The International Shadows Project is a changing annual exhibition of art dedicated to the themes of nuclear disarmament and world peace. Artists from around the world submit works which are exhibited in a different locale each year. The purpose of this increasingly important event is to remember the first nuclear holocaust which occurred on August 6, 1945, now designated as Hiroshima Day. Images of human beings were formed when those within 300 meters of ground zero were vaporized. These traces must be honored as we attempt to stem the annihilation of all life by the products of war. Last year in conjunction with the exhibition a series of events was staged in Hiroshima itself.

The organizers of the Calexico Shadows Project approached one of the key figures in supporting and propagating this activity, Ruggero Maggi of Milan, Italy. Long active in mail art and underground networking of alternative art forms, Maggi forwarded many of the works exhibited in Japan during the 1988 event. These are now exhibited at the Art Gallery of San Diego State University's Imperial Valley campus, together with new works submitted by artists from around the world. The sponsorship of the Shadows Project by a campus of the California State University system marks perhaps the first time that the Shadows Project's goals have been so supported by a public agency.

Of additional significance, of course, is our location on the U.S.-Mexico border. Those who live in a bicultural context are acutely aware of the conflicts between languages, values, beliefs, and customs which living on the border exacerbates; they are also aware of the interdependence of people, our compelling need to acknowledge difference in order to survive under its mandate. As a place with little history; a social laboratory made up of immigrants from central Mexico who mix with Mexican American, Anglo American, and other residents of southern California; the abrasive divide between a developed and a developing economy, spanned by U.S.-controlled mass media as all of this and more, the border provides a very appropriate setting for the objectives and ideology of the International Shadows Project.

In our technologically oriented society, that which produced nuclear destruction and immediately exported it to Japan, the activities of artists (and all other groups) have been incorporated into the processing mechanisms of a late capitalist and now transnational economy. Central to these mechanisms are the mass media, purveyors of control through image manipulation. Some artists, however, have resisted through refusing to participate; instead, they have set up alternative networks of contact and exchange, many of which make use of media images and processes for the purpose of exposing the power bases of high culture. Because in our view art is above all a medium for the communication of information and values, the politically challenging critique of some art produced under repressive regimes has had to find its audience through alternative distribution channels; this explains the importance of mail art in Latin America and Eastern bloc nations. It also helps to explain the rapidly proliferating arts undergrounds in the so-called developed nations.

In many ways, the International Shadows Project captures what is best in mail art - its freedom to criticize the madness of those whose political ambitions threaten to exterminate all life on the planet; its spirit of conceptual playfulness; its formal experimentation; and the radical democracy built into its rejection of juries and selection boards. We are grateful for the opportunity to exhibit the many riches of the works in this installment of the International Shadows Project, thereby keeping alive the Project's objectives of calling attention to the danger which nuclear weaponry poses.

We offer special thanks to the students of San Diego State University's Imperial Valley campus, through whose support this catalogue and exhibition have been made possible.

August, 1989

Harry Polkinhorn
David Quattrociocchi

Go to some of the mail art from the show.

Return to International Shadows Project home page.
Return to Light and Dust Poets.

Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry.