MinXus Mail Bag: “This is not Black Mountain College” by Richard Canard (Carbondale, Illinois, USA)

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Mail-art by Richard Canard (Carbondale, Illinois, USA)


Prolific correspondent Richard Canard consistently sends us tremendous mail-art. This readymade (slightly altered) is our favorite to date, and the reason for this requires some explanation for Tenderfoots who are not longtime network veterans.

First, Richard Canard is extremely humble. He will not tell you (but we certainly will) that he was a member of Ray Johnson’s original New York Correspondance School. Most Ray Johnson fans who have delved into the matter know RayJo attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina, USA. This brochure Richard seems to have found in Kentucky is, of course, a wry reference to BMC and a commentary on ever-changing cultural contexts.

Black Mountain College (1933-57) had an astounding impact on global culture. Although it closed many years ago, the spirit continues today. Mail-art can be considered one of its many legacies. Ray Johnson studied at BMC from 1945-48. It was there that he made friends and contacts including John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Willem de Kooning and Robert Rauschenberg who were of such importance in his life and to the mail-art network:


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John Cage staged early, intermedia events at BMC that would blossom into “Happenings” and performance art elsewhere, ultimately contributing to Fluxus. Concrete and visual poetry from Brazil and Europe were introduced in the United States through Black Mountain College (and other locations as well), helping to establish the international visual poetry network that has been connected to mail-art for decades. In the years following Ray Johnson’s graduation and under the leadership of Charles Olson with Robert Creeley editing the Black Mountain Review, the college became the center of a literary movement associated with the Beat Generation.

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Volumes have been written about BMC with endless speculation about how and why a cultural revolution in the West began in rural North Carolina USA rather than, say, New York or the great cultural centers of Europe. Richard Canard, ever ironic and perceptive, raises all these issues with this ingenious mailing. He creates nostalgia while at the same time reminding us to question myth-making.

Deepest thanks, as ever, to Richard Canard!

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