Mail art by Marni Zainodin (Pahang, Malaysia)
The Karnival of Trash has produced yet another historic first: This extraordinary Trashpo from Malaysia by Marni Zainodin. This is a large, foldout piece.
Marni Zainodin has created a deeply expressive work using the Trashpo aesthetic and conceptualism.
The reverse side is very interesting, a reflective surface:
Deepest thanks to Marni Zainodin!
Mail art by Thom Courcelle (Rutland, Vermont, USA)
Just when you thought it was safe to figuratively swim in the metaphorical sea again, you – dearest Tenderfoot – discover the Karnival of Trash is not only the greatest show on earth, it is also the longest show on earth. We will leave no networker who sent us work undocumented! We did not necessarily save the best for last, but – as I believe was previously promised – the finale of the KoT will be a spectacle! In other words, documentation will continue but on a less regular basis as new projects are worked into the exciting M-L mix.
Here is a work sent by a bonafide, authentic Legend of Trashpo: Thom Courcelle. Thom is a respected “independent” mail artist in his own right today. But he also holds a special place in the hearts of all those who were present in those early, giddy days of Trashpo and DKult. If contemporary Trashpoets are not as familiar with Thom as they are with the various saints and Kult leaders (such as Lisa Lisa, KDJ and St. Mick), then let this be an opportunity to expand horizons and discover the deeper heritage.
Thom Courcelle was, indeed, part of the core group that defined Trashpo and has earned an important place in its history. That he chose the path of the DharmaDaDa and his own more obscure path to truth is of little importance now. Among Kulters, it is our love that transcends all.
Deepest thanks to Thom Courcelle for adding breadth and depth to the KoT.
Mail art by Cheryl Penn (Durban, South Africa)
Here is a new feature for older work called the “MinXus Lost Weekend.” I have found a large cache of work that, for whatever reason, was never documented (to the best of my knowledge anyway). Actually, I find it hard to believe that this material has eluded the scanner. I will start this irregular feature with some classic and amazing work by Cheryl Penn from the era of the “Authentic Massacre Of the Innocent Image Series.” The long and dusty trail becomes, for a moment, a wistful walk down the memory path. Let’s go back to August 2012.
Belated thanks to Cheryl Penn!
M-L: As a member of the Recycling Mail Art group at IUOMA-Ning, Rain Rien Nevermind [a New York Correspondence School veteran] took an interest in you and your work. Some say he was even a mentor to you. Looking back, was your involvement in the Recycling Mail Art group at all formative for you?
DK: In my journey to find kindred spirits, it naturally evolved that I connected with artists like the Nevermind, John and Mehrl Bennett, Richard Canard, Ruud Janssen, Andrew Topel, Tara Verheide, Reid Wood, among others. Many of these people have roots in Ray Johnson’s New York Correspondence School, the “Old” Fluxus, Neoism, visual and concrete poetry. Others are working in that continuum even if they didn’t experience it directly. I did not know this; it was a natural affinity.
“Many of these people have roots in Ray Johnson’s New York Correspondence School, the ‘Old’ Fluxus, Neoism, visual and concrete poetry. Others are working in that continuum even if they didn’t experience it directly. I did not know this; it was a natural affinity.”
I made a found object collage dedicated to Rain Rien that had part of a found sign with the word ‘rain’ in it. I submitted it to a local show on the theme of ‘WATER,’ and I remember the look I got when setting it down alongside the meticulously drawn ocean landscapes and other ‘hotel art,’ as I judged it, that had been submitted by other participants. Yet the online community appreciated it. Rain Rien and his ‘Cow Ear Muffs’ group drew me in, because I love the absurd, parody, non-sensical.
I met DeVillo Sloan by commenting in a Cow Ear Muff discussion thread. He also had a love of creating fictitious, absurd concepts, fake mail art movements and parody. He was talking about the Deletists. Somehow bouncing off of his playful posts, I started a thread about fundraising for a non-profit that would hold funerals for road kill and find alternative sourcing of road kill. I don’t know if mentor is the right word, but I had mad admiration for Rain Rien and felt validated by his unconscious processes.
Diane Keys during the Clothesline Project in Elgin (circa 2010)
M-L: You attended FluxFest 2016 in Chicago. Were you involved in any performances? Did you meet any artists who made an impression on you?
DK: I was finally able to attend FluxFest this past year, something I had wanted to do ever since I first learned about it. It was made easier by the fact that they were meeting at Northwestern University’s’ Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art for the Charlotte Moorman exhibition. We did Fluxus street performances, and I had decided to bring the entire Trashpo mail art show that I had curated and exhibited at the Elgin City Hall and Green Fest. I brought all the amazing entries in a box and dumped the contest on the ground and let everyone take what interested them so the show could get a second life and be viewed by more people. They were all very encouraging.
I had also decided to do a performance by picking up trash and presenting it to others to see if they considered it art or trash. Many took items to make art out of. I ‘met’ Jonathan Stangroom when he walked by me as I was digging through an on-campus trashcan. He was wearing a bowler hat, so I knew he was a Fluxus person, but he also seemed to not react to my racooning through garbage in broad daylight.
M-L: You are part of a generation of mail artists that incorporates the internet in their work. You are known as an internet persona as much as a postal persona. How has this impacted your work?
DK: I have created other fictitious worlds. One in particular took off unexpectedly like Dkult, when I was first on the internet, that had nothing to do with art and everything to do with parody and writing. It was my way of working through the effects of living in a world that sexualizes and reduces females. The persona of being a cult leader and trash enthusiast also has some very personal roots in pain. It has impacted my work as I have gotten more deeply involved in making Trashpo than I probably ever would have imagined.
“The persona of being a cult leader and trash enthusiast also has some very personal roots in pain.”
I don’t actually use much trash in my art these days. I go through phases of using trash and working with ink. I never start with a blank slate. I have white paper, but stain it with coffee, tea, or ink. I make my art in batches and will do this with multiple sheets at a time. This gives me a basic jumping off point to build on. A whole lot of times, it ends up in the trash, but I wait for the ‘happy accidents,’ patterns that form organically that I could never create intentionally.
Catalog cover of one of the first exhibitions including work by Diane Keys
MinXus-Lynxus is thrilled to share a sampling of new compositions by Nancy Bell Scott, a network fave and legendary member of the Martha Stuart School of Asemic Wallpaper and Cheryl Penn’s vispo book projects, among other credits.
“alternative contra country dance” by Nancy Bell Scott
from “alternative facts” by Nancy Bell Scott (click to enlarge)
“but you promised” by Nancy Bell Scott
“we’re still here” by Nancy Bell Scott
“call me” by Nancy Bell Scott
“take note” by Nancy Bell Scott
“asemic legend” by Nancy Bell Scott
Deepest thanks to NBS for granting M-L permission to share these exciting new pieces!
M-L: When did you first discover you were psychic?
DK: I didn’t realize it was anything unusual until later in life. As a child, I was quiet and found talking tedious. I preferred talking telepathically, and it took me a long time to realize that other people couldn’t understand me as I mumbled through fingers while sucking my thumb.
M-L: How did you get involved in the mail art network?
DK: I began doing very informal collage about 20 years ago using only items I had on hand or was given such as international stamps, string, sand and specialty papers. A friend asked me, ‘So you can make something from anything you have on hand?’ We were in a bar at the time, and he challenged me to make him something out of the items we had in front of us. I gathered the matchbooks, coasters, napkins, etc. I took them all home after peeling the beer label off. I loved the challenge. I had been almost exclusively doing photography before this and had several shows in Arizona, Colorado and the Netherlands – Ruud Janssen’s hometown in the Netherlands, in fact.
I saw a show in Chicago where someone had incorporated photo transfer into their collages, and I knew I had to learn how to achieve that effect. They had also made frames for their pieces out of haphazardly joined sticks. I was living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and began looking for art groups specific to photo transfer. I was also scouring the listings for art submissions in the area.
I came across an ad, a small classified ad in a local paper, that said, ‘Seeking mail art submissions.’ Then it gave a link to learn what mail art was. This happened around 2003, and I believe it was an exhibition in Denver or Boulder, Colorado. I was intrigued and immediately began working on my submission. I took a large envelope and printed my photos all over the outside. I wrote, ‘This is art because I say it is’ and ‘There is nothing inside.’ I sent it and received documentation back only to discover they had used my piece on the [catalog] cover.
“I wrote, ‘This is art because I say it is’ and ‘There is nothing inside.’ I sent it and received documentation back only to discover they had used my piece on the [catalog] cover.”
Needless to say, I was hooked and ecstatic to find a name for something I had always been doing: letter writing, making decorated envelopes, etc. I went to boarding school, so written correspondence was my lifeline. I made an envelope once by spray painting it pink and called it, ‘My mother in her favorite pink dress.’ I also have an aunt who loved letter-writing. She was known to write her letters in shapes, for example one big spiral.
Visual poetry collabs by Diane Keys and John M. Bennett
M-L: Mail art is often associated with DaDa, Fluxus and conceptual art. Many have noted an avant strain in your work. You have collaborated successfully with legendary experimentalists such as John M. Bennett, Ficus strangulensis and Andrew Topel. Did you ever or do you now consider yourself an artist who is challenging traditional art, an iconoclastic or experimental artist?
DK: Traditional ways of doing things have never really resonated with me. I had a very non-traditional upbringing and have always been a very abstract, non-linear thinker. I am more interested in the process and exploration of creativity than anything. I have always spoken and written in a stream-of-consciousness, associative manner like the [Rain Rien] Nevermind and others who love wordplay. Before becoming active at IUOMA [International Union of Mail Artists), I had just had my found object art show. It was the culmination of a solid year of collecting trash. I made a point of not altering any of it. I had multiple canvases and arranged the garbage like puzzles, then glued it all down.
“I have always spoken and written in a stream-of-consciousness, associative manner like the [Rain Rien] Nevermind and others who love wordplay.”
Making art is a very unconscious process for me, and that is what I love about it. I am not good at, say, setting out to create a literal or representational depiction of something. If I was given crayons and a coloring book, I would most likely peel off the crayon wrappers or paint by melting the crayons. It took me a long time to be okay with this.
I spent a long time making ‘pretty’ art but at some point completely abandoned that in lieu of what is known as anti-art, outsider art, and fringe art. Doing so did not seem to grant me any more respect, until I posted my pieces at IUOMA. I had several artists ask if they could use my art as an example in their art workshops and classes. When I first began doing collage, a friend told me about an artist who also used found objects such as greasy burger wrappers. That artist was anti-art God Kurt Schwitters. ‘Painting’ with garbage, reducing it to textures, lines, and angles as though looking from peripheral vision, excites me. Often, the thing that most reads ‘art supplies’ is the mail art envelopes and packaging. I love torn bits of tape, the ink from stamped images and cancelled stamps.
To be continued…
Mail art performance collab by Diane Keys and Ficus strangulensis (2012)