Mail Art and
Lon Spiegelman Do Mix:
A Memorial Tribute
by JohnHeld, Jr.
"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."
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 (December 11, 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.
Vol. 1, No. 1 (October 1983).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,
with Mollett's troop THE MUD
PEOPLE... I am mute. Spiegelman
will be home shortly.
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).
Wednesday, April 24, 1991
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
Have breakfast with Ackerman and Mollett at the Crest. Drive to Johnny "Oh Boy" Tostado's house in Burbank. Jules Davis is also there. Johnny shows me his Mail Art workshop. We rubber stamp some perforated gummed sheets I've brought along. Back to Lon's at 2:00.
(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 York City by bus. Arrive in El Paso at 5:30 (Mountain Time Zone). Back to Dallas at 7:30 (Central Time Zone). Read a weeks worth of mail.
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 #5: Trimestrale d'Arte and Cultura Alternativa.
"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."