Ágnes GYETVAI: We can consider Mail Art as some sort of a requisite surviving in the world of an overwhelmingly technicized mass communication. It means that man refuses to give up his habit of interpersonal communication. When a Mail Art object is posted, an exceptionally personal, subjective and poetic message is delivered instead of the standardized letter in which the content of communication is coded into a formalized language, and which can be copied on a stencil or a xerox machine. Mail art is an exchange of messages between artists - a glowing ray of stars - from mind to mind, self to self, soul to soul. And if there is anything modern and characteristically twentieth century in this form of self-expression, it is the claim for internationality, the desire to find a form of contact which is not limited by the borders between countries. The artists want to form a spiritual network of universal communication among themselves.

Mail Art is a special act of interpersonal communication. It is a kind of personal contact, a spontaneous human action. It is a refuge for face to face communication. INTERPERSONAL HUMAN ENCOUNTER HAS BEEN CAST OUT OF EVERYDAY LIFE AND IT HAD TO FIND REFUGE ON THE ONLY PRESERVER OF HUMAN VALUES, THE ISLE OF ART. It has been cast out of our lives, just like the catharsis of the holiday, this highly spontaneous and most personal event has been driven out of our formal ways of everyday existence. The arrival of a Mail Art object is an event. An unofficial holiday created by one man for another man.

There are artists, who, like Róbert Swierkiewicz, motivated by their romantic attitude, sent out photonegatives with their profiles as a challenge in their face to face contacts: "Fill my self with your selves!" The responding artist is always aware that the challenger will break the intimate nature of the letter. It is addressed not only to the addressee, but also to the reader or the audience of the museum: the letter will become public. And we have to accept that the two most valuable properties in the established civilization, namely the private and the intimate, do not only belong to the personal sphere, and that there is no indecency, betrayal, bugging and spying whatsoever in the letters' becoming public.

According to Swierkiewicz himself, he started to do Mail Art on Galántai's inspiration. Galántai's wide network of connections, his invigorating exchange of spiritual information with the fellow artists around the world influenced him most when, while working on his 1979 Pécs exhibition, he came to realize that however expressively he may be able to convey his meaning through his artistic manifestations - he, the man, the self, remains utterly lonesome. And this was the moment when the desire to exhibit together with other artists was born in him. He interpreted this possibility, in the spirit of Chinese philosophy, that man does not give up his personality, but tries to serve the community, and thus contributes to the whole.

On the punchcard, in the photo-negative - which, according to the intention of the "Substitutable Self portrait" is a "frame within the frame" - appears Swierkiewicz's characteristic profile: the side-view of his face, his high forehead, amazingly attentive look, tiny dwarf-like face, and his hand, caught still in the eternal gesture of holding a cigarette to his mouth. And this is exactly how his presence in the world is imprinted in the minds of his close friends, too. At the same time, it seems as if his hand and his finger at his mouth were throwing a kiss, or as if this finger at the mouth were a temporary valve through which the air-soul-spirit contacts the world.

András BARANYAY uses photo-technique. Making self-portraits is an eternal subject of study for him too. And the cigarette is also always there in his mouth. He is a man of irrational associations, subjective processes, swift time and streams of memories. His face, always invisible, wavering and fading in his characteristic portraits, is now fully presented in his contact with the spiritual friend. <>

Vittore BARONI [web] put his own self portrait on Swierkiewicz's negative - and thus he declared that from now on, the picture belongs to him too, on friendly and theoretical grounds. <>

The letter from László BEKE [web], the art historian and famous avant-garde theoretician, must have been delivered to the wrong person. It is addressed to "Lobo Tommy" instead of Swierkiewicz Robi. Well, things sometimes get mixed up in the immense postal machinery... <>

Peter BELOW [web] assesses the schizoid situation of art with a perfectly authentic minimal gesture. <>

Juli BIKA [web] is a psychologist. Very authentically, she gives a poetic context to her sign-board of profession, an excerpt from an article on psychology containing a great deal of indirect implications. <>

Dan CHUSID, San Diego, USA put a photo-negative face of a one-penny stamp on Swierkiewicz's portrait... <>

Geoffrey COOK - "Nomen est omen"! - must be a great devotee of his own belly, and this is probably why he sent an avocado to Swierkiewicz. <>

Daniel DALIGAND [web], France, sent a picture of himself and a self-portrait. <>

Pier van DIJK [web], Holland, is definitely a professional Mail artist who has all the necessary postal equipment including stamps with the sign "to-taal-kunst", with the date, his signature and even his fingerprints. At the same time, with primitive stitches of a red yarn, he playfully re-frames the edge of the punchcard to give a counter-argument against total technicism. The needle starts from the centre of the head in the photo-negative, expressing as it were: "Define the valid limits of art relative to yourself as the centre." <>

Leonhard Frank DUCH [web] "makes contact" with a figure in a painting. He believes he has the right to do so as this is the same kind of connection as that between Swierkiewicz and him: He knows the Hungarian artist only from the photo. <>

Luitgard EISENMEIER, Austria, sewed a colour net on the punchcard from colour threads and a minimal ear of a bag which she made from a battery she had found. She surrounded the man's head trapped in the net with 6 primitive female idols. She decorated the perforated edge of the card with magic motives: triangles and squares, a ring, paper clips, hair and feathers. These female tricks and magic are quite close to Swierkiewicz's artistic concept and his personal tone. <>

Leland FLETCHER [web], USA, used the xerox copy of a newspaper cut as the basis for his work. The meaning is ambiguous. It may be a concrete situation - the newspaper in the grass with red ants can be a documentary depiction of a real moment in life. At the same time, it can be a symbolic expression of the "crazy ant" atmosphere of the news, documentary photos and political life. <>

Giovanni FONTANA's [FRACTAL MUSIK] genuinely surrealist photo-montage builds a mysterious story told in landscape pieces on Swierkiewicz's portrait. <>

Antonio FREILES divides the plane into equal strips with vertical and horizontal lines. Thus, he turns the plane into a network of abstract geometrical forms. With the differences in coloring and in shading he illustrates the differences between material existences. <>

The "Art Mail" of György GALÁNTAI [web], the Hungarian mail artist of international fame, represents a real diplomatic mission in the world. Therefore, Galántai has every right to depict himself as the winged Mercury, the guardian god of travellers, tramp and artists (and also of their letters i.e. communication). Little Hermes, the messenger between the gods and the humans travels very fast. The wings on his shoes and his helmet make him faster than the wind. This is what the "art mail" emblem refers to over Galántai's forehead in his xerox portrait. <>

István HAÁSZ writes the following about Swierkiewicz: "He's been a friend of mine for ten years now." His sign of friendship is, at the same time, a document of art history. The "Balatonboglár Chapel Exhibitions" were a place and an event where Hungarian avant-garde artists met, exhibited their works and made performances. The personal friendship between the two artists is thus connected to Hungarian art history. <>

S. Gustav HAGGLUND, USA, sticks pieces of a broken mirror into the head. Did he have the shattered mirror of human consciousness in mind? Or was this volcano-shaped mirror-mosaic born from some other association? <>

Volker HAMAN, Germany, is an Anthro-artist. His ideas coincide with Swierkiewicz's concepts of art. Sensitivity is the basis of art. Only if we can transgress culture, convention and continents, can the voice of love, sensitivity, happiness and irony be heard. This is why he thinks that "our white spot" is an essential prerequisite of man's emotional development, as far as it stands for permanent openness and the real possibility of gaining new experience. Therefore, Volker Haman defines Anthro-Art as the art form that everybody needs. <>

Scott HELMES [web] wrote from St. Paul (USA). He drafted a centre of spiritual light into Swierkiewicz's portrait. This centre he calls "AURA". It radiates colour waves throughout the head and draws them on the spiritual map of thinking. <>

Luc HOENRAET [web], Belgium, plays with the lines and levels of reality on several different planes, creating an ambivalent formula in drawing: First he shades the whole of the photo-negative (eliminating its negativity and developing it into the positive), then he "denies" it with the diagonal lines which he sticks onto the surface, then, again, he turns the image into the positive with the diagonals drawn on white strips. He eliminates the denial of the denial, puts out the negativity of the negativity, builds a beautiful paradox from the most Basic elements of drawing. <>

Ingvar HURTIG, Sweden, answers with a new technical image to the new technical image. The photo and its turning into a multiple graphic design may evoke new aesthetic impressions. <>

Ko de JONGE [web] makes a print of human perception and reception of information similarly to the previous scheme of the senses. He models our disposition towards information using the contradictory ideas expressed by the "Open" and "Closed" stamps he made preliminarily. <>

Ragnheiöur JONSDOTTIR, Iceland, reflects on Swierkiewicz's portrait like this: "Your thoughts are open, your mouth is closed, only your hand speaks." <>

Ádám KÉRI [web] turned Swierkiewicz's portrait into a spirit which broke free from Pandora's box. "Is it really possible that Art is the source of all the trouble? - he asks. <>

Herbert KERSCHBAUM's conceptual piece illustrates a quote from Bloch: "I am. But I am not my own. This is why we come into being first." Kerschbaum's picture makes an attempt to reflect this thesis in a structural model, as human perception and mind reflect the relationship of the self and the world through the senses. <>

Károly KISMÁNYOKI's [web] answer is a peculiar and philosophical quotation, obviously, a real "objet trouvé" (found object), perhaps from the tale of Snow White. <>

Al KLAYMAN's photomontage turns the profile in the original photo-negative into a picture book of world history. It turns the positive of human consciousness towards us: portraits and photos of art and historical figures - from Mona Lisa to Stalin and Guevara. Beside them, a newspaper cut with bombers releasing their deathly load. Stars, politicians, heroes and a line of unknown soldiers - we can see man in history marching along the film strip of human consciousness... <>

Eva LANDORI, a Hungarian artist living in Canada, sent the portrait of a pretty woman. <>

Mario LARA [web], California, sent his picture with the sign "Obsessions". He composes his work from the schemes of great world cultural systems: an antique facade and a Japanese calligraphic motif touch a fruit-frieze and American postal stamps. The composition is stamped with hand, eye and mouth motives and a Mexican cactus... <>

András LENGYEL [web]. In the given period of his career as a painter, he was a great admirer of clouds, and he depicted the air-perspective with fondness and delicate realism. Here, he forms a dome to the sky with the negative of his hands. <>

Fiocchi LINO's simple visual poem plays with the word "memory". He filled the head with memories. The orthographic images of the word illustrate how the different layers of memories are written on one another in our minds... <>

László LUGOSSY [web], a profane member of the "Bizottság" rock group, sent his dadaist-surrealist wrestler image, depicting his entering into a "mystic contact" with the "holy swines" (which I interpret as the symbol of the man-in-the-mass), and, at the same time, through his spiritual-string tapping device, he also enters into a "telecommunicative" contact with Swierkiewicz. <>

Emilio MORANDI [web] took part in the mail art action in the name of the "ARTE STUDIO". <>

Kunito NAGAOKA put a part of his imaginary landscape into the frame of the original cut. <>

Vernita NEMEC made a simple montage with her xeroxed portrait and her visit card. <>

Juan PAGÁN Madrid, made a dual portrait with schizophrenic look, in the style of Spanish monumental painting. One of the face-halves holds a finger to his mouth: "Be silent". <>

In the past few years, the art of Sándor PINCZEHELYI [web] has been based on the use of the Hungarian tricolor. See? The ribbon with the national colors its Swierkiewicz's head too. <>

Carlo PITTORE [web] also drew his self-portrait into Swierkiewicz's photo. <>

Concetto POZZATI [web], Italy, made a joke, sending a tiny dragon in the mail. <>

Imre REGÖS's [web] work is a cut from a documentary photo. But what does it actually depict? Are those people queuing up for something? Are they waiting at the gates of the People's Stadium for admittance to a football match? Or are these people behind prison-bars? ... Maybe strikers at the gates of a factory? The photo is at least as difficult to interpret as a "Rorschach-test"... <>

Terje ROALKUM, Norway, does "body art" and photo performance. He sent a tricky photo: he is holding his own photo in it, - "with the picture of his hand, the picture of his feet". <>

In his conceptual art, Károly SCHMAL uses photography as a vehicle to depict existence in the real world and in the world of shades presence or absence. He contrasts positive and negative forms and images. In fact, he "speaks the same language" as Swierkiewicz. This is why he indicates his identity as a negative cut in the corner of the negative: he likes being present in the world as clear transparency, as "spirituality". <>

Győző SOMOGYI throws the ball back to Swierkiewicz: He is a Hungarian artist. Why should anyone write a letter to him in English? He puts his incredibly grotesque and ironic portrait into the focus of the camera. <>

Zsuzsa STUIBER is Swierkiewicz's wife. She illustrates children's books, and now, she presents herself as a clownfaced girl, looking with a pout at the little red skewered devil made from children's paper-cuts. <>

Árpád SZABADOS sent an x-ray photo of his own skull. <>

György SZEMADÁM's [web] "Introvert self-portrait" sticks a photo of a scene from his own life into the cut of Swierkiewicz's portrait. <>

Szabolcs SZILÁGYI [web] made a paper boat for Swierkiewicz. The message carried by this ancient type of children's toy is a secret hidden in the form, just like in the case of art. <>

This time, István SZIRÁNYI was apparently interested in the other, invisible side of things. Therefore, instead of a self-portrait, he made a portrait of his bottom. The picture is a witty mockery of the original photo-negative. <>

Artur TAIBER, Poland, encloses his written instructions for entering into connection with the "whole of mankind", just as it happened between Swierkiewicz and him. <>

Dezső TANDORI [web], the poet, has tried his hand at fine arts many times during the past few years. He first exhibited visual poems entitled "Heraclitus in H" in 1981. His drawings and typewriter-graphics indicated that in his ideo-linguistic experimental analysis he had discovered such a pre- or post-speech area where the differences between diverse branches of art become insignificant, drawings and poems exist in the same dimension and in the same situation: "Sheets of paper with spiritual products on them." In this exhibition Tandori not only "got the hint", accepted the challenge and then "double tricked" the fashionable conceptual and intermedial stylistic virtuosities, but he also made it clear that for him, the "poetry of spot-focusing" was not merely a game, an exciting act of trespassing or a thoughtful gesture with which, having acquired the "cant" of his fine artist friend, he would have made communication even more esoteric, but it was a new form of expression he had discovered for himself. The "Memories of a Sparrow's Wing" is one of the beautiful elegiac pieces of this series. <>

Árpád Fenyvesi TÓTH [web] is an old mail art maniac. With his philosophical questions, he wanders along the lines of his emblematic portrait, along the strip of text situated similarly to the texts of port-stamps and along the borderline of his self and not-self, positivity and negativity... <>

Gábor TÓTH [web], signalist artist and poet has two suggestions for the participants of the mail art action. First h t using the cut of the photo they should create works in which the image is composed from their own experience. Second, he composes his own poetic montage as an illustration. <>

Tamás VÁCZY J. - if I interpret his work correctly - made a perfect imitation of a letter. He writes a letter from an imaginary city using a pseudonym and the handmade imitation of a printed stamp with his own portrait. The postcard with a fictitious inventory number is validated by his self made stamps which look like official stamps of a museum. <>

According to her two photos, Katherine VAL is working on her sculpture "PEACE". <> 

Ildikó VÁRNAGY, architect and graphic designer. She thinks in a language of signs and sign-nets close to primitive paintings and children's drawings. Here, she illustrates the functions of the organs of senses, and depicts them in tale-like symbolic scenes. <>

Balázs VINCZE, Hungarian artist living in Paris, turned the black and white xerox negative into a fine expressionist masterpiece. Before an emeraldine background, there is a colour crayon portrait shining and glowing like a light-bulb. <>

András WAHORN [web], a comics writer of erotic phantasies draws the scenes of his sub-conscious desires in notes resembling diary entries. And this is also the style of his present genuine and authentic Wahorn card which openly, impertinently and shamelessly neglects and violates taboos. <>

Kristóf WÉBER is a musician. His answer represents the rare mail art possibility of using an acoustic plane, in addition to the visual and the verbal. Weber made a project for a music piece which is closely related to the given action in that he creates a composition from the strips of his acoustic impressions in connection with the Mail Art action. The composer himself also added a permanently recurring theme to the music piece, and thus, the work, a monument to their personal relationship, can only be realized if both artists take part in the performance. Yes, this is also within the possibilities of Mail Art: it can serve as the medium for the process of the composition of an open music piece, and, in the end, a complete piece is born. <>

Details from the writing of Ágnes GYETVAI: Ezen a hullámhosszon érintkeztek.
in: Róbert SWIERKIEWICZ : Önfejtágító - project catalogue, 1992. (English translation: Zsolt KOZMA) <>


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