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Announcement of theme 24 – Mail Art

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

The enthusiasm for written correspondence and the postal overload during the pandemic have led Quarantined Museum to think about mail art. It was also an opportunity for us to break (somewhat) from our digital habits and explore the intimate format of the epistolary object. The trace of an exchange, a line between two geographical points, a literary object, a holiday souvenir, an extended hand, a diary, a journey through time: correspondence can take the most varied forms.

Mail art is an art movement based on the idea of sending small-scale works by mail. Its origins can be traced to the practice of American artist Ray Johnson who, in the 1950s, sent collages, prints, and postcards of various kinds to members of the art community, creating what is now known as the New York Correspondence School. Popularized internationally in the 1960s by the Fluxus group, mail art possesses a significant Canadian wing in the Morris/Trasov Archive (formerly the Image Bank). This movement on the fringes of the art markets was inspired by European avant-gardes of the early 20th century (Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism) and advocated the values of exchange and collaboration. Appearing as a reaction to the crisis of modern abstract painting, this art form undoubtedly contributed to the rise of conceptual art.

This month on Quarantined Museum, we propose to reflect on mail art as an art based on exchange. Defined less by its form than by its disseminatory strategy, mail art is still practiced across the world today. As a system for breaking down geographic isolation—long before the existence of the Internet and the concept of the “family bubble”—what can mail art teach us about long-distance human interaction?

👉 As part of this call for submissions, we invite you to explore questions associated with mail art and correspondence. Do you exchange letters with a loved one? A stranger? How do you feel about your mailbox? Do you reveal yourself on a postcard? What image would grace the front of a souvenir postcard from home? What can one read in calligraphy? If you could correspond with any character, real or fictional, living or dead, who would it be? Why not challenge yourself by creating an object that could be sent, as by postal mail, for the price of a stamp?

View of a postcard creation project at the Musée d'art de Joliette, as part of the exhibition Souvenirs of the Self, by Jin-me Yoon, 2019. Photo: Romain Guilbault


This month, we’re offering you the chance to partner with a stranger for the time of a correspondence. Stay tuned for the call for entries!

➔ Nathalie Galego, Assistant Curator of Collections, will tell us about a curiosity in the MAJ collection: a letter from Paul Gauguin dated 1899.

➔ Charlotte Lalou Rousseau, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, will talk about the photographic series Souvenirs of the Self, by Canadian artist Jin-me Yoon.

As always, the education department is preparing a “Family Special” activity for you.

And there will be many other surprises on the blog, including the fourth installment of the new podcast series Spécialiste en la matière !

Stay tuned!

This article was written by Charlotte Lalou Rousseau, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Musée d’art de Joliette.


Follow the indications to participate and get your art on this platform. The next deadline is Friday, May 31, 2021, at noon. The exhibition will be online on Thursday, June 3, 2021.

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