Postcard Mail Art Exchange: Works in Progress
Over the last few months I have had the pleasure of working with the List Center’s Campus and Public Programs Manager, Emily Garner on projects designed for the MIT community to overcome the physical limitations to engaging with art during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the summer, as plans for remote learning and campus closures were announced, we quickly got to work creating a project that could engage our community even while our gallery doors remained shut.
We landed on a postcard art exchange that invited members of the MIT community to create artwork that would then be mailed to another participant. Works in Progress was inspired by 56 Henry’s exhibition Notebook and Printed Matter’s We Live in Real Time: A Window Exhibition of Mail Art Made During the Pandemic which prompted participants to visualize the projects and learning they have kept afloat despite interruptions due to the stay-at-home order and changing access to resources.
This community project was also inspired by correspondence art during the Fluxus Movement, which valued creative process over a finished “product,” and obscured the boundary between art and life through ritualized everyday tasks. Correspondence art presents an egalitarian mode of art distribution and network building that escapes the approval systems of museums and galleries, and the dependence on securing exhibition space. Mail art emphasizes day-to-day interactions, and provides community members a common medium and format to consider. The exchange also presented an inevitable temporal delay between participants and negotiated limits in the back-and-forth interaction, opposed to the scramble for immediacy and efficiency in communicating with others online that many of us felt at the beginning of the year.
Works in Progress was facilitated in support of the United States Postal Service around the time of voter registration for the presidential election. As the USPS was established with the purpose of connecting communities through a communication network, the mail art exchange contributed to the circulation of materials through the USPS. We are currently in the process of completing the exchange by documenting completed works for our online gallery then sending the postcards off their their final recipient. We hope you enjoy seeing the work our community made!
Public Programming Intern Summer/Fall 2020