The Laziest form of Mail Art; or,
the Bane of the
"Add to & Pass On" Xerox Sheet


It is rare that I am judgemental about mail art. But there's one area I don't particularly care for. The absolutely worst low-end of mail art is the xerox flyer with instruction to the recipient to "add to & pass on."

It's not inherently a bad idea, but as usually practiced, it is substandard even for the least talented most unimaginative people on earth. A few mail artists send me xerox art that I wouldn't disdain; these tend not to be add-to flyers but are artworks incorporating photocopying in whole or in part. Color xerox mail art is another matter; it can be fascinating, & at worst it can still be cut up & recycle into my own collages.

But the add-to & send-on flyers are low grade. The recipient is supposed to alter the flyer a little or a lot (if only to add your address among those already on the flyer), then make a mess of copies to send out to whoever, instead of doing actual mail art for anyone.

Many years ago I distributed a parodic announcement that I would provide for free a list of 300 addresses of mail artists who never send out anything but add-to & pass-on xerox flyers, so that this could be used as a blacklist of people never to respond to.

Now no such list existed & an actual blacklist would be evil. And most people got the joke & knew the announcement was tongue-in-cheek. Yet a few people did write in all seriousness asking me for a copy of the list. The announcement was unexpectedly paraphrased as serious in the leading mail art news magazine of the time. A couple of repentant xeroxers promising to change their ways sent me whiny letters pleading with me not to put them on the list.

All of which made that particular mail art announcement a raging success! And it incidentally informed me I was definitely not alone in finding the typical add-to & pass-on xerox a very pitiful excuse for mail art.

I have to assume some people somewhere really enjoy receiving, altering, & passing on this crap, or the method would die out under the weight of instant dismissal by one & all. Most but not all mailartists seem to agree that this type of mail art comes dangerously close to being chain mail & only in the rarest of cases does it receive a warm reception or have something in its favor.

It's just about the only kind of mail art that awakens judgementalism among a significant percentage of mail artists. As a rule, a piece of actual mail art, even if it is by someone with little or no artistic capacity, is still a wonderful thing to receive; so wonderful, in fact, that some very fine artists disguise their skillfulness to create things with more of a Zenlike impromptu toss-together feel. But a piece of white paper run through a xerox machine just doesn't do the trick in the slightest.

Irregardless, I try to honor the "Senders Receive!" rule, even for misguided fools who send me unadorned envelopes stuffed with boring folded-up xeroxes they hope I'll add to & make more copies & distribute in their behalf with their addresses featured prominantly.

I do not "add to" these unless to write "Paghat Sez: add-to xeroxes suk!" I'll even so send my collages to xeroxers in exchange, at least for a while. If xeroxed sheets continue to be all they ever send me, though, in time they will cease to be a sender who receives from me.

None of which is to say that xerography can't be a very artful component of creating mail art, or that the flyer cannot be a creative form of mail art. They certainly can. Nor are "add-to & pass-on" projects invariably bad ideas. The best add-to projects are the little paper booklets that begin going the rounds, with each mail artist filling up a blank page & possibly altering some of the finished pages before sending to someone else who is apt to carry on the project until the once-blank booklet is filled with stampings & pastings & scribblings & whatnot. I try always to keep that sort of add-to project going to the next person, whoever I suspect will be likely to continue the rhythm.

But as to those assinine flimsy leaflets with white fold-lines photocopied & rephotocopied & never for a moment having anything creative about them, they are much more annoying than they are delightful, though I'm grateful at least for the free scrap-paper to do my gluing against.


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