"A mail artist doesn't have to be an artist." - Ruud Janssen

TAM Mail-Interview Project

by Ruud Janssen

  1. The MAIL-INTERVIEW project started in 1994 where I decided that I wanted to do some research about what the other mail-artists think it is all about. Because some mail-artists publish themselves a lot and others don't, I took the initiative myself to start with interviewing people.

  2. Because the communication-forms used in mail-art/networking, are not only the traditional envelope, I decided to experiment also during this (long-time) project with several different forms. Some examples: The mail-interview with Klaus Groh was for a large part done by FAX. The mail-interview with Michael Leigh (A1) was mostly done by the traditional mail. The interviews with Arto Posto and Ken Friedman were almost completely done by E-mail on the Internet. The interview with Michael Lumb was mostly done by the exchanging of diskette. The interview with Patricia Collins went via snail-mail and in the end she just hooked up with the internet.

  3. The project is going very well at the moment, but as you might guess it is absorbing a lot of my time. Dealing with the replies and sending out the new questions has priority above my regular mail.

  4. For the statistics some information: I invited 66 mail-artists so far and 52 reacted positively to the project. Till today 23 interviews are finished and 20 interviews are published. The difference (23-20 = 3) is the number of issues which are in the proces of being published.

  5. After finishing the lay-out for the interview, in which I use the questions and answers together with the results of the communication- proces parallel to the interview, the interviews will be accessible for everybody. The mail-artist that is interviewed will always get a clean copy of the text, if he/she wants a diskette with the ASCII-version of the interview, and some copies of the final booklet. So far I mostly made two versions of the interviews-booklets. One version only contains the text printed in relative small letters (questions and answers) and the other one is printed with a larger letter-type and contains more visual information of how the interview was done. Because of the cost-factor I had to do this. In this choice I am able to let more people read the interview (the text- version). The extended version is for the mail artist that is interviewed and the subscribers. People who order back-issues get the extended version when available. If they have run out you will automatically get a clear print of the complete interview.

  6. In short, the mail-interview project is a series of mail art projects. Every interview is a single project and results in an interview-booklet produced by TAM. The interviewed person gets two booklets for free, and also a booklet remains in the TAM-Archive. When looked at it like that, it is a mail art project that floows the mail art rules. The fact that others can get the results too (ordering or exchange) is just done to make the interviews accessible to the network.

  7. Because it would be an expensive joke to send all the interviews to anybody, they are available for (selective) trade, or if you don't have anything I am interested in, you could pay for the costs of printing and sending (3 US$ for each interview). You can also subscribe to the mail- interviews in advance, and then you get the large versions (limited edition!).

  8. In October 1995 I started also with distributing the interviews via internet (first one was Dick Higgins's interview). The interview-text is transformed into an ASCII-file and send via e-mail to interested persons. If you are into e-mail, send me an e-mail message for info!

  9. All the info I probably get now would be enough for a complete book. I only need to find a publisher too, because it then really gets expensive... Eventually that might be the result, but that will become clear in some years. If it does happen, all the people who are interviewed will receive information and if possible a free copy of the book. Another possibility would be to publish the complete set of interviews on a CD- ROM. It is something which is possible also and would be an intersting new thing in mail art. I will keep everybody informed on how things develope. Publishing the interviews on internet will be the quickest way, but then it isn't accesible for everybody.

  10. If you think there is someone out there that I should interview too, I am open to suggestions. Just send me name, address, and the reason why.... And I will see what I will do with it. So far it seems that there are more males than females that I am interviewing, so I welcome some good suggestions of people that would be interesting to interview. For this purpose I am sending out small papers with this info too. Because at the moment already lots of interviews are in progress, it might take some time before I start new ones (in case I decide to prolong the project).

  11. INTERVIEWS that have been published so far are listed below. Every round of interviews contains 12 interviews, and I just started the sixth round. Since there is no deadline or fixed scedule for each interview they are finished only when the time is right. Most interviews are from 15 pages upto 25 pages. The publication number is mentioned, the name, the follow-up number of started interviews, and which round it was.

    PUBLISHED IN 1995:

    * TAM950065 - with Michael Leigh, England (No.9 - first round)
    * TAM950066 - with Klaus Groh, Germany (No.5 - first round)
    * TAM950076 - with Arto Posto, USA (No.25 - third round)
    * TAM950079 - with Michael Lumb, England (No.12 - first round)
    * TAM950080 - with Rod Summers, Netherlands (No.11 - first round)
    * TAM950085 - with Henning Mittendorf, Germany (No.22 - second round)
    * TAM950087 - with Dobrica Kamperelic, Yugoslavia (No.4 - first round)
    * TAM950088 - with Chuck Welch (Crackerjack Kid), USA (No.24 - second round)
    * TAM950091 - with Robin Crozier, England (No.1 - first round)
    * TAM950092 - with Anna Banana, Canada (No.13 - second round)
    * TAM950095 - with John Held Jr. , USA - PART 1 (No.2 - first round)
    * TAM950097 - with Carlo Pittore, USA (No.33 - third round)
    * TAM950101 - with Jenny de Groot, Netherlands (No.28 - third round)

    (** Means that they are in the proces of being printed!)

    * TAM960103 - with Svjetlana Mimica, Croatia (No.7 - first round)
    ** TAM960104 - with Ken Friedman, Norway (No.40 - fourth round)
    * TAM960105 - with Dick Higgins, USA (No.43 - fourth round)
    * TAM960110 - with Ashley Parker Owens, USA (No.17 - second round)
    * TAM960114 - with Clemente Padin, Uruguay (No. 14 - second round)
    ** TAM960115 - with Mark Bloch, USA (No. 23 - second round)
    * TAM960116 - with Mark Greenfield, England (No. 29 - third round)
    * TAM960123 - with Patricia Collins, England (No. 51 - fifth round)
    * TAM960124 - with John M. Bennett, USA (No. 47 - fourth round)

    * The interview with Ray Johnson was broken up because of his death. He only answered two questions in his 'traditional' (visual) way.I will publish them together with some more information I can find about him later this year. Any information about Ray is most welcome. As it looks now the booklet will become a rather thick book. If you are interested in the text of his answers, just ask for it and I'll send it to you for free.

  12. I am currently also working on other publications. Due to time- problems things get postponed again and again. I will inform you when other things get done with seperate information-sheets.

  13. These newsletters are always updated with the most current data and therefore might look like previous issues. Because of the constant development of the project please inform if you read the latest newsletter. For this purpose mostly every month there is a new update of this newsletter.

  14. SUBSCRIBE! If you subscribe to new interviews it will be quite a surprise which interviews you will get. Current rate for the costs of one interview in printing and sending is about US$ 3,- (for the large versions including some visuals) If you do send money, please mention what you would like. This formula works also for people who aren't a mail-artists but still would like to get the information (like institutes, archives and libraries). If you want more then one issue, just multiply the amount with the amount of numbers you want. There is a special order-form for this! Most of you know I prefer exchange, but for this write me with propositions first and send an IRC for me to reply to your proposition. Most interviewed mail artists have a clean print of the complete interview as well. They can make reprints of the interview if they would like to spread the news.

  15. Sometimes I get letters like "I want all the interviews". My response to such a request is mostly sending the orderform with the latest details. Some interview-booklets aren't available anymore, so you can only order the complete text-print of the interview. Only for subscribers to future issues (or issues that are about to come out) I make the extended version. The other (text-)booklets are made to send out into the network (sometimes randomly or to mail-friends of the interviewed person). So if you want all the interviews; the collection grows quickly, and you have to realize that this project is a costly one. The 3 US-bucks I ask for each interview, doesn't cover the real costs at all, but are just meant to keep the project going.

  16. Some mail artists suggested that I should interview myself, but that is a bit strange. I know the answers to most of my own questions. But quite recently some mail artists started to interview me. The results will become part of the project too, and I will inform you when the results are about to be published.

Dated May 14, 1996

For additional information write
Ruud Janssen - TAM, P.O.Box 1055, 4801 BB Breda, NETHERLANDS
E-mail : [email protected]

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