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international networking 1999

Three decades after mail art blossomed into an international phenomenon, it largely remains a closed circuit of white males mailing to white males.

At times, this wide open network seems as insular and self-absorbed as the hegemonic gallery system that many mail artists claim to oppose. True, the medium challenges much current ideology regarding production, distribution, and authorship of art. In disintegrating distinctions between art and everyday life, it fuses principles of Fluxus and Beuysian social sculpture into a dynamic global network based on correspondence and free exchange.

However, this network remains seriously limited. Most, though not all, of its most prolific practicioners, theorists, and archivists, from seminal figures like Ray Johnson and Jean-Marc Poinsot to such contemporaries as Guy Bleus and John Held, Jr., are white males living in Western Europe or North America. The great promise of a loose international collaborative involving thousands of artists of different races, ages, cultures, and social classes, where entry is the price of a postage stamp, has yet to be realized.

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