Pawel Petasz


The project was started in 1980 and resisting heavy losses during the polish Martial Law period, was continued through quarter of century. Originally composed with "forms" - each of them was a numbered piece of bristol paper 32 x 23 cm size, with a large instruction of use, home-printed (with and old wringer), in an ostentatious middle of the upper half. Folded in 4 and sewn around, they were mailed to be recycled, according to complicated thematic or personal patterns. The inside became soon covered with messy collages and letters, while outside folds bore subsequent addresses, stamps and cancellations.
Initially a thematically devoted collage was sent to somebody (usually in response to a mailing or an invitation, with a request to remake and return it. When this happened - it was again reworked and mailed to somebody else, while the first addressee received another form, already recycled, the next time twice recycled and so on.
A piece of art, named by subsequent form number, was understood as a process of communication between those persons connected by the particular collage.
The collage itself was a sort of record only. The “genuineness” was of little importance and addresses were encouraged to continue work with copies of forms being permitted to keep the beautiful original. Even this was often asking too much and usually all most complex items have disappeared finally in the network (or in communist police archives), thus generating a need for new and new forms - over 5000 eventually preapared.
The project was originally designed with computer support in mind, this was never realized, because of lack of adequate scanning hardware, apart of the political situation. Furthermore, under a communist regime all copying facilities were restricted and unavailable to general public. (Eventually when first copy shops were opened, operators were obliged to make an extra copy for the police, of each one item reproduced. Excessive number over 3 copies required prior written permission from the police censorship office.)
Complex photographic documentation and notes covered every step of development in early stages of the project. It became impossible to continue it soon, as with increasing economical degradation of communist economy all photographic materials were gone.
When the infamous Martial Law was introduced by one Jaruzelski the Comrade (1981) - he immediately restricted all communications. Picking up a telephone one could hear a severe voice alerting this talk will be controlled and all mail bore large red rubber stamps either censored or not censored respectively. No postal services were available except for plain letters mailed in open envelopes, always brand new for these stamps.
In these circumstances the THIS IS MAIL ART project was then bravely continued in reduced to A4 size and the means of expression deliberately limited to only legal one - a ball-point pen. In the following years, along with the liberalization of the regime, the forms of the project changed again and developed their appearance to celebrate seasons of the year - thus reflecting slowness and delayed responses. A final revival was in some way forced by a short explosion of interior mail art movement in Poland in years 1989-90, before forthcoming postal charges and bureaucratic regulations have gone some way toward pacifying it.
The project was never definitively closed, as was never explored to an end, and is still perhaps, capable of reflecting possible future Glass Bead Games of electronic networks. In 2002, following the same pattern of "add-to-and-return" a "This Is Mail Art" CD-ROM was preapared and it is still circulating. The updated version of it or a DVD-ROM is available on request.

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This Is Mail Art - recycled form #0022, copy. Click it to enter.

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the printing wringer and plates

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