AN INTRODUCTION ABOUT ART & EXCHANGE
Today, there is an art movement based on art exchange. It is a planetary Network of thousands of artists exchanging art with one another and using communication-media as art-media (post, telegraphy, telex, telefax, telephone, computer, etc.). This art-circuit is probably the biggest art-movement, that has ever been in the history of art. And it keeps on growing every day... This art-circuit is usually called Mail-Art Network, because the post-system is mostly used as the exchange-medium. Yet, there does not exist "one" organized Network. Every mail-artist or exchanger has his own mailing-list, which comprises his (smaller or wider) circuit. When someone is talking about "THE" Network, he is talking about all those (overlapping) circuits together.
Since the early "slow motion" correspondence or art-exchange of artists of Fluxus, Nouveau Réalisme, Gutai, poesia visiva, concept-art and the New York Correspondence School, the Network has evolved into a structure of global measurements with "fast motion" effects. Thousands of artists are every day (= every night !) communicating with one another. It is evident that this entails a lot of communication problems. For instance, the impossibility to correspond with "all" other artists. And the paradox of this situation is: the harder one works in the network, the more answers one gets AND the harder one has to work!
From an econonomic point of view, Mail-Art (or Correspondence art, or Exchange-Art) includes e.g. the production, distribution and consumption of material and immaterial Mail-Art goods in the world. Typical herewith is that these three components (usually) stay together in the hands of the artists. Mail-artists don't distribute their art via official galleries, but via the "alternative" planetary Network. The existence and working of Mail-Art returns to an ancient form of barter. It is a primitive structure of direct and free barter of art without our classic medium of art-exchange, the fetish "money". In this respect we must agree that (in principle) the art-exchangers value the received higher than the exchanged. Otherwise they would not exchange! This comes also through the fact that they (mostly) value the "act of exchanging" (the communication) itself higher than the "objects or information of exchange". So the "exchange-VALUE" does not really matter. But of course, this is not an absolute assertion.
This economic aspect of Mail-Art or Art-Exchange can be indicated as "idealistic". The exchange is based on mutual trust and belief. But this idealism is not forever. E.g. when artist B never answers the sendings of A, sooner or later the oneway communication or "pseudo-exchange" will stop. So, the "materialistic" aspect of receiving an aswer (in the form of a catalogue, a list of addresses or a personal letter) is especially important for its "psychological" (and thus, practical) consequences : staying in communication.
Mail-Art is a "Multilateral" art-form. It includes e.g. artists'books, audio- and video-art, periodicals, copy-art, assemblings, artists'postage stamps, language-art, postcards, recycling-art, electronic art, stamp-art, etc... As long as a work can be transmitted or mailed (integral or in parts) all techniques, materials or methods can be used. Mail-Art is also an "encounter-place" of artists of different social classes, different cultures, different ages, different ideologies, etc. But maybe more significant than what they have different, are the aspects they have in common: what brings and holds them together. A mail artist is often a disappointed artist. Not disappointed in art, but in the art-industry of the leading galleries and museums. Being a member of a planetary art movement helps him to transcend this isolation and alienation in art. In the network he/she is a part of a big art-community but WITHOUT losing his/her own identity and individuality. But especially the thrill of working together with thousands of artists is an extremely new experience and sensation in the evolution of art.