In the 1990s, I became closely involved with International Mail Art. Uniting two interests led to a series of tarot-based mail art projects, ending with the creation of the "Mail Artist's Lenormand Deck" (1995) and "Mail Artists Tarot Deck" (1998).
By and by, when more and more mail artists turned to the web and to email to spread their works instead of using the official mail system, I withdrew from the International Mail Art scene . To me "mail art" is, what the name implies, art sent by mail, tangible small pieces of art, not just images on a monitor. My motto became "one piece of mail art in the hand is better than ten on the net". Now, I would rather say "..one piece of mail art in the hand is better than 100 on the net..". For me the period of genuine mail art is over. I have written several articles on that issue, some of which you can read below.
Before it came to that, I initiated several mail art projects. To initiate a mail art project means to invite people to mail contributions, which in artistic form express artistic interpretations of a certain theme - and when the project ends at a given deadline, to publish a properly printed or photocopied documentation of the various contributions received.
My Tarot-Related Mail Art Projects
"Artists' Tarot 1993-96"
Part of my mail art projects had, of course, themes that related to my tarot & cartomantic interests. Beginning slowly, I initiated during the years 1993-96 a yearly project called "Mail Artist's Tarot", asking mail artists all over the world to contribute a piece of art relating to a tarot card of their own choosing. That some of the participants had no or only the vaguest ideas of what tarot was did, of course, not matter. During these four succeeding years, I received a total of more then 200 contributions (a few contributors even mailed an entire set of tarot majors). The majority of the images are depicted in four documentation magazines, sent to all contributors.
(See some contributions here)
Mail Artistsí Lenormand Deck
After the four succeeding yearly tarot projects, I decided in 1995 to try out another concept. An invitational project. This is a concept, which many mail artists do not approve of. In their definitions, a mail art project shall be open to all and the invitations circulated freely in the network. The very nature of my project did, however, not fit into that axiom. I sent templates, with a printed frame and a defined card name, to a number of selected mail artists, asking them to contribute a black & white modem version of a Lenormand-type Fortune-Telling card.
After the deadline, I produced "Mail Artists' Lenormand Deck", with a total of 78 cards, giving a copy of the entire set as documentation to each of the 38 contributors in 14 different countries. I also produced a small number of extra packs for sale, another concept, which the group of mail artists, who believe they define international mail art, does not approve of, another of their axioms being "mail art and money donít mix".
(See some of the Lenormand cards here)
Mail Artistís Tarot Deck 1998
After the success with the Lenormand deck, I followed it up with a "real" tarot, "The Mail Artists' Tarot Deck 1998". Again sending templates to a narrow circle of mail artists and now also to a number of artistic minded tarotists, asking them to contribute each two defined major arcana cards. Since most invited artists accepted the invitation, I ended up with 66 different major arcana cards (three of each title) designed by 33 artists from all over the world. In the meantime, I had found a better and more professionally looking way of producing the cards, using a hot melting foil technique, instead of the lamination pouches I used for the Lenormand deck.
The 33 contributors received each a full color major set of 22 cards. These decks were collated after an intricate system, that secured that none of the 33 packs were exactly the same. Furthermore 25 complete numbered sets of 66 cards each (being actually 3 sets of majors in one box) were made to be given away as gifts or sold (another infringement of the so-called "unwritten laws of mail art"). A small booklet, illustrating all cards in color, was enclosed with the deck.
See cards from the Mail Artistsí Tarot Deck 1998 here
Tarot Christmas Tree Trumps
(in cooperation with Museo dei Tarocchi, Riola, Italy) -
download pdf here
Asta Erte's Waite-Smith Tarot 100 Years Anniversary Mail Art Project
Download pdf here
Other mail art projects
Contributions to other artists' projects
Articles about mail art
Asta Erteís interview with me on mail art
A particular aspect of mail art are "artistamps", small pieces of art, printed on gummed paper in a limited and signed number of typically 20-50 sheets and perforated, so they resemble ordinary postage stamps (and sometimes are mistaken for such). Artistamps can deal with themes that may interest the artist; some create imaginary countries, issuing not only stamps but also currency and official documents. Artistamp magazines and literature are published and a large group of collectors exist. During my involvement with international mail art, I created and produced a total of 21 different artistamp sheets, some of them relating to tarot.
(See examples here)