JCM THE MUSEUM LIBRARY
"We all start in ignorance and gain by our diligence." - John Held Jr.

Ruud Janssen with John Held Jr.

(Part 2)
(the SAN FRANCISCO period)

TAM Mail-Interview Project

(WWW Version)


Started on 2-5-1996

RJ: Well John, I think it is time now to start the second part of our interview. During the first part of the interview you were living in Dallas, and now you are already some time in San Francisco.   How big is the difference between Dallas and San Francisco?

Reply on 25-5-1996

JH: As I write this Ruud, I am in Helena, Montana, to open the Faux Post artiststamp exhibition on another of its travels, which will continue until 1998.   I'm not sure if the European newspapers have reported much about it, but there is a man imprisoned here called the Unabomber.   For twenty years he was sending bombs through the mail.   So he's like an extremist mail artist, right? I'm not sure mail art is as dangerous an activity as the actions of this terrorist (whose target was a technological society), but it is still my firm believe that mail art can be an agent of change, a subversive activity, a way of examining the society in which we live.

There is an exhibition now being formed in Germany, which is exploring the effect mail art had on the East German intellectual and artistic community. And just recently I've received a letter from Alexandor Jovanovic, documenting his Cage magazine, and the anti-embargo actions of himself and Tisma, Kamperelic, Bogdanovic, and Gogolyk in Yugoslavia.   So here are but two instances of mail art playing an important role in the public sector, and the power it has to effect ideas.   Between my move from Dallas to San Francisco, I have not changed my ideas about the importance of mail art in my life, and in that of society.

What changes have occurred since my move from Dallas to San Francisco? Ruud, this has been the happiest and most productive period of my life.   The differences of living in the two cities are great, and I'll try to explain it to you.

You have to understand that the cultural climate in the United States has become more and more conservative in the nineties.   Dallas is a particularly traditional city with its emphasis on business and as a stronghold of conservative religious feeling.   When I left the city, I had a retrospective show of my years there and I was called an eccentric in the critical reviews.   Of course, I welcome the controversy.   I would have been disappointed if all my ideas were totally embraced.   I like to think of myself as an artist out of the mainstream, dealing with issues that most artists don't even know exist, but still this reaction to my work was indicative of my stay in Dallas.   I was an outsider.   So I, like many of my fellow mail artists, reached out through the postal system to others that were more sympathetic to our view of life.

The artistic climate is completely different in San Francisco.   It is one of the last bastions of liberal thought in the United States, and has a long history of tolerance (beatniks, the drug culture, gays).   There is a whole community here that is engaged in the alternative arts.

As you know, I moved into an apartment with Ashley Parker Owens, the editor of Global Mail, and the subject of one of your Mail Interviews.   When I lived in Dallas, I had very few people to talk to about mail art.   Ashley and I are in constant dialogue about it.   And with Ashley I have built in social life because we dinner together, for walks, and to events around the city. Ashley and I are very different people, but we understand each other.   Ashley doesn't save things like I do.   After she enters her mail for listings in Global Mail, she passes it on to me.   Ashley is concerned with the process of mail art, while I am also concerned with the preservation of its history.   Ashley doesn't believe in history, because it singles out certain people, to the exclusion of others.   I don't think that I operate in this way, although certain people are connected with ideas that I find interesting and deserve mention.

Ashley also has a broad reach into the zine community, and we've met a lot of people in this field.   She sets up little dinners were we meet people who publish.   I'm also reviewing for Factsheet Five, which is the big zine that reviews other zines.   Seth Friedman is the editor, and I go over to his apartment to enter my reviews.   I get to see the zines sent in for review and have gained a perspective on this huge publishing phenomena.   Seth takes much of the really good stuff for himself to review, but I've become very interested in the sex zines, which is a whole sub-culture of various fetishes. I'm really curious about the sex subcultures of San Francisco.   It's a fascinating world that is at the forefront of preserving freedom of expression.

I haven't even mentioned my work with Picasso Gaglione at the Stamp Art Gallery, which is really my main focus in San Francisco.   Gaglione and I have corresponded since the mid seventies, when I first discovered mail art.   We are on the same wavelength.   We know the same people and are very much interested in the history of mail art.

Bill and I are hard workers.   We know that we have an unique situation and we want to take advantage of it.   Bill is a famous graphic artist, and his catalogs have always been real interesting.   But now I am here to add some written texts to his design skills, and it's just a perfect situation.   We have two or three shows a month and we put together catalogs for many of them.   So far we've done catalogs on Yves Klein (his Blue Stamp of 1957), Robert Watts (the Fluxus Artist), Andrej Tisma, M.B.   Corbett, Yugoslavian Networkers, a travel diary of our trip to Alternative Artfest in Seattle and a visit to Western Front in Vancouver, Canada, Paulo Bruscky, Cavellini, and Ken Friedman.   We've also done artistamp portfolios for E.F.   Higgins, Donald Evans, and Harley.   And since the gallery is connected with Stamp Francisco rubber stamp company, we have done boxed sets of rubber stamps on the works of Tisma, Friedman, Corbett, Endre Tot, and Luce Fierens.   We are going to New York City very soon to show all this work at Printed Matters bookstore, one of the leading artist book stores in the world.

Gaglione and I have also curated a show of Our Fifty Favorite Mail Art Exhibition Catalogs for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Library.   It was a great show, and the first show that I know of that focused on this particular aspect of mail art.

Every month we organize performances of classic Fluxus works by people like Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Ben Vautier, and Robert Watts as part of the gallery's Fluxfest 96.   We also have classes at the gallery and have featured Seth Friedman, about making zines, Mick Mather on eraser carving, and I gave a class on rubber stamp publications.

I've have also many friends in San Francisco! Joolee Peeslee has just moved here from Boulder, Colorado.   She's a long time correspondent. Barbara Cooper is another correspondent I like very much also.   Mike Dyar is a wonderful friend, and there are many others like Patricia Tavenner, Diana Mars (who works with Gaglione and me at the Gallery), Ted Purves, and Seth Mason.

There is an opportunity to meet interesting people here in San Francisco, which I didn't have in Dallas.   I met Timothy Leary at a book signing party, and I did an interview with V.   Vale of Re/Search publications, who is doing a two volume set on zines.   I talked to him about the international zine scene, and the important role played by the mail art community.

RJ: Well, a long answer that triggers a lot of questions in my head.   But first a question about the previous interview (Part-1).   Did you get any reactions on the answers you gave?

Reply on 29-6-96

JH: Sorry for the very long answer to your first question.   I was on a trip and was trapped on a plane.   I had to do something.   It's hard for me to sit still.

I had some people mention that they read the interview.   But I don't have any specific memories about their response.   It's enough for me to put out signals, hoping that they will land in a place where it's appreciated.   You never know exactly what words will effect some people.   I get enough indications that my work is appreciated to satisfy me, and I also get my fair share of criticism.   I don't let the good words get me too high, or the negative ones too low.   I do my work because it's what interests me.   I try not to get sidetracked by the opinions of people who don't really know me or my work.   I have very specific goals, both long range and short, which take a very sharp focus to complete.

RJ: Never say sorry for a long answer.   I enjoyed reading about the changes because I am about to see San Francisco/USA for the first time myself.   You mentioned that you have quite specific goals, both long range and short.   You might guess I am curious about these goals....., especially the long range ones.

Reply on 1-8-1996

JH: Right now I'm very involved in the day-to-day activities of the Stamp Art Gallery, and we are half-way through our schedule for the year.   In the next months we will be showing Guy Bleus, yourself, Pawel Petasz, and Giza Perneczky in our rubber stamp exhibition program.   We will also be showing the artistamp works of Ed Varney, James Warren Felter, Dogfish, and Bugpost.

I'm certainly awaiting your arrival here, and we have already been receiving many works for your TAM Rubber Stamp Archives show, in which you have been mailing out special sheets for the event that have been sent directly to the Gallery.

I'm also looking forward to putting together catalogs on the collected writings of Guy Bleus, who has been an active and incisive writer on mail art over the years, and on the artistamps writings of James Warren Felter.   For each catalog I will be writing an introduction.   We will also be doing a catalog on Pawel Petasz, who has been an important figure in Eastern European mail art.   It is a region of the mail art map that interests me very much.

I'm currently working on a project not connected with our exhibition schedule, but which is of great interest.   Gaglione was involved in the Bay Area Dada group in the early seventies, and they produced a variety of publications, like the New York Weekly Breeder, the West Bay Dadaist, Punks, Nitrous Oxide, and Dadazine, which preceded the explosion of photocopy zines, and the punk and industrial music scenes, later in the decade.   I've gathered some one hundred publications produced from 1970 to 1984 by the members of this group, which include Gaglione, Tim Mancusi, Steve Caravello, Charles Chikadel, Mony Cazazza, Anna Banana, Patricia Tavenner, Irene Dogmatic, Ric Soloway, Buster Cleveland, Winston Smith, Rocola, Ginny Lloyd and others.

The Bay Area Dada group was an important link between the New York Correspondence School and Fluxus, and an important influence on a completely new generation of mail artists that sprang up in the seventies.   In the future I'd like to explore other pockets of early mail art activity, like the Canadian groups Image Bank and General Idea, who were also responsible for the international spread of mail art.

But if I can do only one more project before I die, I'd like to do some major research on Ray Johnson and the beginnings of the New York Correspondence School.   There's almost nothing written on this, and now is the time to interview the participants, who are now becoming older.   Ray Johnson is already dead, and so is May Wilson, who was an important link in this history.   Next year I'll get my chance to begin work on this, as The Stamp Art Gallery will have a two month show on the NYCS.   I'll start my research with William S.   Wilson, the son of May Wilson and the most informed authority on Ray Johnson, John Evans and E.M.   Plunkett (who gave the school its' name).   Then I'll see were else I'll be lead.

Next year the Gallery's direction will be totally different from this year. Instead of two or three shows a month (sometimes even four or five), Gaglione and I will be organizing only six shows that will run for two months each.   This will give us more time to concentrate on bigger topics that interest us.   One of these will be on the New York Correspondence School.   Another will be on Arman, the Nouveau Realist artist, who did a series of rubber stamp works in the mid-fifties.   I am already in communication with him and his staff on this, and it will be a major research project that will be the first in- dept of this important series.

Another exhibition will feature Fluxus rubber stamp works, and Gaglione and I intend to do as many rubber stamp box sets with these artists as is possible.   Our biggest influence at the Gallery is Fluxus, so it will be a great opportunity to work with those artists who have directed our work.

We will also be doing a show on the late San Franciscan Robert Fried, who was best known for his psychedelic poster art, but who also did several large sheets of postage stamps.   It is very important to me to explore the works of San Francisco artists who participated in mail art, used rubber stamps, and produced artistamps.   I am not a writer and artist that can forget my immediate environment.   I want to absorb its' history so I can move it forward.

Last May when I was in New York for our show at Printed Matter I was at William S.   Wilson's apartment, and he dropped a remark that caught me off guard.   He said something to the effect that "when you finish your ten volume set on mail art...."

I don't seriously consider doing such a thing, but it began my thinking what the titles in that series would be.   I can see them sitting on a library shelf.   All bound in similar bindings.   It's a tempting but improbable vision.

RJ: Together with your answer you also sent the info about your new homepage on the internet.   As you know I have mixed feelings about mail art and the internet, although I do use the internet quite often for my job and for communication and the placing of information on the net (all interviews that are finished are on the net, and also the newsletters of the TAM Rubber Stamp Archive and other projects).   What do you expect from your new site on the internet?

Reply on 23-8-1996

JH: Not very much.   I was doing some editing for a Brazilian women in San Francisco, who manages the website for the Rainforest Coalition and also has her own website.   I was initially excited about it because her internet address is , which was just too close to what I'm involved in to be coincidental.   So she put up my essay, From Moticos to Mail Art, and some biographical information up on it.   She had a plan to offer space on her website to mail artists for a nominal rate, but as you yourself have told me, it's possible to get on the web for free, and I feel a little funny pushing her site in the mail art network, despite the nominal costs.   It would be one thing if I had continual access to update and more space for more writings.   But I don't, and that's why I'm not too interested in it at this point.

I have an interest in website construction because it provides wide and fast access to information, but most of it strikes me as too promotional and not enough interaction.   I have less and less interest in electronic information transfer, as it is increasing difficult for me to answer all the postal correspondence I receive.   Why take on an added responsibility, and one that doesn't give me what I want, which is printed materials, either hand constructed by the artist, or catalogs and other materials that document the mail art phenomena.

Besides, Ruud, I spend too much time in front of the computer keyboard writing.   It's a relief to get away from it once and awhile.   Letter writing and mailing out has always been a way for me to relax.   I like the quiet time at the desk and chance to work with my hands.

I'm aware that this reluctance to dive headfirst into cyberspace dates me.   A certain aspect of the world is passing me by.   But then again, I don't get cable television either.   There's such a thing as too much information.

RJ: Well, believe it or not, I am also not that enthusiast about the internet as a substitute for my mail art.   For me the computer-work was always there for almost 20 years, and the art I produced kept the balance just right, so just like you I am happy to leave the computer keyboard now and then and to get into the real world instead of the cyber world.   For me the person BEHIND the mail art is always the most interesting part of the communication.   Is that also the case for you (of course I know the answer is yes, but I wonder WHY it is so for you........)

Reply on 18-9-1996

JH: Way back in the beginning of this interview (Part One) I'm sure I mentioned that when I began in mail art it was because of my isolation, and I was reaching out through mail art to others that shared my interests.   I found that mail artists were perfect companions for me, even though they did not share my physical proximity.   I have had many interests that have demanded much of my time, and unfortunately, one thing you have to do when you are concentrating on your art or your writing is eliminate the casual friendships that so many take for granted.   It's often very lonely, and so I am grateful for the relationships I've formed through the mail.   It has helped me over some very difficult times.   My fellow mail artists are my best friends.   I've corresponded with many of them over twenty years.

Of course, things have changed somewhat since I've moved to San Francisco.   The mail artists are here.   The zinisters are here.   Many of my correspondents are here.   So now, many of my friendships and mail art relations are intertwined.   Gaglione and I see each other almost every day, and God knows what will happen in the future, but for now, it's the most remarkable thing for me.   We keep pushing each other towards new and better things.   Because of our mutual knowledge of mail art, we are almost psychically joined.   And although I am constantly amazed by his creativity, the most amazing part to me is that we are best friends in real time as well as mail time.   These things can sometimes work out!

In this regard, it would be wrong of me not to mention Ashley Parker Owens, who has been my roommate for the last year.   Has this ever happened before I wonder? When two active mail artists have spent so much time with one another? Netlandia is like a little island where we wait for the bottles to wash ashore for us.   And when they arrive, we share our catch and our stories of the people who float them to us.   I've gained much by living with Ashley, but our time together is growing short.   Not only are we both moving to separate parts of San Francisco in the next month, but Ashley is no longer going to be the editor of Global Mail.   She always envisioned her mission as a spiritual one, and now the time has come for her to pass on the work to another.   Am I upset about this? Yes, because like all of us I have grown to depend on her and respect her work so much.   But the opportunity to know her far outweighs my dependency.

But let me make no mistake about my true feelings.   The structure of mail art is important to me.   This vehicle of linking the world, cutting through cultures, and teaching us how to live with one another, is paramount.   The characters enter and exit, but the play remains.   My correspondents come and go. Eventually, I too will depart.   What gives me strength is knowing that there will always be a means for people to explore and grow closer on a planetary scale.   And the result is never an accumulation of mail, or artist books, or artistamp sheets, or rubber stamps....   it's the friendships paving the avenues on the way to tomorrow.

(John's answer came just before my departure to San Francisco where I went for the exhibition about the TAM Rubber Stamp Archive at the Stamp Art Gallery in October 1996.   John helped me a lot during this trip and as friends we undertook lots of things together.   Besides the exhibition and the meeting of old and new friends I also met 9 of the people I have interviewed, or am currently interviewing, including John Held.   Since we discussed on lots of topics and issues I never could decide on the next question, and therefore it took me some time to come up with a next question).

RJ: Well, it took me some time to come back to you with a next question.   As you might guessed from the report I wrote on my trip to the USA, I enjoyed it very much indeed.   Due to these and other travels it took some time to send the next question, but here it is.   It is about an observation I have on the mail art network, and I would like to hear your views on it.  

A problem I see in mail art is that the 'oldies' in mail art have selected their fixed circle of mail art friends around them and do not easily answer the mail of newcomers.   Sometimes they even don't take part in the open mail art projects again, so newcomers don't even know about their existence and can't easily grasp what the history is of the network.   Is this a correct observation?

Next answer on 8-4-1997

(With his answer John Held enclose some more recent artistamps and also two photo's taken at the Pacific Rim Artistamp Congress, Feb 22-23 1997).

JH: There is a built in problem in mail art, because at first there is a lot of energy. You are meeting new people and receiving incredible things.   Your energy encourages their energy.

Soon your contacts grow larger.   You are not only writing letters to an ever widening circle of correspondents, but entering mail art shows, organizing your own projects, making tourism to meet your distant friends, working on enclosures like artistamps and perhaps publishing your own small zine.

Under the right circumstances this process can go on for years.   But sometimes the system breaks down.   As your contacts become more numerous, questions of time and money begin to enter the picture.   If you're an artist in another medium, or a banker, or a physical therapist, you have to ask yourself the question, which takes precedent - your profession or this uncommercial yet life sustaining activity of mail art.   It's a difficult decision.

So far I have been able to continue answering almost every piece of mail I receive.   I enjoy newcomers as well as my long time correspondents.   People drop away and others come.   I don't have a fixed circle.   The only fixture in my mail art life is the constant stream floating around me.

But I understand all too well the difficulties.   In the last year I've witnessed the fading away of Ashley Parker Owens from the Network.   Nobody was more active then her.   She is an administrator on a grand scale, as your interview with her about her editorship of Global Mail testifies.

Global Mail was a mission; a spiritual giving.   God only knows the effect she had on many lives around the world as a result of her compiling mail art information on different shows, publications and projects.   The people she was able to bring together was legion.

But Ashley literally went bankrupt as a result of funding Global Mail out of her own salary.   Time became a problem when she wanted to concentrate on Yoga - and on a life.   Unmarried for a long time, she had a vision of a baby girl and six months later she became pregnant.   People often say that there is no gender barriers in mail art.   I've said it myself.   But watching Ashley, I've learned that priorities shift, and motherhood is a strong pull.

Ashley passed on the editorship of Global Mail , which may or may not reappear.   If not, another publication will eventually come along to take it's place, or attempt to take it's place.   Ashley set a very high standard for the compilation of mail art information.   And with what a heart.   Global Mail was no intellectual exercise.   It was a spiritual quest.

And who can blame Ashley for moving on? As much as she gave to the Network, she received a lot too.   You never truly leave the Network.   It's in your guts, and it impacts on your life, even if you're unable to keep up with former correspondents.

But will the newcomers realize that the Network is larger than just the current mailing list of a mail art show? If you stick around long enough and pay attention, things begin to fall into place.   We all start in ignorance and gain by our diligence.

Life in San Francisco is very different for me then it was in Dallas.   Before I had a stable environment in which to do my mail art.   Things are a bit more chaotic here.   There are many more things to do, and it's hard to find the time to sit down and answer mail, prepare enclosures, and return the energy that flows into me.

I feel guilty that I can only answer very briefly someone who has obviously put in a lot of time to send me something.   I can see how this guilt can keep one from activity.   If you are known for a certain style and quality of mail art, you don't want to disappoint your correspondent by mailing out a half- hearted effort.

This conflict causes many old time mail artists to depart.   I haven't reached that stage yet.   I'm hoping that my correspondents realize my situation, and that as much as I would like to send them a substantial reply each time, sometimes it is impossible.

But I can't separate myself from the Network.   My life is too enmeshed in the day to day ritual of going to the mailbox and seeing what life has washed up on my shore.   An empty mailbox is my greatest fear.   Sometimes I'm mailing out of desperation.   Fear wins out over guilt.

Correspondents find their own level, however.   If newcomers are not getting the type of reply they want from the 'oldies' then they form a circle with others who are giving them what they want.   This is o.k.   Mail art is about process, and it's more important to partake in the process then it is to communicate with any one person.   That's what the Eternal Network is all about.   It's a constant shifting.

Some people don't want to know about the history of Mail Art.   That's fine. You just go ahead and do it and make your own history.   Others are more curious about what went before.   There are ways to find out.   There is no ultimate level to reach for in Mail Art.   You find your own.

RJ: A lot of mail artists still refer to the 'rules' of a mail art project.   Is it necessary to have these rules (no jury , no rejection , documentation to all), or can mail artists make their own rules if stated in advance (like e.g.   someone in Germany asking for a financial contribution to receive the basic material on which one has to work.   If sent in one does get the documentation for free...). Does mail art need rules at all?

Next answer on 28-8-1997

JH:Absolutely not.   Because the whole point is to keep an open system going (The Eternal Network), and people should be participating solely for the joy and ease of it.   Rules only weed people out.

That being said, organizers of exhibitions should realize that by charging for exhibition expenses, materials, documentation, or return postage, they are not going to get the fullest range of work they would normally receive.   One reason for the popularity of the mail art show is that it doesn't have the roadblocks that normal mainstream shows have: the expenses of slides, juries, fees to enter, paying for documentation.

In the beginning (as formulated by Lon Spiegelman, Mario Lara and others), the "no jury, no rejection, no fees, documentation to all," were "considerations," not rules.   Those that are not considerate of mail art principles don't last long.   They may be able to obtain works for a project or two, but the word eventually circulates through the network that someone is taking advantage of the free circulation of ideas and artworks, "Fool me once - shame on you.   Fool me twice - shame on me", as the saying goes.

No, I have no trouble with people twisting the "rules" of mail art, if they are upfront about it.   Such strategies as auctioning mail art works for a good cause such as Amnesty International at the end of an exhibition make perfect sense to me.   What's the difference between this and having the works just sit in a box at the conclusion of the show? Just tell me about it first.   Then I can decide whether I want to participate or not.

People who are too didactic about "the rules of mail art" are no better than the art academicians of the nineteenth century.   Modern art was a rebellion against these traditions.   Mail artists have extended this rebellion even further.

We know that mail artists come from every walk of life.   Nothing infuriates me more then a wealthy mail artist, someone with the latest computer equipment, often living off the wages of a spouse, telling me what I can and cannot do with my own collection of mail art.   Another rule - mail art and money doesn't mix. Well, I tell you it does, because I've spent thousands of dollars over the years not only on postage, but acquiring mail art publications and works from dealers into whose hands they fall.

I have the same problems that many long time participants in mail art face: how does an alternative artist, with little of no income coming from his activities, pay for their mailings in the light of higher postage rates, increased correspondents, and the storage of work received as a result of participating in mail art over a number of years?

As a result of my move to San Francisco from Dallas, I am no longer able to archive materials in my home.   Most of my collection is in storage, which costs me $100 a month.   That's $1,200 dollars a year to preserve these works.   I don't sell any of it because it's important to me to keep all the material together so that a full record can someday be obtained from it.

But I wonder how this can go on.   I'm an artist, not a rich collector.   This is not some hobby of mine.   It's my life.   You don't sell your life, or view it as an investment.   You preserve it as long as you can, and then hope that the accumulated body of it can inform and inspire someone else after you are gone.

But holding it intact is a growing concern of mine.   And if I wish to sell some of the duplicate publications I've received over the years, I'll have no compulsion in doing so when the time arises.   Or selling some of the duplicate stamp sheets that I've perforated for others in exchange for my services.   It's my choice alone to do what is necessary in regard to my own unique situation.   When I hear of someone with no financial worries stating that under no circumstances must mail art be sold, it worries me that there is an art gestapo at our borders.

RJ: I think it is time now to let others read this second part of the interview. Normally I ask the people I interview if I forgot to ask them something? Did I?

(At the MAIL ART ONLINE assembly I found John Held's message that he sent me the last reply but it hadn't reached me.   So I sent him the last question and text again so he could react again.   John Held uses the account of a friend to surf now and then)

Next answer on 29-5-1998 (via e-mail)

JH: Well, dear Ruud, as you know, we are both very busy people, and we've let some time go between our questions.   In concluding this interview, let me bring you up to date on my life "in the jungle of art," as the late Cavellini put it.   In December 1997, Gaglione was forced to close Stamp Francisco and B>The , due in part, I think, because of all the money he spent on the artistic, rather than the business aspects of it.   But he has started a new rubber stamp company, Stampland, in his basement, just as Stamp Francisco was started all those years ago.   Bill and I continue to meet on a regular basis.   We are working on a book together for Vittore Baroni. Also we meet with Tim Mancusi, Rocola and Arthur Craven (of Bay Area Dada fame) frequently to socialize.   That's a little funny too, because Rocola is practically a hermit otherwise.   In September 1998, I will be curating an exhibition at the San Francisco Public Library on the publications of the Bay Area Dadaists, 1970-1984.   I've spend much time these past two years reviewing zines for Factsheet 5, for which my roommate, Chris Becker, has been the editor the past two issues.   In the last issue, I had a big article called, From Dada to DIY: The Rise of the Alternative Arts. I'd like to do more work on this subject, because I see mail art as the natural conclusion of avant-garde activity in this century.   It's almost over you know, and for me it's a time for reflection.   I don't see myself going on to something new - producing web pages, for example.   Instead I want to write about the activity I have been witness to and document it before all traces of it vanish, which it will unless mail artists, like ourselves, bear witness to it.   I haven't seen too much interest in mail art from traditional art historians.   Maybe that's right around the corner or thirty years down the road.   For me, it doesn't matter.   Mail art has provided me a lifetime of enjoyment participating in the radical art of our time.   Maybe I wasn't around to walk down the streets of Paris with Duchamp and Picabia, but do you remember your last day in San Francisco, when you, Dogfish and I marched in a Mexican parade for the Day of the Dead, with people dressed as skeletons holding candles in the night? For me, that was a worthwhile adventure in the late Twentieth Century.

RJ: Thanks for this interview John!

- END -


Reproduced with the permission of
TAM
Further reproduction without the written consent of
Ruud Janssen and the Artist is prohibited.

Mail-artist: John Held Jr., P.O.Box 410837, San Francisco, CA 94141 - USA

Interviewer: Ruud Janssen - TAM, P.O.Box 1055, 4801 BB Breda, NETHERLANDS

E-mail Ruud Janssen

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