MinXus Mail Bag: A Little More Syntax from Linda French (Two Harbors, Minnesota, USA)

Linda - 2.25.2015 - 1

Mail-art by Linda French (Two Harbors, Minnesota, USA)

Tenderfoot Linda French is as prolific as she is generous. She sent us another gorgeous piece to decorate our humble page.

We look forward to receiving mail from Linda French because we believe her work so wonderfully represents a large segment of the current mail art scene. (Many Tenderfoots have noted we often look backward down the long & dusty trail to earlier eras.) Observers have noted that the mainstream in contemporary mail art is best characterized as a kind of folk art rather than conceptual art rooted in the New York Correspondance School that dominated for decades. The view is controversial and debatable, although we have come to accept it as a general trend (while registering the avant strain also seems very much alive and well.)

We agree that the current folk art tendency exists, have even named it Maille Art NoveauX. Perhaps it is better described as a neo-primitivism or a benign outsider art. If mail art inherently promotes the egalitarian, participatory culture and the anti-institutional, then a naïve populism is indeed another possible permutation in the algorithm of need.

It can be argued that the Old Mail Art (can we call it that?) was hopelessly elitist. Sure, anyone could participate. But the vast majority could not find it because it was underground, and they were thus excluded through lack of association. Those most likely to be excluded were, in the parlance of the avant, the bourgeoisie. (An old adage went something like this: “Mail-art is a very few eccentric geniuses and a whole lot of crazy people.”) For a very long time, the enterprise was essentially controlled by elites in New York City and European cultural centers and the goal was their own self promotion except in the cases of acute revolutionary zeal.

If these issues of unfairness did indeed exist, then the internet and the new participants it has brought to the network have served as a corrective. We are closer to having attained a true equality, and yet another exotic practice (and lifestyle) has become a hobby option for the middle class. Is that so bad? Surely somewhere someone is raging about it. As in all such cultural evolution, a vexing question is: Who has changed whom? Or was change ever a possibility or goal in the first place?

Perhaps the network is fragmenting into segments that could eventually become warring camps. Or perhaps the impression that all networkers are joined together in a shared cause has always been an illusion and propaganda.

Linda - 2.25.2015 - 2

Many thanks, as ever, to Linda French in Minnesota.

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