Poema Colectivo: Revolución and the International Mail Art Network at MoMa

Post: Notes on modern and contemporary art around the globe is an collaborative research project found on MoMA’s website.

Poema Colectivo: Revolución is a collective project from the early 80s that “represents the culmination of the pre-Internet networking methods” developed by  Colectivo 3, an artists collective. The project was a  mail art network  which “connected hundreds of artists around the world who were engaged in transmedia practices, heralding art forms based on communication systems rather than objects” (MoMA 2013). The project, including essays and articles is available in full on Post.

Edgardo Antonio Vigo was an Argentinian artist who was the founder of Mail Art in Argentina, his art was created specifically for mailing and involved themes of censorship and revolution, reflecting the time and place in which he was working. ( for more images of his work see  ‘Vigo’s Things’). Here I am not going to invest in those themes but only paste excerpts from the essays found on Post that may be useful in relation to my own work.

Hazlo (Do it) 1970 Edgardo Antonio Vigo Photo: David Horvitz

Hazlo (Do it) 1970 Edgardo Antonio Vigo

Vanessa K. Davidson looks at some of Vigo’s writings on Mail Art in her essay Mail art as “A necessary necessity”: Edgardo Antonio Vigo’s writings, 1975-1981. She writes that in Vigos 1975 text about Mail Art that he

frames the definition of mail art in terms of two complementary operations. First, by creating works intended for mailing, mail artists co-opt the postal system as an aesthetic space and alter its “conventionally not artistic” character. Second, this space newly appropriated for art becomes an integral part of the works at a structural level, conditioning both their creation and their reception…  Mail art also fundamentally alters the role of the “receiver,” who becomes an “incidental custodian” of the work, as well as a “source of information” upon sending works to third parties or including them in exhibitions.

The authors make a useful distinction between mailed art (such as a finished sculpture transported through the postal system) and mail art (pieces destined for mailing from their inception, in which “the fact that the work must travel a set distance is part of its structure, is the work itself”). (Davidson, 2014).

Vigo and fellow artist Horacio Zabala write in their 1975 essay Arte-Correo: Una nueva forma de expresión (Mail Art: A New Form of Expression) 

Sending a letter by mail involves the transmission of a message and is an act of communication between two people. The use of the mail makes communication possible at a distance: it connects a sender and a recipient. The artist produces his work in the same way that people “vocalize” their thoughts. The artistic instance also involves a sender and a recipient, necessary elements in any act of communication.

Here we find a convergence of two systems of communication: the artist employs the mail to disseminate a message, to reach the recipient of the work. It is necessary to draw a distinction in order to clarify this concept. When a sculpture is sent by mail, its creator is merely using a particular form of transport to transfer a work that has already been completed. This journey was not taken into account during the sculpture’s elaboration. By contrast, in the new artistic language analyzed here, the fact that the work must travel a set distance is part of its structure, is the work itself. The work has been created to be sent by post, and this factor conditions its creation (dimensions, postage, weight, content of the message, etc.).

The mail’s function, therefore, is not limited to transporting the object; instead, this function forms part of the work and conditions it. In turn, the artist alters the function of this medium of communication. There is also a change in the attitude of the recipient: he is no longer the classic collector (a fact that implies a degree of egocentricity), but an incidental custodian of the work, committed to its widest possible distribution. The recipient is a new source of information that opens a new communication circuit when he enriches the work by exhibiting it or mailing it to additional recipients.


Edgardo Antonio Vigo and Horacio Zabala, “Mail Art: A New Form of Expression,” 1975.

Mauricio Marcin wrote a brief outline and history of Mail Art  in his essay Mail Art from Mexico (via the world): An Erratic Investigation, he talks about Mail Art and time in the following text:

The ancient form of epistolary* writing is limited to the law of progression, that is, to that of time. An epistle encodes its meaning in the succession of words on the page; meaning arises from the sequence of words. An epistle, to state it plainly, is written and read from left to right, and from top to bottom, over time. The same is true of a literary text. Mail art, by contrast, has no center, and it has neither left nor right. Its meaning boils down to the relations produced by the various signs contained in the whole space; these are neither linear nor successive relations as in epistolary and literary texts, but are rather multidirectional and simultaneous. Mail art proposes the impossible: a vision of infinite time. (Marcin, 2013)


*An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. – Wiki



Davidson, V. (2014).Mail art as “A necessary necessity”:Edgardo Antonio Vigo’s writings, 1975-1981. Retrieved from: http://post.at.moma.org/content_items/449-mail-art-as-a-necessary-necessity-edgardo-antonio-vigo-s-writings-1975-1981

Marcin, M. (2013). Mail Art from Mexico (via the world): An erratic investigation. Retrieved from: http://post.at.moma.org/content_items/314-mail-art-from-mexico-via-the-world-an-erratic-investigation

MoMA. (2013). Poema colectivo: Revolución and the international mail art network. Retrieved from: http://post.at.moma.org/themes/10-poema-colectivo-revolucion-and-the-international-mail-art-network

Vigo, E., & Zabala, H. (1975). Arte-correo: Una nueva forma de expresión (mail art: A new form of expression). Retrieved from: http://post.at.moma.org/sources/22/publications/237



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