MinXus Mail Bag: Origami by Petrolpetal & our thoughts on meaningless relationships (Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa)

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Mail-art by Petrolpetal (Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa)

We are continually awed by the quantity and quality of mail-art coming from South Africa. Cheryl Penn’s South African Correspondence School has certainly contributed to this phenom, but other talents are emerging independently as well.

Petrolpetal, a relative newcomer as far as we know, is both prolific and innovative. This is the second installment of her work to grace our humble blog, and we have scarcely considered our response to her first missive. The concept for this work is a series of origami-style envelopes made from book pages. The interior envelopes (see above) contain wonderfully cryptic items just begging the recipient to create an interpretation.

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We adore the envelopes, which leads us to consider why we do not see more origami in mail-art; it seems a natural fit. This fantastic work also has brought us to consider the nature of assemblages of found material, cryptic messages and talismanic items that constitute the content of so much mail-art. The artist might very well have a meaning and message in mind, but the work is essentially a construct of personal symbols that are at first impenetrable. Over time, as correspondence is exchanged and a relationship developed, the recipient learns to “read” the artist’s language and dialog is then possible. In other cases, the artist very likely intuitively creates a system of texts, objects and images that have no rational intention or articulation other than a pleasing construct. This is indeterminacy. Ray Johnson certainly injected the concept of the indeterminate via John Cage into the discourse of the network. Creating meaning becomes a participatory activity between sender and recipient.

All this also leads us to recall a fav article about the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets that appeared long ago in the Village Voice entitled “Meaningless Relationships.” The writer, wryly but insightfully, discussed this very issue of reading purposefully constructed, indeterminate texts: a use of randomness and the process of creating meaning from the meaningless. Indeed, our first encounter with Langpo came through the mail-art network. Much mail-art and Langpo have common roots in the indeterminate. This work by Petropetal, far distant in time and space from Ray Johnson’s New York City and the ascension of East Coast Langpo, shows the persistence of the indeterminate. Here is the outside envelope:

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And the reverse:

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Many thanks to Petropetal for this beautiful and thought-provoking work!


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