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international networking

Dead White Mail is a correspondence project based on exploring the assertions and limits of the international mail art network.

big envelope

The correspondence project began with my mailing some 500 envelopes to individuals across the globe. Each envelope was painted white inside and out, and each bore a rubberstamp inviting the recipient to "please send some white mail about dead white males."

Many envelopes included toy soldiers or similar figurines whose skin was painted various shades of white. In addition, return postage, in the form of domestic stamps or International Reply Coupons, was attached to each envelope.

The unique collaborative possiblities of correspondence art were explored in the "change-and-return" format. This approach denies singular authorship, instead materializing a conversation.

Developed by Ray Johnson in his "moticos" of the late 1950s, the method foregrounds the Surrealist principle of what Roland Barthes calls "several people writing together." Multiple voices collapse into a single work, one whose trajectory through time and space can be charted by referring to return addresses and postal cancellations. Many of the latter involve still more, often anonymous and usually unwitting, bureaucratic collaborators.

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