The position of the mailman as the ultimate man in the (pre-)electronic communication process.


The history of communication is a lie. Because the story is only a story and therefore incomplete, selective and interpreted. Blatantly absent in the recollection is the anonymous, that which doesn't have the power to make itself known, but that equally can make sense and be sublime. The conversations between past, present and future are always fragmentary and/or prophetic; a mishmash of truth, semi-truth and fiction, the tension between reality and illusion.


It is not actual or postmodernistic (rather postexistentialistic) to move on the historical currents of the social problem of communication. For the mailman is not a son of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, but he is the inevitable sun for Mail-Art. The mailman is no artist, but the moon of communication. The mailman is unkown, yet not without significance within the story of postal arts, day and night.


The eclectic novel of the new communicative space threatens to strangle the romantic narrative lines of man in communication. Technology dehumanizes the games between sender and receiver. But who is going to bother with the urbanization of cyberspace? Is there enough space for an ethic of the "social" superhighway?


The mailman is a communicative anachronism. But on the other hand he makes that same transfer of information visible. He is an essential trace within communicative reality. The letter carrier is not the owner of the information. But he is more than a symbol or an icon, moving on the level of language, in the language play between word and meaning. The mailman is a referent on the level of reality, a human of flesh and blood. It is of course nostalgic to presume that the 21st century will cherish the same totem animals as the 20th. Electronics are the guillotine of the mail (as a system of information). Postcards, post marks and stamps are the memorabilia of administrative rituals from a recent past.


"The end of a workers era is the beginning of..." Even Mercury, the mailman of the Gods, is impotent to complete the previous sentence. Ten years after 1984 we see an Orwellian hurricane approaching and no one knows where and when it will hit. Or are all sceptics wrong and is there an interactive and electronic nirvana lying ahead of us?


The spring of communication is over. The installation's artifacts look back and take different positions: where is the (symbolic) center of communication? Which strategies do exist to save the frivolous adultery of democracy in a so-called "decentralized" cyberspace?

07. The earth loses its cosmic position as a center to the advantage of heliocentrism. Theocentrism is defeated by anthropocentrism and humanism. After God, the (ultimate) man dies, too. One grumbles and talks about eco-facism. Only on the materialistic level egocentrism is alive and kicking. The subject has been buried. Some are waiting for a resurrection.


The epistemological question of present communication is (still) possible, is socially and historically irrelevant. The vulture of power relations circles especially around the correlation between the quality and the quantity of communication. Not the values, but the numbers rule the planet. The merchandizing of information is a fact.


The distance between people gets increasingly smaller as the speed of communication increases. In theory this implies that the world will end in one point that is situated between nowhere and everywhere.


The social function of the mailman (the effective contact with man) disappears because of the increase of telecommunication. The notion of "social" gets a new dimension. One can be alone yet be very social within the myth of cyberspace. The psychology of personal space needs to be reconsidered urgently. Can this be a matter of pathological communication? Indisputably there is an increase of alienation regarding the "really" fellow human being. But what is still real? What is virtual?


The contradiction between man and machine is getting smaller. The machine that increases alienation among human beings within the social system, brings people closer together. The paradox of the cyberspace traveller or netizen.


A tribute to man seems unsuitable. The letter carrier who contributes to the realization of Mail-Art, who is the carrier of postal art, is invisible. Man has become but a dilapidated metaphor.


An individual "pro-mailman" position is not an a-political theme in a time when man is subjected to the machine. De la Mettrie becomes the spiritual father of McLuhan and Gibson. Where is the information-proletariat situated in this process of communicative "progress"?


A human approach of the post and communication commits itself on the level of the labor and labor-intensity. The notion of "unemployment" threatens to loose its meaning in a new social reality, and thus get a new dimension. To be unemployed doesn't apply anymore to man only, but to the lack of electronic communication equipment as well. On the other hand, the same electronics create a wave of unemployment.


A political subject would be: to recognize the superhighway as a culture of Power. It is being whispered: Internet is an "anarchist" way, without hierarchical structure, without leaders. Gossip or truth?


The attention to the role of "man" in the communication system is reduced to a linguistic or semiologic matter. The ethical consequences of hunger, of stress, of feelings, of shortages or of friendship in communication seem to be lost in the wrong millennium. Human activities disappear in the postal process "apparently" by an increase of electronic communication. The monitor estheticizes.


Yet one forgets one thing in this interactive story: the sedentary, electronic human being who is enclosing himself in order to do "home shopping" by means of his monitor and his keyboard, will have to appeal to "people" who deliver the parcels home. Hence the post's function to distribute products will increase. Unless everything gets in the hands of privatized courier services. A political option with relation to "cocooning".


In the installation the labour of the postal workers is visualized by a series of 60 mail bags, filled with information; also shown are portraits of unknown mailmen. The tools (stamps, ink and paper) used by postal employees are intended to focus on the human being behind the object.


The proper functioning of the postal services is accentuated by the individual project "indirect correspondence", this means correspondence via a detour. For instance references to ficticious persons and/or addresses. On the schemes of the itinerary and also on the very same circulating letters appear traces on the post, in the snow of time and space. These traces indicate the respect for pieces of mail and the accuracy with which the postal system operates.


Opposing this are electronic appliances (such as telex, fax, modem) that alienate and/or eliminate man and reduce communication mere efficiency. The long strips of fax paper posted on walls emphasize the shortcomings of electronic communication. Smells or perfumes for instance can't be transmitted.


In the construction of the Cathedral of Communication the anonymity of the mailman is an essential fact. His ephemeral contacts with correspondence, the content of which he will never know. An intuitive retrospective of the evolution of (electronic) communication shows a system of objects and traces, in which the letter carrier as a concept accentuates the democratic aspect of the postal services. An extracting sculpture about postal and post-postal thinking, feeling and wanting.


The present is always the past to the future.

The Administration Centre - 42.292 / mail-art archive / Guy Bleus
P.O.Box 43/3830 Wellen/Belgium
Phone & fax : (+)32-12-74.14.15 (night and day)
E-mail address : guybleus@mailart.be