PRINT May 1985


Correspondence Art: Source Book for the Network of International Postal Art Activity

Edited by Michael Crane and Mary Stofflet, San Francisco: Contemporary Arts Press, 1984, 522 pp., ca. 200 black and white illustrations, $15.95 paper.

There are lots of examples of and comment on the organized neo-Dada mail art movement (mid ’50s-1981) in this volume including a few Dada precursors, but not Raoul Hausmann’s 1921 postcard to Tristan Tzara, where he decorated a face with uncouth phrases. You can buy it today as a postcard of the postcard and send it yourself— after six decades it still retains a certain violence. The stuff collected in Correspondence Art doesn’t; to use the words of the Church of the SubGenius, this is neither Dada “nor the sickness remaining after dada has fled”—which means both the sickness at heart Berlin Dadaists like Hausmann felt when history no longer had a use for them, and the historical sickness Dada failed to cure. The history of contemporary mail art is the history of an immediately quaint form that excused itself from history. Dada opposed history—not just as facts but also as theory. Theresa difference. Anyway, as Man Ray put it in 1958, just about the time mail art was getting off the ground, “Now we are trying to revive Dada. Why? Who cares? Who does not care? Dada is dead. Or is Dada still alive? We cannot revive something that is alive just as we cannot revive anything that is dead.”

Greil Marcus