Published in the catalogue for the ”Staatliches Museum Schwerin”’s (Germany) exhibition MAIL ART : Osteuropa im Internationalen Netzwerk (1996)
As a longtime participant in the Mail Art Network, contact with East European artists was both intriguing and highly stimulating.
Now I am talking about pre-1989; since then activity in the East seems to have dramatically dropped.
East European Mail Artists acted on different levels than their Western correspondents. First, there was a larger amount of skilled artists involved, whose focus on the artworks themselves differed a lot from many of the Western Mail Artists, who often were”amateurs” in the field of art and took part in the Network mostly with playfulness and the intent to communicate. ”Easterners” were more serious about their works and about their situation, and I guess that a lot of them also used the Mail Art Network in the hope of getting in touch with gallerists abroad and in the hope of being ”discovered” and becoming involved in a less restricted art trade system than those in their censorship controlled communist homelands.
To me, it was also somewhat absurd to receive information about ”Stasi artists” being actively involved in the Network – some of them, I am sure, had been in contact with the Stasi without knowing it.
For me, who published a magazine, it was pleasant to get all those good works from East European Mail Artists, to put them on print and, in return, send them samples of the magazine. Sometimes they ”disappeared” on their way to the receivers, but more often they reached the addressee, which sometimes resulted in exchange of more private letters and views.
On some occasions I also managed to arrange exhibitions here in Norway with East European artists, thanks to contacts established through the Mail Art Network.
And there were also visits to some of the artists; very stimulating, and giving me insight.
So, to me personally, there wasn’t just the ”thrill” of reaching behind the Iron Curtain that motivated me; rather it was the satisfaction of learning to know about some of those countries’ very fine artists who were working under the oppressive conditions which had made it necessary for them to develop their very own special ”style” in European art, filled with understatements and loaded with symbolism which hardly anyone in the West knew about.