TIA 2005: Art from Ephemera (Mail Art and the Internet)
Text and Image Arts
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Fall 2007 - Spring 2009

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

bite size

The third group of AFEers is getting ready to install an exhibition of work that addresses the emerging art form of Artist Trading Cards. Here are the details:

Bite Size: an exhibition of Artist Trading Cards made by students in SMFA's Text & Image Arts class Art from Ephemera: Mail Art and the Internet.

Students in this intermediate level multi-media studio class investigate the emerging art form of Artist Trading Cards, one example of the many ways Mail Artists exchange ephemera using the postal system and the Internet. Artist Trading Cards are individual art miniatures that are traditionally traded, not sold, and are created as unique works or small limited editions. The only restriction is that they measure 2 ½ by 3 ½ inches.

Artists whose work will be on display include: Alexis Avedisian, Keina Davis Elswick, Omer Elad, Eric Erdman, Max Falkowitz, Maryn Leigh Kaplan, Jessica Scott-Dutcher, and Roxy Sperber.

Bite Size will be on display in the Mission Hill Foyer Gallery at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, November 11 to 23, 2008.

Workshop & Swap!
A reception for the artists will be held on Monday, November 17th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. There will also be a workshop and swap held at this time where you can make and trade your own Artist Trading Cards. Cardstock and other materials will be provided; bring your own materials and supplies to share.

SMFA's Mission Hill Gallery is located at 160 St. Alphonsus Street in Boston.

Spread the word!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Henrik Drescher @ UMass Dartmouth

One of the artists we looked at in class, thanks to Jess's presentation, Henrik Drescher, has a show up at the University Art Gallery at UMass Dartmouth. The show is open until October 26th. New Bedford is probably a bit of a commute for most of you, I'm guessing, car-less college students, so maybe we can discuss an optional field trip in class on Monday. Here's a link with more info.

By the way, the discussion threads so far have been great - keep it coming and I'll share my bit as well over the next couple of days...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

3191 ~ a year of mornings

This project, originally in blog format, has now been published in book format. I think it's a great idea (and who wouldn't want their web-based communication art project to be published?), but doing the same thing with photos taken in the evening (here's the blog for that project, currently in progress) borders on gimmicky. Still an interesting idea, though, and the few photos I've seen look lovely.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

gettin' crafty

We've talked a bit about how a lot of mail art genres have flirted with the fringes of the more mainstream art world but recently, at least, have seemed to find their audience among folks who would be more likely to identify as crafters, not necessarily artists. I think this is particularly true of the short history of Artist Trading Cards. What is the role of craft in the niche genre of ATCs in particular? How do you feel about working with (or on) ATCs in art school, where you're expected to have something of a conceptual framework for just about everything you do?


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Online Drawing Trading

This is the site that I mentioned in class last week. You create a drawing and then swap it with a stranger; it was based off of sketchswap, but I like garyc's version better because unlike sketchswap you are actually trading with another person (in sketchswap your drawing goes into a database and the drawing you get comes from the database) and also garyc's version is unmoderated.


recycling some links from previous semesters

I believe I promised to post links to some of the web-based projects we looked at in class last week. Sorry to be doing this so late...What can I say? Teachers procrastinate too!

Here's a post with links to projects that were listed on the Java Museum's website in response to their call/question, "art + blog = blogart?".

And here's another post with some other web-based projects that I showed at various times during both semesters last year.

There are a few other random posts that probably repeat some of the links in the two posts above, if you want to dig a little deeper. Peruse the posts with this tag to find everything I've posted to this blog over the past year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

blog discussion experiment no. 1 - fall 08 edition

For next week, I've asked you to read John Held Jr.'s essay "The Mail Art Exhibition: Personal Worlds to Cultural Strategies" from the book At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet. He writes about various "Mail Art Considerations" that were outlined by a couple of California Mail Artists in particular as a result of "the proliferation of Mail Art shows." These "considerations" included: no fee, no jury, no returns, and so on. As we discussed briefly in class yesterday, what's interesting (and perhaps problematic at times) about Mail Art are precisely these conventions that developed around a genre of cultural production that itself developed along the fringes of the more mainstream art world. When we produce our mass-printed editions of Artist Trading Cards later in the semester, we'll be breaking one of the cardinal rules of ATCs: that they be hand-made and unique. How do you reconcile the unconventional spirit of Mail Art with the various "rules" that have accumulated over the decades?


Sunday, August 17, 2008

cleaning the slate

Another semester is almost upon us. I'll be teaching this class for the third time this fall and I'm mixing things up a bit, planning to focus on Artist Trading Cards, a small subset of the Mail Art genre, over the course of the 12 weeks and three projects, including another Museum School gallery exhibition which will also be an ATC workshop/swap (more details on that later). Spring 2008 contributors have been taken off to make room for the fall group and the syllabus can be downloaded by following the link to the right. As usual, it's subject to change between now and the start of class on September 8th.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mapping Correspondence Panel Discussion

As an addendum to what I thought would be my final blog posting of the spring semester, note that there will be a panel discussion in connection with the Mail Art show I went to recently and blogged about right here. If you plan to see the show before it closes next month, this would be a great time to go and listen to the discussion as well. Here's a link with more info (scroll down to June 13th).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

when mail art, Fluxus, and media art converge in NY

Last Monday's class concluded round two of SMFA's TIA class, AFE. I had a great time this semester with a truly fantastic group of students and plan to spend the summer applying everything I learned from them to my syllabus and plans for Fall 2008 and beyond. In the meantime, Spring 2008 students will remain contributors to this blog until mid-August or so, when I'll make room for the Fall group. Students, feel free to blog if you find something of interest to the rest of the group (and any random readers we might have out there) or updates to your projects, work, etc.

On that note, this past weekend I made it to New York to see two shows directly related to our class. First stop was Mapping Correspondence: Mail Art in the 21st Century, at The Center for Book Arts. I like how their gallery space is right in the middle of what appears to be a working letterpress shop. Not surprisingly, this being a space dedicated to book arts, there were lots of book-like objects on display. More interesting to me, however, especially in light of our recent exhibition in SMFA's BAG Gallery, were their various strategies to document and display materials not originally intended for the gallery. I particularly liked the plastic frames that stuck out from the wall, allowing visitors to view both the front and back of the mail art on display, mostly postcards in this particular area.

Similar to this strategy were these hanging plexiglas displays that you could walk around to view, again, both the fronts and backs of the materials on display.

This area resembled the more tangible part of Genevieve's project, including postcards cut from recycled boxes that you could purchase for a quarter each.

Several projects and works on display were interactive in some way, like this area of rubber stamps and scraps of paper.

The show is on display through June 28th, so I definitely recommend it if you plan to be in NY between now and then and have an interest in this stuff beyond this class! Also, while I was there perusing their table of information at the entrance to the space, I picked up a postcard for an open call for a mail art exhibition, which will be displayed in both a gallery (in Canada) and blog format. Their blog has photos of the CBA show as well as some nifty examples of mail art. Check out these little mailboxes! Snappy, indeed. The deadline for submitting work is September 4th, so you have all summer to perhaps put the final touches on your projects from this semester!

After that I walked to Chelsea to check out the exhibition at Maya Stendhal Gallery, From Fluxus to Media Art. For such a broad topic it was a pretty sparse show, including work by just eight artists/groups, among them Fluxus and some artists also known in the mail art world including George Maciunas and Nam June Paik. The handout claims that the exhibition attempts to provide visitors with a broad history of media art, tracing some of its characteristics to the practices of artists in the 1960s. But the exhibition mostly failed at that connection, for me at least. About half of the show was film and video work, but I was annoyed that Andy Warhol's film Empire from 1964 was shown as an obvious video transfer on a flat screen television. That seems to be a more and more common gallery and museum practice, displayed as if film to video were that seamless of a transition, with little thought given to the different characteristics of the two media.

I'll be back later this summer with an updated syllabus for a brand new semester! Happy summer to you all!

Monday, April 7, 2008

hi all, thought id post something i found recently.  i dont know if any of you have heard of craig oldham (a graphic designer), but he started a project that is very similar to some of our own.  his website explains the project in greater detail, but essentially he was tired of receiving bills in the mail so he decided to start writing letters in order to receive nicer mail.  He wrote to a bunch of graphic designers, and their responses are scanned and posted here:  http://craigoldham.co.uk/ongoing/letters


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

We did it! Great job, everybody! And if you're interested in seeing more photos, check out my Translation♥ blog as well! Just letting you all know that I had such a great experience with you, and since I'm graduating we may not have more opportunities to talk. So please feel free to add me on Facebook so we can remain in touch! :) xoxo, M

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Products from the opening

Brian Butler (?)

Stephanie Age: 21

Kelly Age: 19

Haley Age: 19

These are a few of the many submissions from last nights opening!

the show

Here are some pics I took at our show's reception last night. This is what you see as you enter the BAG Gallery:

Looking to the left, at Marcel's area:

And to the right, at Aziza's area:

Here is Tiffanie's Junk Mail installation:

Looking back down the length of the gallery space:

Here is Sam's piece:

And John's Mailbird:

Here are Carmina's Monsters:

A detail from Haley's Text Messages:

And Brian's IceCreamPeople.org:

Here are some visitors interacting with Erin's Coloring Book Series 1 (and not stealing the crayons!):

Some submissions to Missie's Draw On Me, which some visitors took a little too literally (but at least they interacted with the piece!):

Here is a section of Sheri's I Have Dreams Of Orca Whales But I Wake Up In The Fields:

And last but not least, here is a detail from Stefanie's collaged postcard series The Library:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


The class is getting ready to install a showcase of projects from this semester and last. Here's the low-down:

Post: A Collection of Mail and Web Projects
Including work by students in the Text & Image Arts class Art from Ephemera: Mail Art and the Internet, 2007-08

Do snails dream of electronic mail?

Students in this intermediate level multi-media studio class investigate the definition and nature of ephemeral materials while appropriating the strategies of and making connections between Mail Art and the Internet. All of the projects presented in this exhibition utilize the network distribution of the postal system or the Internet (or in some cases, both) in order to explore communication from both aesthetic and conceptual perspectives. Many of the projects are interactive, inviting you to participate in the process in some way.

Participating Artists include Haley Bishop, Brian Butler, Sheri Demchak, Erin Fili, Genevieve Johnson, Aziza Klingensmith, Tiffanie Laverty, Carmina Novoa, John Pearson, Marcel Reyes, Stefanie Vermillion, Samara Watkiss, and Melissa Yasko.

Post will be on display in the BAG Gallery at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Show Dates: March 28 through April 6
Opening Reception: Monday, March 31st, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Image: Brian Butler

About the students and their projects:

Haley Bishop has been recording the details of every single text message she receives in a notebook. Her installation explores both her physical location and emotional reaction at the time of receipt of each message.

Brian Butler is collecting artist renditions on the blank cone postcards provided in the space as evidence of the Ice Cream People. The postcards will be archived online at IceCreamPeople.org.

Sheri Demchak's text/blog game began when she mis-heard a song lyric and preferred the version in her mind. She text messaged this song lyric to friends, her friends responded, she forwarded their responses to other friends, and so on. Her installation attempts to map the network created by this game while rendering the ephemeral material temporarily tangible.

Erin Fili believes that at any age or time in your life you can take a few minutes of your day to stop everything and have some creative fun. She has invited friends, family, and with this installation she invites you to color a blank page from her collection of books. Colored pages will be archived in book and web form.

Genevieve Johnson presents postcards created from recycled cereal boxes and other documentation of interventions she has staged at locations frequented by environmental canvassers. The installation and postcards direct visitors to a website that will them with information about this practice and alternatives.

Aziza Klingensmith was inspired by Yoko Ono's instructional paintings when she created these hand-made, star-punched postcards for distant friends she has remained in contact with primarily through websites like Facebook. Recipients were invited to look through the star and respond with what they saw at that moment.

Tiffanie Laverty explores disposable materials related to pop culture. By designing a fake tabloid magazine subscription letter she both mimics and satirizes the language of tabloid advertising while providing a refreshing break to the monotony of opening junk mail. Gallery visitors are invited to read the letters deposited in the trash bin.

Carmina Novoa has been collecting individual interpretations of monsters. The range of responses she has received is on display and the installation provides a space for interactivity, where you can create your own rendering of a monster to add to her collection.

John Pearson's Mailbird addresses the concepts of distance and social connection. Traveling the world, an owl figurine will be photographed in a new location each time he is sent through the postal system. Photographs of Mailbird in his temporary location are archived on a weblog, before continuing on to his next destination.

Marcel Reyes presents a primarily web-based creative writing project which is conceptualized around participants providing an interpretation of visual material and semiotics. Evocative photographs are paired with mysterious text, provoking viewers to creatively respond to something difficult to understand literally.

Stefanie Vermillion presents a series of collaged postcards that investigate the space and atmosphere of the library from her perspective as a student librarian.

Samara Watkiss poses the question "What do you read when you can't read this?" with a continuation of her ongoing Arabic T-Shirt Project. The project, which includes printed t-shirts, postcards, and a website, explores the political and linguistic ramifications of non-Arabic speakers reacting to seeing written Arabic.

Melissa Yasko is interested in how people will respond to the hundreds of postcards she has distributed around Boston, with the simple instructions to "draw on me." Gallery visitors are invited to participate in this investigation and responses will be archived on a weblog and within a Flickr group.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I came across a similar project to Marcel's, only it is with simple animations rather than words. We are asked to interpret what the object is in the animation. Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Feedback please

Hi Everyone,
Please take a look at these possibilities for my postcards.  Also, if you would look at www.arabictshirtproject.com and tell me what you think of the design that would be great. There is a lot of content that I still need to update but feedback would be appreciated.
Ok, so those are the two possibilities for the front.  For some reason blogger won't let me upload the final image of the proposed back of the postcard.  I'll put it in another entry.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hi everyone, just an update on my "DRAW ON ME" postcard project. I've dispersed my first batch of "post-cards" and am now waiting on receiving them. In the mean time I've created a blog where a visitor can find directions on how to print and submit a card of their own. I couldn't figure out how to make it directly downloadable though- does anybody know because that would be great! I've also added a widget so visitors can draw online, but I'm working on creating my own so the visitor could hopefully save and post their drawing (like the graffiti app on facebook), but I'm thinking I might have to do that on an actual site and not a blog. Anyways, this is the link so check it out!


spamland #2

I forgot how I found this, probably through links about animation, and I found this really great creative thing through the use of spam. Which is strangely fun and beautiful in it's self.

"The dialogue for spamland comes from the semi-sensical text found in the filter-busting portion of spam emails."

Sidenote: I am partial to spamland #2 (which is posted), but there are other versions and the youtube link is posted directly by the animators so you can explore their work through this posting :)

my roommate just texted me that it's Chuck Norris' birthday, he's 68 today, and that we need to sacrifice a lamb.
*sigh* lol

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mail Art on Craigslist

___Mail Art___

Reply to: see below
Date: 2008-03-07, 1:01PM EST

This April, the Artclash Collective will be coordinating our third Mail Art project!

What is Mail Art?
The project is an exchange of artwork via snail mail in which participants send a piece of their own original artwork to a randomly assigned recipient each week, so by the end of the month each will have sent and received four pieces of art.

Any guidelines?
We ask that everyone spend at least two hours each week creating their artwork and mail each piece on time.

Has it been successful in the past?
The last Mail Art project drew over 100 participants from 12 states and 3 countries!

How do I sign up?
To participate, please send your name and address via snail mail to 4535 Larchwood Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19143 by March 14, and we will send you the names and addresses of 4 other participants.

Got any inspirational quotes?
"The function of art is to free the spirit of man and to invigorate and enlarge his vision."

How about a website?

2 pr0j3kZ 8y t3H k453Y...

Spam Headings into Art

Combining contemporary net art styles with contemporary JUNKMAIL.

Site: http://spamheadingsinotart.blogspot.com
Send spam headlines to: krobinson@student.smfa.edu

Gimmie Chinese Goodies Now Now Now

Yesterday as usual, I was wasting my life on Craigslist.com. Finally it proved useful, because in the "free" section I came across a delightful asian woman giving away HUNDREDS of little red chinese new year envelopes. We met at an intersection and she threw the box at me as cars honked violently. I am going to send 3 envelopes to each person. 1 will enclose a gift. 1 they must send a gift in back to me. 1 for just in case. After collecting gifts I will showcase them.
Envelopes to go to:
-SMFA inboxes
-distant friends
-street corners
-Wu-Tang Clan

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Submission to DigitalMailArt

I made this postcard for Mike at http://digitalmailart.blogspot.com/
He asks for ANY medium, ANY topic. Very general. Then he posts what he likes.
For an extra special bonus, check out Mike's profile page, and you will find a .wav file of bird noises.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I'm interested in commercial-based, disposable materials that frequent my (and probably your) everyday life. For this particular project, I appropriate the language of magazine subscription reply cards and letters, or junk mail, to create a satirical critique of the magazine/subscription industry as well as tabloid culture. I plan to send the letters to various tabloid magazines (a taste of their own medicine), to leave them in different areas of the city and eventually send them at random through the mail.

Texting and Sisters

Hi! I have been communicating with my sister through the mail and sending her collages, nick knacks and writing her letters. I just send her a large envelope that had 8 envelopes already addressed to me and with postage on it to make it easier for her when responding back to me. My intentions are for her to write something she wouldn't usually tell me through text or a phone conversation and attack a photo or drawing. 
I also just talked with Becky about recording my text messages I get from who ever sends me them. I have written them down in the past for personal reasons but would like to do it routinely and see if a project arises from it.

star postcards

Hi, my project was inspired by Yoko Ono's instructional paintings. I loved the idea of constructing a painting in your head, and decided to add a bit of that oddity and strange elegance to my project, but with a feedback twist.

I sent out twenty envelopes with a hand illustrated card with a star-shape punch, on the blank back side I have instructions to look through the star and reply to me what each person saw through the star. They can e-mail, post (website in progress), write (or not reply at all), I'm hoping by the handmade elements that nineteen of my friends (via facebook) will respond to my request to what they saw (mentally or physically).

The 20th I decided to send out to my favorite director Wes Anderson to see if he would respond.

Eli Cash: Why would a reviewer make the point of saying someone's *not* a genius? Do you especially think I'm *not* a genius? You didn't even have to think about it, did you?

Also, Overheard in New York, is a site I accidentally found through a design site I frequent. I think submitting is a bit tricky, but I thought the site was overall pretty funny.


My project is called Translation<3 (or TranslationHeart) and it's all about communication, language, reading information, and interpretation. These four areas intersect in my fictitious country of Borea, and the richly textured language of Hyperboreans. For those of you who may have missed or don't remember my idea when I explained it in class, the idea is that I provide participants with a minimum amount of information or instruction, and based on a clue of pseudocharacters of my fictitious language, write out a "translation" of the text. Really, it's just their own interpretation, of the photograph perhaps, or something completely abstract. An opportunity to write a quick poetic or prosaic piece.

I was inspired by the mythical region of the Hyperboreans that can be found in Greek legendry. Hyperborea is this ideal place full of light where every citizen is prosperous and healthy, and the food is so healthy and the air is so healthy that ordinary humans become immortal there. In fact, many people, once they set foot beyond the territory would grow old and die in moments because of the change. This may or may not tie into my inspiration for the piece, but if its there its subliminal right now. Anyway I was inspired by the notion of global community, of peacemaking between people, and of finding ways around the language barriers that provide the largest division between people. Simultaneously, I wanted to engage the verbal creativity of others. It could be seen as an elaborate set up to get my friends to write poetry, and I am completely fine with my ulterior motive being known!


Blog: http://translationheart.blogspot.com



Friday, February 29, 2008

Postcrossing - Postcards Traveling the World

I just came across this site today. Postcrossing is a project that allows anyone to exchange postcards (paper ones, not electronic) from random places in the world. As usual, I like this because it's playing with the intersection between the tangible and the truly ephemeral, using the website to connect people from all over the world who in turn receive paper postcards from other members. The project also, although perhaps not intentionally, echoes the Mail Art mantra of "senders receive."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Do you like to color?

This projects main reason is to invoke the inner child in people of all ages. Everyone loves to color and hopefully the people have chosen to participate in this project will prove that everyone has child like qualities to them.

If you would like to participate please feel free to e-mail me @ Erinfili87@gmail.com