Networking as a direct mode of interchange and communication was a substantial foundation of Mail Art in the GDR, a wide-ranging aesthetic movement reaching its zenith in the 1980s. Artistic activity became visible not only in the tremendous number of postcards, envelopes and artist stamps created and sent out by network members, but also in the net of collaboration itself which, of course, grew through the international postal system. Mail Artists, engaged in a domestic as well as international network, used the postal service as a narrow path of connection to the world and also—in a playful but quite risky way—to uncover contradictions and disproportions pervading daily life. For Mail Activists in former East Germany, it was not without danger to interact with the Mail Art network. Since the Ministry for State Security (“Stasi”) controlled all domestic post, and international post even more closely, Mail Art was criminalized. Each critical statement was declared a hostile act against the state. The Stasi’s carefully planned actions to discomfort participants and the punishment of imprisonment transformed the Mail Art scene into an underground movement.
This panel describes a few of the daring projects: from the activities of Robert Rehfeldt (the first and most well-known Mail Artist of the GDR), to the political aesthetical statements of networking activists who didn’t reduce their efforts to undermine governmental restrictions and even the seemingly indestructible Wall.