“Virgin Mary Toast” from the Mystery Gift Box (Barfa Stewart Tacky Gift Exchange)
The Barfa Stewart Tacky Gift Exchange of the 2014-15 holiday season will be remembered in mail-art history as one of the most poorly conceived, organized and executed events in a half century of otherwise smooth sailing. Nothing like it should ever be allowed to happen again. The human wreckage can never be mended. The disaster of the gift exchange raises at least two questions: Can a traditional gift exchange be considered a true mail art activity? Can re-gifted items be considered mail art?
Participants in the Barfa Stewart Tacky Gift Exchange were Diane Keys (organizer), KDJ, Rebecca Guyver, Dan Mouer, Nadine Wendell-Mojica, De Villo Sloan, Lisa Iversen, Angie Seffker Cope, Kendra Given, Jim Santamour, Paula Peters Marra and Amanda Villacreses. The event became a mail art version of Lord of the Flies. Friendships have been damaged beyond repair.
Most participants survived the gift exchange. The travesty that occurred involved the public lynching of one participant who was wrongly singled out as being a parasite trying to procure free and expensive gifts from other members.
We will not participate in spreading rumors or relating details of events that are already well known. We will display for you selected re-gifted materials – aka the Mystery Gift Box – that are STILL circulating as the result of the Barfa Stewart Tacky Gift Exchange. The food items, which have been circulating for several months, are rotting and decomposing. Raw garbage has been dumped in the box creating a horrible stench, and the material now – in our estimation – poses a health risk. The intent, to us, is clearly malicious and rooted in paranoid revenge fantasies.
Is this truly in the spirit of mail art? Or is this behavior we should condemn and not tolerate? Is this art or a malicious prank perpetrated by crazed Kulters bent upon getting even? Perhaps the mail art community can intervene and censure the miscreants.
The return address says De Villo Sloan mailed this from Diane Key’s house – a virtual impossibility. DVS has no memory of mailing this to himself.
This panel of the mystery gift box implicates another party in the mailing, although we should never jump to conclusions.
Forged document from the Mystery Gift Box.
Bag of trash from the Mystery Gift Box.
Detail of toothbrush from the Mystery Gift Box. The notes say: “for teeth after all that chocolate,” “so u no cut ur self,” “please send 2 Angie 4 me” and “DKULTHQ sent this threat if I no send.” We assume the reference is to Angie Seffker Cope.
More trash from the Mystery Gift Box. Note “Angie’s” – clearly a reference to Angie Seffker Cope.
Incoherent rambling on the Mystery Gift Box plus kitty litter and candy from inside the box.
Many will find it shocking that someone actually considered this mail art, and it is scary to think “re-gifted” items like this are circulating in the network. We ask again: When has it gone too far? And how can we better police the network so things like this cannot occur?