It is one of the recurrent themes in art criticism that traditional genres have been dissolved, perverted, and mixed in this century. Nobody will be surprised any more when confronted with some unexpected and unclassifiable art form. On the other hand, several new genres have been introduced into the art world. Apart from romantic Gesamtkunstwerk types (happenings and performances, certain land-art works, etc.), fixed forms of everyday communication and symbol usage have been appropriated and canonized for solely artistic purposes (cards, billboards, letters, postcards, rubber stamps, stickers, badges, stamps, etc.). They represent not only new art media but, at the same time, self-imposed restrictions and a rigidity similar to that in dodecaphonic music. Familiar, standard forms are thus forced to carry the most personal or extravagant gestures and ideas.
Artist's post stamps may document, declare, or commemorate events, ideas, or objects just as any stamp normally does, partaking of the authoritative origin and authorized function of their model. Postal stamps are always multiples, already by virtue of their form (printed on perforated sheets), while artists often consciously devise unique, single stamps, fixing the traces or the imprint of one definite creative moment.
Artpool's (György and Júlia Galántai) action combined the recently heightened interest in artists stamps with the process-inducing appeal of Fluxus, and a form of international art communication referred to as mail art. Taking a most conventional form for its starting point (an appeal formulated in the language of competitions and commissions), it requested artists to send in their stamp projects until an appointed dead-line. The appeal more or less specified the subject of the stamps as well.
The reactions to that appeal produced an art work in totally different dimensions. The lines of movement, starting from Artpool/Budapest reached out to all parts of the world, defining a certain elementary structure in space by lines of varying lengths. This radiating form was then modified by infinitely small cross lines when artists passed Artpool's letter to their friends. The stamp designs mailed to Artpool repeated the original structure in a countermovement, thus completing the three-dimensional network that they described. The result is a communication network with special emphasis on its spatial existence: a conceptual sculpture.
The action had a time dimension as well. The temporal sequence of artists' stamps as delivered by the postman, realizes a random montage of pictorial forms which, as a whole, becomes significant on a new level as one single statement speaking many languages simultaneously. This temporal aspect has naturally led to a documentation in film that will probably reveal new connections and cross-references among designs which, in themselves, greatly differ in intent, conception, and orientation. Some are miniature pictures, drawings, decorative patterns, collages or photos, others condensed signs for life-styles, philosophies and artistic intention, while still others are no more (and not less!) than the manifestations of interest and goodwill which implied, in the present case, participation.
Anna Wessely is an art historian living in Budapest. She teaches sociology of art at Budapest University.
This essay was published in: World Art Post, Artpool, Budapest, 1982, pp. 6. <>
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