Gerard Barbot mail art to John Held, 1988
This site hosts the course material for Prof. Miriam Kienle's seminar on the International Mail Art Movement as well as student research into the mail art collections housed at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.
As explored in the readings and research presented here, mail artists from the 1960s to the present looked to the postal system as an alternative means of producing and distributing art. Mail art (also known as “correspondence art” or “postal art”) emerged as a process that self-reflexively used the mail to make art and share it with other like-minded artists around the world. With postcards, letters, packages, postage and rubberstamps—as well as materials that tested the limits of what could be posted—mail artists circumvented traditional modes of display and distribution (i.e. museums, galleries, and private dealers) and stressed the interconnectedness between participants as enabled by the post.
Examining how mail art worked across divergent cultural circumstances—from Soviet-era Poland to Argentina under the Pinochet dictatorship—this course and online exhibition will engage issues of circulation, connectivity, and community in and between specific national contexts during the Cold War and beyond.