MinXus Mail Bag: “Unfinished Writing” by Ruud Janssen (Breda, Netherlands)

 Ruud - 3.6.2015 - 1

Mail art by Ruud Janssen (Breda, Netherlands)

Celebrated mail artist, archivist, network scholar and IUOMA founder Ruud Janssen has released a new wave of his work into the network. We consider ourselves fortunate indeed to have received not one but two envelopes from him. (We will begin with this documentation and post a second part soon.)

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Working in the spirit of Fluxus, Ruud Janssen’s art has provided innovations in every aspect of the postal art genre. In recent years, we have documented Janssen’s hand-painted envelopes in particular. We note in this new work as well – this piece and work mailed to others – an emphasis on maximum utilization of the outer surfaces of the envelope as artistic space as significant and equal as the interior. Given that many people see the envelope as it passes through the postal system, maximum use of the exterior is an excellent strategy for all mail artists to consider. (It’s surprising how many envelopes arrive unadorned.) Ruud Janssen is also especially recognized for his stamps, and this envelope is a veritable exhibition of wonderful stamps both contemporary and historical.

Janssen is a visual artist who works beyond the correspondence art realm as well. In fact, he transcends the visual arts realm in the sense that he has made contributions to visual poetry and other genres – sometimes called verbal visual – associated with Fluxus-related figures such Emmett Williams, Dick Higgins and Janssen’s partner Litsa Spathi, to name only a few. As if the envelope were not enough, it contained an absolutely tremendous hand-altered print by Ruud Janssen clearly identified as a verbal-visual language experiment. This is a large, poster-size work (approximately 11 x 17 inches). The scale makes the work very powerful. Unfortunately, due to our own image reproduction limitations, we will have to show you the work received in two parts. However, we have a scan of the original piece we can share first:

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“Unfinished Writing” (2015) by Ruud Janssen. (Image courtesy of Ruud Janssen)

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More “Unfinished Writing” by Ruud Janssen (2015). (Image courtesy of Ruud Janssen)

Now here is the altered print we received:

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Deepest apologies for the annoying break in the center, but at least you can look at the detail and compare the work to the earlier version. Ruud Janssen’s commentary provides ample explanation. We will not speculate to any great extent about whether the work is or is not asemic writing, whether it is or is not visual poetry. We will offer the view that we think the “Unfinished Writing” series explores the legible vs. the illegible (the intelligible and the indeterminate), layering, distortion and even a form of erasure. The use of color suggests the vispo realm. All in all, “Unfinished Writing” addresses on a conceptual level the issues of language and text that preoccupy most visual poets and asemic writers today. Yet, unlike some of the vispo and asemics we see, “Unfinished Writing” stands on its own as an aesthetic work rather than a linguistic formula. The work also must surely have resonance for correspondence artists in particular.

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Deepest thanks, as ever, to Ruud Janssen!


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