Clemente Padín


Biographical Background

My experiences in Mail Art date from 1967 when Edgardo Antonio Vigo, Guillermo Deisler, Dámaso Ogaz and me exchanged our respective publications: Diagonal Cero (Diagonal Zero), Ediciones Mimbre (Osier Editions), La Pata de Palo (leg of Wood) and Los Huevos del Plata (The Eggs of Silver). From these publications we later assembled the testimony of our propositions. I officially began creating Mail Art in 1969 when the Uruguayan magazine OVUM 10 published my postcards and visual poems. In 1974, during the Uruguayan military dictatorship, I organized the First Latinoamerican Mail Art Exposition at Galeria U, in Montevideo, Uruguay. My edition of apocryphal mail art stamps denounced the dictatorial regime for its brutal suppression of human rights and this eventually led to my incarceration from August, 1977 to November, 1979. But, in October, 1983 I resumed my artistic activities with the "1st. of May" Exhibition at the Association of Banking Employees of Uruguay. Thereafter, I proposed and organized the Latin American and Caribbean Association of Mail Artists which was formed August 3l, 1984, in Rosario, Argentina. Since then, I have participated in hundreds of Mail Art Shows throughout the world with combinations of my poetry, performances and video art.

My Attraction to Mail Art

My attraction to Mail Art was the responsive, genuine nature of communication exchanges. Mail Art is an artistic school without any "isms". As such, any "student" can enter this "school" and participate by using a diversity of new techniques or media for creating artwork in all disciplines. In this non-commercial and non-consumer domain, Mail Art has endured and remained a viable force for nearly thirty years. Originality in Mail Art stems from the revolutionary communication of people through the mail. This and other characteristics of Mail Art are essential if we are to understand appropriate concepts. Mail Art emphasizes the importance of communication, rather than a mercantile product subject to the laws of the marketplace. Mail artworks are not made for the art market to be consumed. Rather, they are products of communication. The aesthetic value of Mail Art lies in the communicative effectiveness of transmitted ideas. Yet, the cultural regime dictates in an oppressive system where certain privileged beings are "allowed" through divine mandate to produce art. Mail artists should question this form of false cultural dialectic. Sometimes the images and works which mail artists produce are created to please critics. The cultural regime is satisfied when artists create images and works which build an ideal world without contradictions and without wounds. This only succeeds in placing society under a blanket which hides art in a false reality without purpose or function. Ideological hegemony in society defines priorities of what is "beautiful" and what is not, that which is "art" and that which is not. Given free options to communicative proposals, the viewer's right and that of everybody else are affirmed in the decision making process. Mail Art and other conceptual disciplines permit the spectator to have direct interaction with artwork according to that which has living value for one's self. Herein lies the fulfillment of individual, consummate creativity. It is viable to neither seek nor give approbation to people or art that merely maintains hegemony. The price of a breath of air; the price of human values; the art establishment has functioned for its own ends: what is the price of these things, and who pays?



The Ideological Character of Mail Art

Mail Art is art and results in products of human work that reflect social relations. As a product of communication, Mail Art is an inseparable part of social production and it is from this social milieu that mail artists use whatever media are of useful value. Just as important, with the network of mail artists are interchanges of ideas and proceedings which are important factors for the production of mail objets. In whatever product of communication that I choose to transmit there are the characteristics of relationships between society and me. Of course, this includes the antagonisms and contradictions that these relationships present. Mail Art reflects these relationships without often reproducing approved ideologies. The political sense of art is inseparable from its artistic sense. Art is revealed like a subliminal form of social conscience; an instrument of knowledge whose function is auxiliary to that same society. Art can be an instrument of change and transformation.

The ideological mechanisms of cultural control thrive in societies that favor a hegemonic system. No wonder that Mail Art, intended as a full expression of humanity, is distorted to the point that it can only be spoken of as a historical or autonomous discourse, like an entity floating in space. Mail Art is taken out of the world and is alienated from the social reality that gave rise to it. It is necessary that we recover Mail Art from these tendencies and return it to its communicative efficacy. It is impossible to reduce artists to the political or the social; yet artists can only reduce reality by pretending that their work is not involved in the political and social. In conclusion, there are several options that the networkers can choose from:

  • They can opt for social values already in existence or they can change the codes of social communication.
  • They can qualify or try to measure the different mechanisms of control within the system, or try a new form of representation that will enable artists to question all established knowledge.
  • They can reproduce work only for the art market which includes all work that is permissible, or propose works and texts that question the aesthetic, social and political status.
  • They can resign their social responsibility by "l´art pour l´art" or...

This note was published in the review "ND", nr. 15, (page 35), Austin, Texas, USA, 1991 and included in the book "ETERNAL NETWORK-A Mail Art Anthology" edited by Chuck Welch, University of Calgary Press, Alberta, Canada, 1995 (page 205).