Thursday, May 26, 2005

Today I wrote to the Longview Parks and Recreation Dept...

This is what I wrote:


My name is Richard Yates and I am a working on my Humanities degree at Washington State University, Vancouver.

I am planning a "mail art" exhibition and was wondering what types of permits I might need to set up a display of this art at Lake Sacajawea, hopefully near Martin's Dock. Not a permanent structure, just a quickly erected display consisting of badminton poles, twine, sheets, and art work pinned to the sheets. The choice of an outside, public location is intentional, my hope being that I will be showing art to people that might not be interested in going to an actual museum, but who might find this particular type of art fun and exciting. I would not be charging admission to the exhibition, would not be selling any of the art work, but I would like to hand out printed brochures explaining what "mail art" is and listing some web sites where people can find out more information on the subject.

The lightness of the display materials is primarily so the exhibit can be mobile, so I should ask if I would need a separate or different type of permit if I wanted to move the exhibit to a different part of the lake or to some other public area. And, would I need more than one permit if I wanted to show the exhibit periodically throughout the summer, as weather allows?

I'm assuming that I would NOT be able to show my exhibit on a day when some other event is taking place (if I will be allowed to show it at all). Is this be true? Or, can I get some special type of permit that allows me to show my exhibit right along with (or relatively near, but not as part of) the other events taking place. I'm thinking specifically here of the Fourth of July festivities and the summer concerts at the lake.

And, if I can get a permit to display my exhibit, are there any problems with or restrictions on advertising the event(s). A mail art exhibit, by its very nature, involves lots of people from a variety of places, and I would like to know if there are any regulations against advertising an event on public land, hopefully drawing some of the people who contribute art and are within traveling distance to come see their work on display.

I think these are the only issues I needed information on (permits, locations, conflicts with other events, advertising), but if you know of anything else that might be a problem, or some other steps or regulations that I will need to negotiate, I would appreciate being made aware of them before I try to stage my exhibition and run into legal trouble.

Richard Yates"

I sent this email this morning before 10:am and as of 10:32pm I haven't heard back from anyone yet... When I do (if I'm feeling naughty and they give me bad news) I'll post their response... Knowing Longview like I do, I'm expecting that there will be ISSUES... Perhaps even PROBLEMS...

The HORROR that I am dreading is that they will say something like, "You'll have to apply for a permit and that will cost XXX dollars, but also, the City Council would like to SEE the art work before we allow you to show it in public..." Suddenly it will be a first ammendment issue and I'll end up getting REALLY upset and deciding that I'm NOT going to pay for a permit and I'm going to show everything anyway and then I'll get a ticket or thrown in jail or all of the art work will get confiscated and destroyed... But then I'll be able to write all about it and it will go to court and I'll be on CNN... and I REALLY don't want to be on CNN... Most probably, they will just say, "No. You can't show art work on city owned property..." Then I'll just do the show right in my front lawn (I'm two blocks away from Lake Sacajawea in Longview, Washington, and every year during the INDEPENDENCE DAY festivities hundreds of people wander past my house on the way to the flee market, concerts, demonstrations, and fireworks that go one at the lake. Even if I just set up my exhibit in my own front lawn facing the sidewalk, I'll still have a parade of viewers going by all day on the 3rd and 4th and a few people on the 2nd and 5th as well... Without even having to pay for a permit or being worried that I'm going to get clubbed by a cop... Sounds like a good plan to me!!!)

Tamara Wyndham of New York City, USA writes:

HI Rick,

It's great for artists to find alternative routes to show their art. You will have to go to a lawyer or your local govt. to find out about local laws. Sometimes they want to you pay for a permit. But sometimes breaking the law to show your art can
be part of the fun. You have to find out your specific situation and consider what you really want to say with this.

There's been a couple of groups of artists here (New York City) who have had "mobile art shows" in trucks or vans. They find a legal place to park the van and invite the public to look at the art. I went to one, they had a truck that was painted white inside, with art on the walls just like a "real" gallery. They had a fundraiser at a bar for gas money.

Ray Johnson once showed a bunch of his "moticos" on the sidewalk, the photos look great.

An artspace here, ABC No Rio first got started when a group of artists took over an abandoned building for an art show called "real estate" The police closed down the show and destroyed some of the art, but Joseph Beuys was in town and spoke to the media in favor of the artists. That gave the artists some leverage to negotiate with the city and they were given their own abandoned building to renovate.... that was like 20 years ago, and ABC No Rio is still active and still community based.

Let us know what you do! Good luck!!

- Tamara Wyndham

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Guido Vermeulen of Belgium writes:

Dear Rick,

Interesting idea. It questions the "property of public space as art space" in fact. And joins movements like Critical Mass or Reclaim the streets.

Some mail artists have experiences on that domain. Examples are: Shopping Trolley Gallery (Martha Aitchinson in England and Patti Bristow in the USA). Art is attached to a shopping trolley used in supermarkets. People reacting on the art pieces in the
supermarkets are allowed even to pick one from the trolley. So the exhibition changes all the time. The trolley even went on "holiday". Martha did similar shows when in France.

Or non curated performances in Tate Modern in London. Yearly mail artists meet there and do something unanounced. Each time we confronted security of Tate Modern who after 2 years asked us to ask permission to the museum curators. They gave us, so there was no problem at all. I must say that the performance last year was a

We decontaminated Clemente Padin from Uruguay who visited the UK for a performance festival. So we all wore white clothes, masks and used a hoover for the decontamination. It was of course also a comment on the post 911 paranoia. I have some great photos of that art intervention.

Years ago we did a "wild exhibition" (so non authorised) under a huge bridge of a highway. We attached the art works to the columns of the bridge and invited people for a party. Exhibitions OFF are also an example. You organize something during an
official art festival but which is not part of that festival. I got the idea from New Yorkers and did it a few times in Belgium. We appropriated a public wall in Brussels and glued posters on that wall that were a chain of communication between 3

The most crazy idea I had was throwing art from the top of the Atomium and inviting the press. The Atomium is an important symbol in Brussels. It is a sculpture in the form of an atom and was made for the World Fair Exhibition in 1958. The top ball of the atom is a fancy restaurant. This idea never was executed because the other
artists were too afraid to do it. Oh well ...

Fond regards,

Guido Vermeulen, Belgium

A quick update...

Ok, so far I've sent a brief sketch of my idea to a couple of newsgroups to see if anyone has any experience with this type of thing and see if I can get advice or suggestions as to how to proceed. I'll post any information I receive here as soon as I have any...

In the meantime, check out these cool mail art sites:

The Electronic Museum of Mail Art

Mail Art: A Path Finder

A German Mail Art site


The Mail Art Consortium

Please enjoy!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

In the beginning was me... mowing the lawn...

Today, while mowing the lawn, I was mulling over a few things: I had re-watched the documentaries Superstar and How to Draw a Bunny about Andy Warhol and Ray Johnson respectively; I had just reread an issue of Factsheet 5 that was focused on renegade, outsider, and D. I. Y. art, particularly zines and mail art; and I was thinking about a conversation a friend of mine and I had just had a few days ago about trying to get a gallery showing for some of my art work... The main emphasis of this conversation centered around how there are only a few places in town that show art: The Broadway Gallery and the Longview Public Library being the two main venues we discussed, and that the types of things that I do (small, strange, rough, not very commercial) do not really fit in with the local spirit, the local mind set...

So, how am I going to “show” any of my stuff... And I really do enjoy sharing what I’ve done (created-written-found-assembled-recorded-photographed... whatever...) with people.... even people who I don’t know, who might not understand what I’m doing or why I’m doing it... I like to have fun, and fun is easier to have with other people...

Then I thought, well, what if I just come up with some kind of “mobile” art gallery... All I’d really need to do was go to a hardware store or even a thrift store and find a couple wooden, badminton, or tent poles, some cheap blankets or sheets, and a spool of twine. The I take the poles, sheets, and twine up to the lake or drive to the beach, plunk the poles in the ground, run some twine between the poles, drape the sheets over the twine, and pin my art right to the sheets. I suddenly have a mobile art gallery that I could pack just about anywhere, easily, and set up in just a few minutes.

I do have some concerns with this: Will I be ticketed or even arrested for “unlawful display of artwork” or some other weird charge, or, perhaps, just be told to take everything down and go home? Is there some kind of permit I would need to display things in this manner? I wouldn’t be trying to sell anything, so would that make it ok? Would I get in trouble if I printed up flyers, pamphlets, zines, or other literature or artwork and handed it out at my display?

But, these concerns are not enough to dampen my excitement at the idea, and since I’ve been looking into mail art, artist trading cards, and other interesting modern art forms, I thought it might be fun to send out a call for contributions to my “mobile art show” through the IUOMA (International Union of Mail Artists), and a couple of different mail art sites, maybe email a few artists in particular (even contact people like Noah in Portland, K Records in Olympia, artists that I can find contact info for in Juxtapose or some other sources, etc, etc...), and see if anyone wants to contribute.

I can set up a new blog for the project, explain on the blog what the point is (I need to write a very clear, concise, and specific “mission statement” that explains everything: the lack of local venues for noncommercial art forms; the mobility of the project and my relatively close proximity to Olympia, Portland, Washington State University at Vancouver, Seaside, Long Beach, and the lake here, all places where the “exhibit” might travel; the informational and educational nature of the project: To make people aware of these types of art forms and art networks; and, more than anything else, to have fun sharing art with the world), and maybe create a new email address for people to contact me at, and see if anyone responds. Meanwhile, I could write to teachers at Lower Columbia College, WSU Vancouver, and maybe some of the local galleries and the library, and see if they can help, either by suggesting or contacting artists, telling me better methods of displaying materials, helping with legal issues, organization, and bureaucratic steps necessary to make this project come to life.

The whole idea of this project is to get the art work outside in the open air, and in front of the potential audience that will already be out visiting the parks at the lake. If I advertise my intended “showings” (with flyers, online at the blog, through email, in the Daily News or other local papers, and whatever other ways I can think of) I might even be able to draw a crowd... But this whole advertising thing won’t be possible if I can’t figure out how to get a permit to legally “show” my exhibition... Perhaps, if I can contact Noah or another person in Portland, someone in Olympia (maybe K Records, Dave at Vision? Nary!, or maybe someone at Evergreen College), get some information from somebody at WSUV (Carol, Wendy, Pavithra, Pamela... somebody has to know how to go about getting a day’s worth of exhibition time on the lawn...) I can get some show time without having to pay for a permit... Maybe I’ll be able to get assistance here in town to do a showing as well, but I’m not going to hold my breath here... Wherever I end up hosting the show (in town or out of town, maybe even at a private residence if I can find someone willing... Shaun???? Probably not, but maybe...) I’m sure it’s going to be fun...