Introductory Note:

David Cole instigated and worked with his share of mail-art shows. The Scroll Unrolls, shown in Ein-Hod, July - October, 1985, the first large-scale mail art show in Israel, drew work from all over the world and created a composite, and transient, collage of its own. The catalogue for the show remains state-of-the-art: produced low-tech, printed on card stock of various colors, bound simply with a cord through holes in the tops of the leaves, containing reproductions of many works in the show, and ending with the usual and essential list of names and addresses of participants. The copy I'm looking at has several pages repeated, and several missing - given the nature of the book, many copies are probably unique. The Hebrew version of the text is presented in graphics format, and gives a good impression of the book. Interspersed throughout the catalogue, Cole placed parts of a letter-diary chronicling the mounting of the show and reflecting on mail-art. This remains a testament to Cole's ability as a curator, and also catches the spirit and basic nature of mail art perfectly. It's clarity, generosity, and optimism reflect the essence of the genre at its best. We present it here, with translations into several languages, as a basic document of the mail-art movement.

- Karl Young



I have arrived. The mail-art has arrived. The scroll is unrolling.

Ein-Hod is a beautiful old Arab village built of stone, now inhabited by Israeli artists of all persuasions - painters, jewelers, potters, silk-screeners, architects, and sculptors, whose work punctuates many yards. An earthy place. There is a restaurant with wonderful porch perched above the town square, a small grocery, open when the owner doesn't go swimming, and a small gallery shop which sells the products of the village artists. Most importantly for us, there is the Janco-Dada Museum - three floors with receding balconies, glass walls on one side leading to patios of indigenous brown stone overlooking the Mediterranean Sea a couple of miles away. Pomegranate, fig, and pine trees. Banana groves (ah Anna!) ahead.

Flyway to Earth. Home for six weeks while I open the mail, organize the catalogue, allow myself to be interviewed, and help mount the mail-art exhibition.

Tourism. I am here to work. I am, provided with a splendid villa. Simpatico, perhaps startled, people befriend me.


For five sleepless days and nights I open the mail. I say to myself, and the occasional other who inquires, that I came here with no expectations, but whatever dream I may have had is overwhelmed by the reality. The mail is voluminous, each package a surprise - many from old friends, many from new. I am alive in a web of beauty. I am wrung by fatigue, tossed up by elation.

At the instigation and inspiration of Ursala Peters, there is a scroll by twelve new mail-artists at a convalescent hospital in California. Seventy-five scrolls from a high school in Alabama arrive via Mimi Holmes. One hundred nine-year olds from Brooklyn send, through Noah Baen, their paintings of the sky, the mountain, the desert, the sea. In brief, from the periphery, mail-art circles inward toward this place and makes it ART - that kinship of creative impulse and joyous sharing. The eyes have it!


Most consciously, I am aware of the generosity of the gift of mail- art works which have arrived here - a multitude of scrolls, an amazing and delicate display of artists books, many of mind- boggling handmade paper, books of loose pages to be spread out upon the walls, postcards of every imaginable kind and topic which I hope will gather together into one large painting collage (seen at a distance as one work, but seen up close as the true individual pieces of many voices, many visions), video and audio tapes of dada music and speech, the subtle humor and beauty of artistamps, the delight- filled zaniness of the envelopes, and the tour-de-force mail made up of objects sent without packaging. Because of the mail sent here my name precedes my arrival. I am an object of envy of every youngster in the village who wants the postage stamps from all over the world which grace the envelopes.

As the mail piles up into categories in my villa, I am surrounded and entranced. The clearest message over all is a call to peace and love. Underneath I recognize the calling out for freedom from the dehumanization that has grabbed hold of art and is slowly trying to strangle or submerge it under the economics or politics of art czars.


The making of art is a very private act, often a solitary one. Yet, artists dealing the manipulation of mediums, of substances, just as the result or product of their activity becomes a social medium, to be perceived and understood by others. More fortunately than most artists, mail-artists communicate directly with their audience - one eye of their creativity is specifically aimed, like a heart-dart, at a correspondent. Thus there is an interplay of private with public thoughts, gestures, and images. Thus is the opportunity for response concrete, real, personal, emotional - interactive, a dialogue. In a real sense, mail-art is about the interactive possibilities of art - art as a sentence unreeling and commonly making sense. The artist shares with his or her correspondent a making of meaning, an aesthetic in which they look through the art into one another's eyes, perhaps hearts.

From Ursala comes a scroll entitled, "Decalogue - For Mail Artists and Lovers". I laugh and I agree. 1. Mail Artists and Lovers Do not care who did it first. 2. Do not care who did it best. 3. Do it for each other now. 4. Go beyond limitations. 5. Do not compete in public who does it best. 6. Do not accept awards for doing it. 7. Do not reject anybody. 8. Do it inter/nation/ally. 9. Build the world network of confidence. 10. Are coming by mail.


As I lay out the pieces which will compose this catalogue, I am acutely aware that it is an inadequate portrayal of the richness and variety, the color and texture of the show itself. So be it. I am, like you, schooled in limitations. Art is the encompassing of obstacles, the release of the miraculous present. The scrolls, in particular, escape cataloguing. The one-of-a-kind books defy reproduction.

While I am not able to return to you the experience of walking through the visual/verbal world which we together have made here - a library cum art museum which allows the audience to touch, see, and ponder our correspondence - I hope that I can share with you the spirit of energy and love this gift embodies and reveals TO THOSE WHO WOULD SEE IT. Mail-art is the literature and art of our time. It is a diary - honest, sincere, and beautiful.


And it is a diary being written now, daily, around the planet by artists of all ages and conditions. lt. is a single work of art which our commitment to our muses and to our sisters and brothers shapes. It is not splashy, it is heartfelt. And it is filled with wisdom and truth-seeking.

I am humbled by being the vehicle for the occurrence of this show. The other day when I was asked how I was feeling, perhaps my face was a give-away, I answered that I was lonely, separated from my family. Her response was "Lonely, with 500 pieces of mail addressed to you?" I laughed. Right again. I am not alone. Whatever has drawn me toward the Mail Art Network is repaying me a thousand-fold: the mystery of art has drawn me toward you and toward this place.

Oh, my sisters and brothers - may your courage and steadfastness continue, may your art be guide and comforter to you, as it has been to me. Celebrate. We are one. The eyes are popping. The birds are singing. The lizards are scrambling on the hot, sunlit walls. To each, my thanks and my love. 0-seh shalom.

- David Cole

Text in
Hebrew   |   Italiano   |   Magyar   |   Français

David Cole Survey
Light and Dust   |   Kaldron

This is a cooperative presentation of
Kaldron On-Line and
Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry