MinXus Mail Bag: “Snarl” (aka “Smile”) Zine 1988 w/ Karen Eliot Interview from Borderline Grafix (Austin, Texas, USA)

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Cover of Snarl zine (Fall 1988) published in Madison, Wisconsin, USA

As the third installment featuring documentation of a huge mailing we received from Borderline Grafix in Texas, we are pleased to present excerpts from a rare 1980s zine movement artifact. Smile is one of the better known mail-art network zines from that era and Snarl, released in the Fall of 1988, is one of the fascinating variants. Borderline Grafix managed to obtain a complete issue, which he kindly shared with us.

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Much of the content of this issue of Snarl is dense essays that take an anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-sexist and anti-consumerist stance. The spirit of Bob Black’s The Abolition of Work is much in evidence. Snarl reflects the dominant (leftist, radical, anarchist) ideology that permeated the zines; but it is much more academic and pointedly political than the majority of its post-punk counterparts. We would venture to guess it was connected to (graduate) students at the University of Wisconsin. The true identity of the authors is obscured, giving the impression of collective writing. Plagiarism was much in vogue then as well. Snarl does include reviews (above) which appeared in many zines and helped build the network.

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While text-heavy, Snarl does offer some good examples of zine art.

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Of special interest to us in this issue of Snarl is an emphasis on the Karen Eliot multiple-user identity so central to Neoism, which by 1988 had reached a peak and was slipping into a decline, at least of its first iteration.

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Karen Eliot is very erudite in Snarl.

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And even more, helped by some artwork…

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A punky back cover:

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Many thanks to Borderline Grafix in Austin, Texas for sharing this lost classic with us!


MinXus Mail Bag: “Subscription Opus Issue 56” from Jude Weirmeir (San Diego, California, USA)

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Mail-art by Jude Weirmeir (San Diego, California, USA)

A big “Howdy” and a deep “Much Appreciated” goes out to San Diego-based musician Jude Weirmeir for sending us a copy of his a-mazing Subscription Opus zine (Issue 56 Maze Music). We were hitherto unaware of Jude Weirmeir and this FAB project where mail-art, performance and event scores (along with other elements, no doubt) seamlessly intersect in classic yet inventive intermedia fashion.

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Subscription Opus Issue 56 is printed on a large, single sheet of heavy paper folded and sliced to create a total of 16 panels that passes easily through the postal system. When the recipient opens the missive, one side (or eight panels) reveals the a-mazing “Maze Music”: an intricate and totally fascinating work. A section is shown above.

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The remaining eight panels are devoted to colorful prints and relevant information. We think this (above) is Jude Weirmeir.

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The piece required no envelope:

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We are thrilled to have this wonderful zine that so skillfully connects music, performance and mail-art.


MinXus Mail Bag: The “Lost” Excavations Collages by liketelevisionsnow with Svenja Wahl (Tamworth, New Hampshire, USA)

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Collage by liketelevisionsnow (Tamworth, New Hampshire, USA)

Fave artist and mail-art friend liketelevisionsnow sent us a package of his beautiful collage works. This mailing is so exceedingly generous and amazing that we can scarcely think how to express our thanks adequately. Fortunately, we can keep the gushing to a minimum as there are back stories to relate we think will help contextualize this work by liketelevisionsnow (ltvs) for Tenderfoots. The opening piece (above) is a gorgeous, original collage mounted on cardboard worthy of instant exhibition. Documentation is included on the back:

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In an accompanying message to us, ltvs wrote: “Thank you for writing the review of the ‘Glitches’ video. It was very well written and very much appreciated. I would like you to have this original collage entitled ‘Auto Suggestion’ as my way of thanking you.” Tenderfoots might recall we provided extensive coverage here at MinXus-Lynxus of the DK glitch art feature in the eminent of Redux: An International Magazine of the Arts:


This was a very exciting “Happening” for us to say the least, and it is we who should be heaping ltvs with gifts for including our humble review in such an august publication and such a worthy feature on Diane Keys and glitch art. Regardless, we treasure this wonderful collage. And as if that were not enough, ltvs sent us a truly remarkable publication:

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This beautifully produced “zine” (the term is used tentatively to describe a publication of this quality) contains 21 plates of a series of collages ltvs made for Svenja Wahl’s (Heidelberg, Germany) Excavations zine project. Here is our announcement of the launch of Svenja Wahl’s Excavations project from last summer. (Yes, now – technically – we are talking about a publication by ltvs and separate publications by Svenja Wahl, but they are closely related):


We will provide for you some representative excerpts from Excavations by ltvs as it is not our intention to reproduce the ltvs zine entirely in digital form, but we do very much want to share the art with you:

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We have been able to reconstruct a backstory that provides insight into why and how this series was created. Svenja Wahl has asked each participating artist to mail her approximately 22-28 pages of original content for inclusion in issues of her Excavations zine. ltvs thus created these pieces and mailed them from New Hampshire to Germany. The situation, sadly, became MMM (More Mail-Art Melodrama). Alas, we gather that the hard copies were lost in the postal system. They did not arrive. MIA. Then it was a tragedy. Most artists can relate to the heartbreak and anxiety this would cause for all involved. BUT ltvs had the foresight to keep digital versions of the series (something we should all do always!). He turned near-tragedy into a remarkable project considerably enlarging Svenja Wahl’s Excavations concept.

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Collage by liketelevisionsnow (Tamworth, New Hampshire, USA)

In his letter ltvs further explains: “I’m also sending a recent collection of my collages called ‘Excavations.’ The collages were done on printed copies of Svenja’s piece, which in German was also titled ‘autosuggestion.’ The Excavations were done for a zine that Svenja is working on at present.”

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Due in part to the collaborative nature of the work with Svenja Wahl and the ltvs sensibility, the series has a remarkable serial quality employing and at times working against repetition. Visual syntax is present creating (arguably) an ambiguous but clearly present narrative.

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Again, we deeply appreciate both the original collage and the Excavations publication sent by liketelevisionsnow. We hope we have given Tenderfoots an adequate view of this work without “letting the cat out of the bag” completely. Surely more work from the ltvs/Wahl series will surface elsewhere. We have issues of Svenja Wahl’s Excavations zine to look forward to as well.

MinXus Mail Bag: A Puzzle and Origami from Claudia Garcia (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

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Mail-art by Claudia Garcia (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Time flies (the paper bird we received reminds us) and it has been almost a year since we last received mail-art from our friend Claudia Garcia:


So this is a real occasion. She sent us this lovely response to a missive of Trashpo and vispo we sent her sometime during the autumn. The bagged pieces fit together into a work revealing Claudia Garcia’s distinctive style:

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We also greatly appreciate the origami:

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A nicely decorated envelope:

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The reverse:

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Wonderful to exchange mail-art with Claudia Garcia! We hope to stay in touch.

MinXus Mail Bag: The Town & the Country by Michele K. Henderson (Buhl, Alabama, USA)

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Mail-art by Michele K. Henderson (Buhl, Alabama, USA)

Deepest thanks go out along with a nod and a secret MinXus handshake to Tenderfoot Michele K. Henderson who sent us this lovely card from sunny Alabama. Michele knows that we spent some time in Alabama and are always eager to hear from old friends and to make new ones from that part of the world. We were in Auburn, Alabama (not to be confused with Auburn, New York). Michele, a superb maker of cards, is in the northern part of the state. Of course, we are in Upstate New York where the setting tends to be much more rural than our neighbors Downstate. The early arrival of horrendous winter in nearby Western NY (Buffalo) has us in a “New York state of mind” indeed.

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The Crimson Tide is the University of Alabama’s football team, of course. They have a historic and exciting rivalry with the Tigers at Auburn University.  Again, a warm Mink Ranch welcome and many thanks to Michele K. Henderson!

From “The Mystery of Mink Falls” – Asemic Fiction by Dark Wall (asemic writing, asemic fiction, concrete poetry, visual poetry)

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Unauthorized Bootleg Transcript of DK – Post Master Interview

Investigative Mail-Art: Postal Worker Answers DK’s Hard Questions

On behalf of mail-artists everywhere, DK conducted an in-depth interview with a former postal worker who achieved a high career rank in the USA mail system. DK’s source, now retired, agreed to answer all the gloves-off questions on the grounds that her identity is kept anonymous. The result is an insider view of the postal system with a close look at issues that impact the mail-art community.

DK: Since you work for the post office, can I do a not-so-formal interview with you? It would make you major famous in the mail art community. I can send you questions….believe in Nixies!!!!

Post Mistress X: Sure. But I’ve been retired from there for a few years.

DK: Even better! Please do this at your own pace because I want to pick your brain. Are you familiar with mail-art? I am a part of a network of artists that create art sent through the mail. It is our passion and postal workers are rock stars to us as they make it all possible.

Post Mistress X: I’ve never heard of it.

DK: Most of the time our mail is sent through even though much is strange and what we call ‘naked’ – meaning no envelope – just weird shit sent with stamps only. People have sent cans of soup, china tea cups, etc., with only stamps placed on the object and it has gone though. This is an international thing. We are having this discussion because sometimes mail will bounce back to us even if it is correctly addressed, with correct postage, etc. Sometimes it will come back several times.

Post Mistress X: LOL. Yes. I’ve seen that stuff.

DK: So this is the debate: I have always known my postal workers personally, and they love seeing the weird shit I get and send. I tend to think it breaks up their monotony. Others believe mail-art is a huge pain in the ass for postal workers. They’d rather send it back with a message, ‘Stop mailing this shit. You make my life harder.’

Post Mistress X: In these modern times, it is a pain in the ass. Most mail processing is done by machine. Anything that isn’t machine-processed just causes more work and usually takes longer to process

DK: What is the weirdest thing you have seen someone send through the mail naked?

Post Mistress X: Men’s underwear.

DK: What is the general response to such things at the USPS?

Post Mistress X: Local level: Amusement. District: Processing pain in the ass.

DK: Do you think the mailmen/women get a kick out of the unusual?

Post Mistress X: A very big kick.

DK: Why do they send shit back when it is properly mailed? Laziness? Disgust? Mind numbed?

Post Mistress X: If they are sending it back, it has to be for a reason, which should be shown on the piece.

Post Mistress X: Someone didn’t send it to manual processing and returned it via mechanical processing.

DK: That’s where the Nixie conversation came up. The piece that said Nixie was all correct yet came back twice. I did nothing different, and it went through the third time. Yet the person who mailed it on had it come back to him twice although it was all correct. Third time was a charm that time too. What do you suppose is the reason? If they send it back, why do they sometimes cancel the stamps? Why are stamps sometimes not cancelled?

Post Mistress X: Nixie clerks are just a job and most hate the work. It is usually given to folks on medical restrictions and is one of the worst jobs.

Post Mistress X: If it can’t be processed by machine, then the stamps could get missed. The carrier is supposed to cancel them if they are missed.

DK: I told you I have a lot of questions. Do most post office workers hate their lives/jobs? Do people really all wish to be Nixies? Do workers really not know about or call them Nixies? How, why and where do things go in the process of getting to the Dead Letter Office and what happens to all that shit?

DK: A bunch of us once sent mail art addressed to the moon. Where do you think that went?

DK: I had a friend that worked at the post office sorting. He said it was so mind-numbingly repetitive (this was before robots did it, I think) that they would trip on acid to cope. Are drugs common/a problem?

Post Mistress X: They might hate some of the working conditions, but I did love my job.

DK: Were you in the station or a delivery person?

DK: I see now you saw someone send underwear with just stamps no box?

Post Mistress X: Yep.

Post Mistress X: Nixies is just a term for mail that is undeliverable

DK: Where does undeliverable/unreturnable mail go? What is the process? Do they then destroy it?

Post Mistress X: The Dead Letter Office handles all the regional nixies that cannot be processed locally.

DK: One article actually called the workers ‘nixies.’ Is that bs?

Post Mistress X: At the Dead Letter Office they can open some things and return them if there is information inside.

DK: So Nixie is a noun not a person?

Post Mistress X: It is the writer making a short version of the job title. The title is Nixie Clerk. Nixies is actually the term for the mail, and the person processing it is Nixie Clerk

DK: Cool. Then what if they can’t deliver? Is this where letters to Santa go?

Post Mistress X: There are special procedures for letters to Santa. Usually a local organization will fill out the paperwork to get them or there is a national location where we send them. If it can’t be delivered or returned to sender and has no value, it is destroyed. If it is of value, it is at some point auctioned

DK: So they open it all as a last resort, and then where is it all auctioned? What is a postal worker’s ideal position and/or the most sought after? Is it common that a lot of valuable packages, etc. end up there?

Post Mistress X: Oh no, some will be opened and some just destroyed; it all depends.

DK: So our undeliverable mail-art most likely ends up destroyed, and what does that mean? Shredded? Burned? Dumpster?

Post Mistress X: Shredded and recycled.

Post Mistress X: Like everything the perfect job depends on the person. I loved being a postmaster.

DK: How cool. What is the most valuable thing that ended up auctioned?

Post Mistress X: Very little actually ends up at the Dead Letter Office.

Post Mistress X: I have no idea about value since I was never allowed to purchase through the auctions being an employee, so I’d never go or look them up.

DK: Is that because they try really hard to get it delivered in spite of obstacles or most people send it properly?

Post Mistress X: Both. We try really hard and most folks do send it properly. The best is the Christmas cards to ‘Grandma and Grandpa, City, State’ with no return address. We figure it out locally because of the postmark.

DK: What about the drugs?

Post Mistress X: I missed the drug question.

DK: I had a friend who worked at the post office sorting. He said it was so mind numbingly repetitive (this was before robots did it, I think) that they would trip on acid to cope. Are drugs a common/a problem?

Post Mistress X: Actually, drugs are not a common problem. You lose your job for that shit, and it is a safety issue.

DK: Good to know. I think he did lose his job. So you would say for the most part our mail-art is probably considered more of a pain in the ass than anything else?

Post Mistress X: Think about how clear your mind needs to be to know by address which route a piece of mail goes to in a town with 100,000 addresses and 200 routes. Drugged ain’t gonna cut it.

Post Mistress X: I think at processing it is a pain in the ass, and at the delivery office it is enjoyed.

DK: Can you remember other weird shit you have seen mailed without envelopes or boxes? Some post offices have said they can’t mail that way, but rules have been investigated and it is allowable as long as there is enough postage, although many just send it without a return address and it almost always goes through.

Post Mistress X: Coconuts. Lots and lots of coconuts.

DK: Each individually stamped?

Post Mistress X: Yep.

DK: Is it Kosher to use international stamps to send overseas? It has always worked for me, but I am never sure if that is okay. Any other weird stuff? And what are most workers’ reactions to it? Were the coconuts to the same person or just something done often over the years?

Post Mistress X: You mean postage you buy here or stamps from another country?

DK: Stamps from other countries used here to mail overseas. Over the years people who take trips to Hawii do it.

Post Mistress X: Not really. They shouldn’t be accepting it if it doesn’t have US international stamps or domestic stamps on it.

DK: Were people amused by the underwear and coconuts? You said processing would be annoyed but others amused?

Post Mistress X: Usually as long as it doesn’t take a machine down. Carriers and clerks at the delivery office think they are a hoot.

DK: Does mail break the machines down often?

Post Mistress X: Jams it up. We did have a time when folks were putting heart candies in cards and the machines would crush them. Then the powder would leak, and we would have to shut everything down and call haz mat.

DK: Are workers well paid/well treated?

Post Mistress X: I think so. In most cases there will usually be the bad egg or someone who thinks doing their job is abuse.

DK: Do they generally feel they are being paid fairly for the work, particularly the carriers because that has to be a hard-ass job?

Post Mistress X: It isn’t an easy job, but no job in the post office is easy. Again it will depend on the person if they think they are being paid fairly. They make a damn nice living in my opinion.

DK: Why do you think they haven’t come up with a drive thru option?

Post Mistress X: There are a few out there, but for most locations it just isn’t an option. Plus security issues: We are still a federal agency.

DK: Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate this!

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