent me one poetry dedicated to Cavellini, writing me : "....Anna, don't forget to hommage Cavellini!". In Italy, as you surely know, there is the networker Fausto Paci called "AMBASCIATORE CAVELLINIANO"; he knew Cavellini personally, admired strongly this big artist, and now he goes on with Cavellini's artistic thought!.
RJ: You have been active now in mail art for ten years and must have received lots of stuff. Do you keep all the things that you receive? How does your 'archive' look like?
Reply on 5-1-1997
AB: My mail art "archive" is in the studio where I paint and I try to keep it in good order, to consult it with facility at any moment, but receiving so much stuff, this is not always possible for me! The mail is contained in "gatheres" (in alphabetical order for italian networkers - for abroad in alphabetical order of the Nations).
Moreover, when there is more correspondence with one mail artist, I make a particular "gather" for him. Then I keep the artistamps, the original postcards, the artistic envelopes in separate books.
Concerning instead my mail art projects, a good deal of mail art works is still framed, so as they have been exhibited. Yes, I keep all the things I receive, and now I have also much mail in big boxes to set in order.
Some time ago, a mail artist made the project about circulation (not preservation) in mail art, a provocation against the private little museums. In general, I can agree with this concept, but the major part of the works is dedicated personally, therefore to send them away it seems a "break-gesture" - without appreciation - so contrary to the mail art soul! In any case, I participated to that project, doing my proposal, that is to send to some networkers during the year one portfolio containing mail art works of different artists, as gift. In this way, I think the sense of the personal ties of friendship remains.
Together with my participation-proposal, I sent my first portfolio, as Christmas-gift, being December 1995. I didn't receive an answer, but the worst is I haven't had more news from that mail artist! It is impossible to enter in the head of the people! I didn't think certainly to hurt him. I thought to suggest a good idea!
RJ: Most mail artists write mainly about all those good things that are happening in the mail art network. Are there also negative sides to working within the mail art network?
Reply on 8-4-1997
AB: All beautiful, all beautiful, all beautiful! . . . . . . I have strong doubts when I hear this! Although I love very much mail art and the network, I must however admit the negative sides concerning the mail artists 'contradictions'!
Some of them preach the "false purity" in mail art, but really they don't practice what they preach! They shout to the scandals when they receive the catalogue printed and sponsored, because they say to be out of the mail art soul, while then they send round the world a big quantity of the xerox regarding their mail art activity! This is opportunism because they use mail art to make publicity to themselves, not for community! Instead, the printed catalogue referring to one mail art project regards all participants!
So, I think they have the straw tail. In my opinion, this is a big fault of the network: mail art is free art, well, no money in mail art, very well, alternative art, well too, but why, if possible naturally, don't improve the documentation? Pay attention to the hypocrisy, she is always in wait.
RJ: Well, I fully agree with you on that. I don't mind at all if someone has a sponsor who pays for a wonderful catalogue, but I also do appreciate the small catalogues people make by themselves without any sponsor. These unwritten rules, like "mail art & money don't mix" sometimes are misinterpreted by mail artists. Maybe we should make the new rule "there are no rules in mail art". What do you think Anna?
Reply on 24-6-1997
AB: Yes, wonderful! "No rules in MAIL ART"! I can completely agree with this. I find it right, because - on the contrary - where is the 'freedom' of mail art? Our mouth is always full of this phrase: "MAIL ART is FREE ART", but when, how, where, if the mail artist is always prompt to criticize and misinterpret.
Therefore I think it is important to make the new rule "there are no rules in mail art" and every networker will decide his/her choice! With his/her conscious.
Concerning the sponsor in mail art, to pay a big catalogue, I accept with pleasure this opportunity, but - like you - I appreciate very much the small catalogues "hand-made" in xerox, that I receive always with great pleasure. I appreciate also a simple list of names, and, in particular, I love every thing sent to me by mail. And just for this "my feeling" regarding the circuit, I find these limits very 'stupid'.
Other thing: When I participate to one mail art project, I send my work with pleasure, without thinking of a catalogue. If this reaches me successfully, I am glad to receive it and it is always a surprise for me; on the contrary it is not a problem for me! The important thing is the contact that was there!
RJ: Two new things you started to work on during this interview is the mail-art magazine Wild Rabbit News which you do together with Graziella Caroni, and I also noticed the new stamp "MAILARTMEETING ARCHIVES". What is the story behind those two? Why start another zine, why create another archive?
Reply on 27-9-1997
AB: The story is very simple. Unfortunately, two important mail-art bulletins stopped: NET INFORMER of Andrea Ovcinnicoff (Genova) and TRANSFUSION of Alessandro Ceccotto (Adria). One day, after a long talk about this situation with Graziella Caroni, we decided with enthusiasm to give life to the Wild Rabbit News , thinking it could be useful for the mail art circuit. In fact, after the first number, we received demonstration of interest, request to insert projects and particularly we receive various rabbits from many networkers and we put them in every number.
Concerning MAIL ART MEETING ARCHIVES, this was already existing, but I wanted to mention it, and referring to the MAIL ART IN CONTRIAMOCI meeting, I have chosen MAILARTMEETING Archives. What do you think of it? I feel it is right for mail art? Therefore the story is very simple, but I ask you: Why another?
RJ: With the question "Why another?" I also was referring to your motivation to keep on doing this mail art and collecting material. Hasn't repetition of doing things started in, or is mail art still a surprise to you every new day again?
(With her answer Anna Boschi sent a photo of a recent meeting of mail-artists in Italy, the mailartincontramoci on 30/31 August 1997 in Castel S. Pietro, and the newest issue of Wild Rabbit News )
AB: Yes, mail art is still a surprise to me every new day again! When the mail arrives, I am happy and I feel in artistic conversation (through the "RED WIRE" joining every soul) with friends all over the world. It is wonderful!
For this reason, I like to do every thing about communication and mail art. I would strongly like to be in the possibility to answer always to old and new networkers, but my days must be of 48 hours!
I am a painter since many years (structures, recycled and assembled materials, etc.) and I love my work, but in mail art I find freedom, fraternity, exchanges, human contacts so much rare in the artistic (and not) universe. When I shall not more find these sentiments in my mail art, I shall stop, but always I shall thank the friends of the circuit for that they gave me!
Therefore, in this moment where various bulletins have stopped (also Global Mail ! Do you know? Is it true?) it is a great pleasure for me to give the "service" to the circuit. In fact, from this month it will start the first number of the Mailartmeeting Bulletin with mail art projects, while Graziella Caroni will continue Wild Rabbit News , with rabbit images, projects, notes etc. soon in Internet ......AND MAIL ART GOES .........
RJ: Do you think that mail art is a term one can also use for the activities that mail artists undertaking on the internet?
Reply on 4-1-1998
AB: Really, I think the right term for the activities undertaken on the internet is Electronic Mail Art , because mail art is for me only when there is transmission by post-box, and internet never will replace the paper poetry, the colour harmony, the sign strength. This is MAIL ART! (I think, naturally).
In any case E-mail art is very interesting, important, USEFUL and too much capturing.
(With her mail Anna Boschi sent me some magazines. Also another mailing arrived with the newest issues of Mailartmeeting Bulletin and the documentation of Anna's project "What do you inspire this house?". The next question was only sent out middle of March 1998 due to a little break I took - RJ)
RJ: Are you participating in Vittore's IM98 project? Since it is initiated in Italy I suspect this will cause a lot of activities in Italy.......
Reply on 7-5-1998
(Because of a small break in the interview-process I only retyped the answer on January 16th, and sent the next question on that day. The IM98 project has already come to an end and Vittore probably is working on the documentation right now. In the period between the two questions Anna Boschi has been busy. She has sent me several copies of her Mailartmeeting Bulletin , and also I received the catalogue of her project LIBRI d'ARTISTA e POESIA VISIVA - MAIL ART 4 , a book of 143 pages with illustrations of the contributions to this project.)
AB: Yes, I received some months ago the invitation to take part in the Incongruous Meetings during 1998 (IM 98), but I think to continue the MAILARTINCONTRIAMOCI meeting, because it is already an incongruous meeting! It can be an intelligent meeting, an intolerant meeting, an impossible meeting, an insuperable meeting etc. etc. However I suspect too there will be in Italy a lot of activities. In fact, Emilio Morandi will make the IM 98 on July 20th 1998, just when there is his birthday, the same day of GIORGIO MORANDI's birth, the big and international artist "bolognese" (he was born in Bologna, Italy on July 20th 1890). Do you remember my mail art project "Bottle project" dated 1990 in homage to him? Did you participate? Now, I don't remember. His poetry were the bottles (full of silence, art and lyrism). Emilio Morandi wants to refer to this solitary and great artist, being born the same day, many years after.
Besides, I am sure other Italian networkers will make an Incongruous Meeting. But, sincerely, this is a hard year for me, on account of serious family problems; I shall continue to make mail art and to not break the "red wire" with the circuit, but with less participation and contacts. However my heart will be always with you all!
Next question sent on 16-1-1999
RJ: I guess it is right time now to end the interview. I understand all to well the busy periods in ones life since I have one right now as well. Was there anything I forgot to ask you before we end the interview and publish it?
(Together with the last question I sent Anna the complete text of the interview to proofread and some more info's.)
Reply on 15-5-1999
AB: Dear Ruud, I am sending you the corrections of the typing mistakes of your interview with me. I thank you very much for what you did and for all the interesting and important documentation you sent me. I like the interview and I hope you make the book, when you can, naturally.
- END -
Mail-artist: Anna Boschi, Via G. Tanari n. 1445/B, 40024 Castels. Pietro, Terme (BO) - ITALY
Interviewer: Ruud Janssen - TAM, P.O.Box 1055, 4801 BB Breda, NETHERLANDS
E-mail Ruud Janssen
Café Jas .
Museum Entrance . . .