Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mail Interview with Clemente Padin


This interview was done in the period December 1994 till March 1996 by
mail. During the interview Clemente Padin from Uruguay also got
hooked up to the internet as well.

This is the e-mail version of the interview. There is a hardcopy as well
which also contains some illustrations. For more info on this and on the
interview-project in general you can contact me at the address below the interview


Started on: 3-12-1994

RJ : Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional
question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?

Reply on: 31-12-1994

CP : My first experiences in Mail Art date from 1967 when with my
latin-american friends Edgardo Antonio Vigo, Guillermo Deisler and
D maso Ogaz we started to exchange our reviews : Diagonal Cero ,
Ediciones Mimbre , La Pata de Palo & Los Huevos del Plata ( Diagonal
Zero , Osier Editions , Leg of Wood and The Eggs of the Silver ) and
our mail-art works. The Uruguayan review OVUM 10 published 6 post-
cards with my visual poems in 1969. Later, in 1974, during the
Uruguayan military dictatorship, I organized the First Latin-American
Mail Art Exposition documented at the Gallery U, in Montevideo and I
was editing the second epoch of OVUM, about which G‚za Perneczky
says: "The periodical and private publications that had midwifed in the
birth of the network ( File of Canada, the American Weekly Breeder
and Mail Order Art , Poland's NET , Padin's OVUM , etc ) displayed, to
different degrees, motives that emphasizes the need for social contacts
or were based on more commercial interests." (A Halo, 1991, p.232).
After the history continues...

(Clemente Padin typed his answer and made under the text a collage
with some artistamps with texts like "Junio 1973" , "Zona Militar" , "Ay")

RJ : The mail-art I have seen from you mostly has a political meaning as
well. Did mail art have an effect on the political situation?

Reply on : 21-01-1995

CP : I am not sure but in my personal case the answer is: YES! You
know, I was imprisoned for the Uruguayan dictatorship the 25th August,
1977 for my opposition to the military government. An edition of
rubber-stamps and false mail-stamps denouncing the suppression of
human rights and the death, torture and disappearance of many people
opposite to the regimen led my incarceration and the sentence by four
years for "transgression that hurt the moral and reputation of the army".
Also, for organizing the Counter-Biennal in front of the latinoamarican
section of the X Biennal of Paris, France, curated by the Director of the
Fine Arts Museum of Uruguay, in the fall on 1977. But an intense and
supported mobilization of hundred and hundred of artists in the whole
world freed me after only two years and three months!

Mail art (and the network) could have effect in the social-political
situation because it is a product of the human work and reflects and
reproduces the social relations. Like artistic product is specificly art,
with a value in the market interchangeable by money (in our concept
the value is high but the price or its expression in money is
contemptible for the merchants). Like product of communication, mail
art is inseparable part of the social production and it can not leave to
express the reality but symbolically. Thus, mail art is a subliminal form
of social conscience and an instrument of knowledge (like science). So,
also, it can be a tool of change (or status's legitimation) and
transformation (or retrocession).

RJ : You call mail art 'an instrument of knowledge'. After so many
years of doing mail art, how would you describe the things you learned
from the network? What does the network bring that you could not have
learned in any other way?

Reply on : 14-2-1995

CP : First, it is an instrument of knowledge of myself. And the others.
After, there are many things that you can learn by personal experience
through networking. Network (and art) discovers dark and secret zones
of our spirit an existence. Also, it brought us to understand the
entangled of our present world. By means of networking we have
learned what things like solidarity and true friendship are. Sometimes
we can question and change indesirable reality. Only by networking the
people know all the possibilities of the new instruments of
communication that technology have putted in their hands. On the other
side, art and network have discussed and anticipated the scientific
knowledges like impressionists that discovered the corpuscular nature
of light. It happens because artists that experiment with artistical
supports or new instruments of communication also discover its
structure and physical properties.

RJ : Can you give some examples of 'new instruments of communication'
that you have worked with?

(On February 23th Clemente sent out his first E-mail message, which I
read on February 25th. It was not an text-answer, but in a way an answer
to my last question. Clemente has entered the Internet too. I sent him
an E-mail reply to confirm arrival of his message and wrote to him that
he could sent his next answer by E-mail too).

Reply on : 11-3-1995

CP : By a side the new instruments of communication work like tools of
inscription: pencil, brush, chisel, etc. By other side they use different
supports like paper, frame, painting, wood, books, etc. Now for the
inscripts we use the scanner of the P.C. and like support of the
Facsimile or the P.C. sconce or the modem. Before we use air or sea
mail for communication between us. Now, we use the electronic space.
Before we sent objects, post-cards, envelopes, letters, DIN A4, etc. Now
we transmit electronic impulses and, in the near future, R-laser.

We know that the works are altered by the medium, because each
medium has its own in-put and out-put, id est, its own codes of entrance
and exit, included its own channel of transmission. All these items
integrate the form of expression that determinate the form of contents
inevitably. If you obtain a competent expression to a peculiar content,
using the new instruments of communication, perhaps you gain an
artistical message. Personally I have used fax and through a job-friend
I'm trying to use E-mail. Also "new instruments of communication"
involve all the last discoveries of the graphic industries.

RJ : Can you tell me a bit more about your first experiences with E-
mail. To make the question more concrete I will send this question by
E-mail and by the traditional mail on the same day.

Reply on : 2-4-1995 (by Internet) , 4-4-1995 (by snail-mail)

CP : A friend, from AEBU, is an associate of a database called
"Chasque" and he consents the use of his e-mail to me. Finally,
February 23th 1995, I did my first e-mail communication to Chuck
Welch, Fagagaga, Reid Wood, Harry Polkinhorn and you. After Ashley
Parker Owens sent me the e-mail directory from Global Mail. I also
connected with Abelardo Mena from de Banco de Ideas Z de Cuba. In
Uruguay there are only three e-mail services connected with Internet:
the Republic University; URUPAC, a public institution belongs to the
official telephonic service and RED CHASQUE ("chasque" is the ancien
and primitive communication system between the latino american first
people) depending of the private institution: the Third World Institute.

The first communication by Internet in Uruguay was the August 23th
1994, to the SECIU (Informatic Centre Service of the Republic
University). You see, we are too young! The costs for transmission in
minimum between 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and for nothing between 10 p.m. to
7 a.m. A Kilobyte received costs one cent and each kilobyte sent costs
five cents of a dollar, but you must add the cost of the CHASQUE
subscription. The first world sells us the computer technology, but also
the rules of its use.

RJ : In 1986 you and others proposed the constitution of a Universal
Federation of Mail Artists (see MA-Congress 86, edited by G. Ruch,
page 50). Some years later I invented the International Union of Mail-
Artists, as a fake union in which everybody could take his own role (see
IUOMA-magazine, june 1991). Do you think that there should be some
real organization for mail-artists or would it undermine the whole game
of mail-art in which there are no written rules?

Reply on : 9-5-1995 (internet)

CP: The Institutions are born when they are necessary. Mail Art doesn't
need Federations or Syndicates for to act but the mail-artists need
institutions in particular situations of their lives.

Near 1986, almost all Latino america went out of dictatorships and we
need to defend our rights. The unity of people was essential for to
consolidate the reconquered liberty. Our Universal Federation of Mail
Artists was defined itself "by the principle of freedom, justice and social
solidarity" and was pronounced for "the respect of the human rights and
for economy political according to the social interest". Also it proposed
lines programmatic action for to defend the interests of the mail- artists
in front of private and public institutions. Like you have said, Mail Art
doesn't need rules and, if you read the text in MA-Congress 86, our
proposal didn't impose ones. Only it just joined efforts to struggle for
our dignity, first like humans and second like artists.

RJ : Currently you are very busy with the mail-art project: "Jose Marti:
100th Anniversary" with an exposition for AEBU. Why did you start this

Reply on 11-6-1995 (E-mail) 15-06-1995 (snail-mail)

CP: If you see, all my mail-art projects regard these considerations: join
the people to struggle for their rights and demand situations
political-economics that permit us a peaceful life. It is the case of the
"Jose Martu, 100 Anniversary". He died liberating his country, Cuba,
and he died raising the flags of solidarity and equality between men.
Those are not only words. He really sacrificed his life for our rights.
Not only he struggled against the spanish and north-american
colonialism but, also for the elemental human rights, like to love, to
eat, to work, to sleep, to be restored to health, to have two square
meters of land for to be buried on, to have a roof ... don't have to
struggle for the food with the rats like more of the half of the latino-
american population. Jose Marti is not dead and never will he rest
while there was anybody hungry on the world.

RJ : Is the project a succes? Did the mail-artists who contributed to the
project understand what it was about?

Reply on 28-7-1995

CP : Almost all networkers that have participated in the Mart¡'s homage
have understood his thought. For many people to convoke a mail art
show over Jos‚ Mart¡ was a surprise and also an anachronism because
the network don't exalt the individualism neither the official history
(always placed in hands of those who have the power). But to talk about
Mart¡ is not to talk about the past or the individual person but the
heroic fighting for the liberty and dignity of the peoples, like him, 100
years old before.

To talk about Mart¡ is not to talk about Cuba or "Our America" (as he
called America Latina) but the whole world, there where there is an
outcast or a starving man for bread and justice. I have rather chosen to
evoke his gigantic figure in these critical instances for his small mother
country and people, arbitrarily and unilaterally blockaded since decades
by the largest economic and military power of all the times, as well as in
these instances of sharp crises in our Latin America, where
underdevelopment and neo-liberalism oblige to more than a half of our
population to infraconsume and hungry.

I like his maxim "Doing is the better way of saying", leaving to the
rhetoric of words and symbols its mere role of being the frame of the
action. During all his life Mart¡ proclaimed his humanist thought and
cultivated the essential values of life: equality, dignity and fortitude
before difficulties, the total offering to just causes, love to his people
and liberty, thirst of justice that admits no bribery. And network has
understood it in this way, supporting this initiative in a great number
with the participation of 315 networkers from 38 countries.

RJ : How do the Postal Offices in Uruguay look at mail-art nowadays. Is
it different compared to the times you started?

Reply on 20-8-1995

CP : Yes, it is different. In 1967, when I started with mail art and when
I was editing "Los Huevos del Plata", generational uruguayan review,
the post was costly. Nowadays, it is the same as in the countries of the
First World. Also, we have the SAL service, more cheap but slow. I have
a post office box that costs US$ 40,- each year.

In jail I knew the President of the Postal Union. He told me that in the
Uruguayan Post Office there are always police investigators (civil
policemen). He was imprisoned ten years under dictatorship because he
was the employers representative (!). Now, I do not know if there are
investigators but we know that the repressive apparatus from
dictatorship was not removed in Uruguay.

RJ : In all the years you have been active in mail art you must have
received a lot. Do you keep it all? How does your archive look like?

Reply on 13-9-1995

(by separate mail I received the beautiful catalog of the Marti's
exhibition with a large list of all the participants and some samples of

CP : In fact my first archive was formed by visual poetry since 1967.
Remember that the visual poetry exhibitions in Latino American (that
we called "New Poetry") first were shown in Argentina by Edgardo
Antonio Vigo in 1967, and after, in Uruguay, in 1968 by me. All these
works from more than 400 poets (fonics, visuals, process-poets, etc.)
were exhibited in the "Exhaustive International New Poetry Exposition",
at the Gallery U in Montevideo, Uruguay, 1972. After I packed it for an
exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum of Santiago, Chile, directed by
Nemesio Ant£nez.

The ten wood-boxes with all the works were sent to the Chilean
Embassy in Montevideo, in September 1973. But one month later, there
was the Pinochet's state-stroke and I couldn't return to the Chilean
Embassy because we had our own dictatorship in Uruguay and I was
afraid for my freedom. So I lost my visual poetry archive. After my first
mail art show in the exterior (the "Image Bank Post Card Show",
Vancouver, Canada, 1971, and the well known "Omaha Flow Systems",
Omaha, USA, 1973, by Ken Friedman) I began to organize the "Festival
de la Postal Creativa" ("Creative Post-Card Festival") in 1974 and I re-
organized my archive. But, when I was imprisoned by Uruguayan
dictatorship in 1977 I lost 20 suitcases with all the works and
correspondence; letters and cards from Beuys, Ulrichs, Higgins,
Friedman, Albrecht/D, Blaine, Carri¢n, Sarenco, Groh, Gappmayrs,
Tilson, Dowd, Deisler, Zabala, Vigo, Ben, Garnier, Moineau, Filliou,
Urban, Xerra, Jandl, Plant, Atchley, Davi, Det Hompson, Crozier,
Nannuci, Miccini, Spatola, Gerz, Nichol, Arias-Misson, Kooman,
Meltzer, Ockerse, Cook, Toth, Beltrametti, Ehrenberg, Varney, etc.,

After that, from 1983, whet I was re-born to art and life, I organized
the "May 1st., Workers-Day" at AEBU, Montevideo and many other
shows about freedom to Chile, Panam , Paraguay, Nicaragua, against
apartheid and United States Interventions, etc. All these exhibitions
were donated to the social institutes that had sponsored them, like the
"Uruguayan Association for Mandela's Freedom", etc. par example, the
Jos‚ Mart¡: 100th Anniversary" that I curated in this year was donated
to the "Americans' House" of Cuba, because Jos‚ Mart¡ was the Cuban
National Hero. And so.....

Now, I am cataloguing and placing anything that I receive. My archive
is stored in suitcases and is available for viewing and studying to all
people. Also, I'm preparing slides and documentation for my periodical
statements and conferences. In the future, I wait till somebody
transforms my archive in a Latino American Networking Space for to
preserve the memory of these years, so much rich and actives.

RJ : After so many years of doing mail art, do you see any changes that
have appeared in the network over the years?

Reply on 1-11-95

CP : Sure! Mail never stops, always it is transforming. First, the
beginning with Ray Johnson in the mid. 1960s with the sendings to his
friends and the foundation of the New York Correspondence School.
After the apparition of the first lists of mail artists by the action of Ken
Friedman and others. The political and social situation of countries of
the Third World and East Europe propitiate the birth of the network
like an artistical resource for to surpass the isolation and the
institutional arbitrariness through communication and interactivity
toward freedom and dignified life. This part was studied exhaustively by
G‚za Perneczky in his book "A Hal¢". We read: "Accordingly, the
network started to expend around the year 1972 through the almost
simultaneous emergence of the Image Bank in Canada, the File
magazine and other pioneering experiments with international lists of
addresses that involved the Polish Koksal Gallery, a couple of Czech
artists and Clemente Padin of Uruguay."

More later the new media increase extraordinarily the connections and
the participants in network was more and more. Also the fall of the
Berlin's wall and the incorporation of new countries in mail art did
that, today, there are hundreds and hundreds of exhibitions each year
and the networkers sum thousands and thousands in all the world.

Now, we assit to the inclusion of the fax and e-mail increasing the
interactivity between networkers and, also, to the growing
mercantilization and institutionalization of the mail art. Money and
mail art don't mix: precisely, the force of the network lies in this norm.
The theme is to maintain art in the area of use, and not in the area of
the market or change. By now network only has value. It has not a price
with search for profit or lucre, out of its social function like the market

RJ : I have noticed that some mail artists that are in the network for a
longer time, build their own "correspondence school" and don't always
react to newcomers who try to contact them. One reason is of course
time and money, but another is that they get tired of explaining again
and again the concept of mail art and rather just play the game with old
friends. Do you ever get tired of explaining what mail art is all about?

Reply on 27-12-1995

CP : (here, a memento for my old chilean friend, Guillermo Deisler,
who died the fall of October 1995 in Halle, Germany).

No, I am not tired of explaining to all what is mail art and networking,
especially to newcomers. They have in their hands the future of these
forms of communication. The change and the transformation of the
Network are absolutely necessaries to preserve the principles of the
eternal communication. When the network stops, it dies and dissapears.
For the newcomers, I have edited a small booklet about latino american
mail art with exhaustive notes about mail art's characteristics and I am
answering all the correspondence that I receive (the money only does
speed up or slow down that process).

So, it is impossible I can build my own "correspondence school" though
I have my old friends, naturally, like Edgardo Antonio Vigo, Graciela
Guti‚rrez, Brusky, C‚sar Espinosa, Klaus Groh, The Barbot's, John
Held, Bill Gaglione, Geoffrey Cook, Blaine, Hamann, Polkinhorn,
Braumuller, Hoffberg and many others.

RJ : The last networker we lost was Guillermo Deisler, as you
mentioned. I also heard this news earlier from Birger Jesch in Germany.
Did you know Guillermo for a long period? How will you remember

Reply on 6-2-1996

CP : Yes, I knew Willy postly from 1967 when we interchanged our
publications "Ediciones Mimbre" and "Los Huevos del Plata" and our
incipient mail art. Personally, I met him in 1971 during the
"International Expo of Propositions to Realize", in the CAYC, Art and
Communication Centre, conducted by Jorge Glusberg. The event was
curated by Edgardo Antonio Vigo. From that moment we were friends
for ever. Guillermo was professor at the Visual Arts Department of the
Chilean University in Antofagasta, a northerly city. During the state-
stroke by Pinochet and the Chilean Army, in 1973, Will and his family
had to escape quickly from their mother country. After a stay in Paris,
with Julien Blaine, they established at Plovdiv, a Bulgarian city and,
later they mover to Halle, Germany, where he died in fall, October

In my first public opportunity, at the beginning of the V Biennal
International of Visual/Experimental Poetry, curated by C‚sar
Espinosa in Mexico City, from 10th to 20th of January, 1996, I
performed an homage to Guillermo, with a lecture of his poems and
tales about our friendship ( I recorded when Guillermo sent me
Bulgarian official stamps that I bought in Montevideo for financing the
"OVUM's" mail). I ended my performance, called "Willy, for ever..."
showing the video of "Memorial America Latina" (Philadelphia, Penn,
U.S.A., 1989) where it is possible to read, in the portals which closes
the cemetery-memorial: "They have not died, they are sleeping and
dreaming with the freedom". Like Guillermo now.

I am organizing two events in homage to Willy. First: a great exposition
at The Chilean University with his works, in the fall of 1996. I am
asking the network to send me works, letters, postcards, or anything
that is related to him. All the works will be donated to the Chilean
University, and documentation will be sent to all. And second: a mail
art show "Guillermo Deisler, our friend...", without restrictions (no jury,
no return, no size-limits), documentation to all. The deadline for this
will be October 30th 1996. Contributions to both projects can be sent to
my mailing address.

RJ : Well, I guess the interview is coming to an end. Anything you would
like to say while you have the chance?

Reply on 4-3-1996

CP : Sure. Now, we assist to the globalization of the culture of the First
World and the greater expansion of the transnational capitalism. This is
meaning that our old cultures of the Third World are dissapearing
because they are not equipped to defend themselves. If the tolerance
before the multiplicity of focuses and expression possibilities as well as
respect to the personality of the "others" through pluralism (social,
politic, economic, ethnic, religions, cultural, sexual, etc.) are the
irrenounce bases of network, then here is a contradiction between
networking that aspires to the universality of communication and the
small communities, indefensive and fragiles in front of satellites,
computers and modem technology. We know that this signifies the
expansion of a commercial culture (Coke, McDonalds, Disneylands,
etc.) and not most communication and understanding between peoples.
Marketing doesn't care who you are or what your culture is like,
because it wants to make everything everywhere the same for its good
business. How could we resolve this contradiction.

RJ : Well, maybe someone out in the network can comment on that.
Time to finish the interview so others can read your views as well. I
would like to thank you for you time to do this interview, and I wish you
good luck with all your activities.

Address mail-artist:

Clemente Padin,
Casilla de C. Central 1211,
11000 Montevideo,
E-mail : juanra@chasque.apc.org

Address interviewer:
Ruud Janssen - TAM
P.O.Box 1055
4801 BB - Breda - HOLLAND
e-mail : r.janssen@iuoma.org


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