During their whole life some artists or networkers have been obsessed
by specific artistic medium - as to me a painting, a photograph, an installation,
a performance, an artistamp, etcetera are nothing more or less than opportunities
to hold a concept, forms to contain substance or content, incarnations of
ideas- from a philosophical point of view i was always fascinated by the essence of things - what
are the conditions "sine qua non" to indicate a certain thing -
for instance, what "is" an artistamp? - what are the necessary
attributes and what can be missed? - is this text an artistamp?- certainly
not- but why? - are the perforations, the glue or the dimension the
necessary conditions? - the question of definition is not as simple for
an artistamp as it is in the case of "art" - the paraphrase
of a statement by don judd: "if somebody calls it an artistamp, than
it is an artistamp" may sound good, but it doesn't work.
Perforations & glue: not every "perforated" image
or object can be called an artistamp - & not every "gummed"
image is a postage stamp- even the combination of the two doesn't please - since some artistamps are gummed & not perforated, others are perforated
& not gummed.
A postage stamp or an artistamp is "meant" to be sent - therefore the (hidden) "intention" is the point at issue, is
the quintessence of an artistamp- artists'stamps are a part of communication
art and/or mail-art- but the meaning is in the use- for instance,
using artistamps for fax communication is rather meaningless- because
electronic mail art doesn't need a postage stamp- unless the meaninglessness
(of the artistamp in this context) is the (new) meaning.
It's a platitude to say that postage stamps are the most distributed
works of art in the world- everyone can buy these little multiples - in plastic arts (from dada to post-neo-dada) postage stamps have been
used in collages, assemblages, etc. - also ex-libri can have the "shape"
of a postage stamp- maybe ex-libri are related to Books, as artistamps are related to philately.
Philately is not an artistic activity- mostly it is a kind of
investment: collecting monetary values- yet the postage stamp as a postal
value is an anachronism (probably maintained by philatelists)- on the
other hand the artistic & intrinsic values of the postage stamps are
not explored completely- the research of the correlations between postage
stamps & artistamps, between creative philately & artistamps, new
horizons can emerge.
As far as I can remember my first artistamps were the futuristic
"interplanetary" postage stamps, meant for the use of the autochthons
of the planet mars and the visitors or tourists from earth- I designed
these postage stamps during the period that the question "whether there
is or isn't life on mars" was a very hot issue- that was in 1977
when I also designed the identity cards of the red planet- on the postage
stamps of mars there was the image of the greek god of war,"mars" the second series of mars-artistamps had the capital letter "m" it was the same emblem as the "m" during a Belgian promotion
campaign for milk.
i've never made a complete list or chronology of my artistamps - but maybe it's a good idea to do so some day- the first artists'stamps
that have been called the "miniature paintings" did never really
interest me - since reduction is not a technical problem anymore, I don't
see (for myself) the need to work on such a small basis - I admire the devotion of these miniaturists but I can't see meself as a
medieval monk - likewise I never really liked in the mail-art network
the colorful postcard or artistamp reproductions of paintings or collages above the aesthetic aspects I prefer the conceptual elements of an artistamp
- the use and misuse of the artistamp concept in the process of communication.
The artistamps I liked the most to make were my "scents stamps"
in the late seventies & early eighties - it were perfumed postage
stamps and artistamps - or postage stamps and artistamps to be perfumed
by the receiver or addressee - together with Vittore Baroni, we made the
"gloomy-scent stamps series (for best results scratch and sniff in
total darkness)" - they were published by near the edge editions
(sheet b&w n.1/1983) - the perfumes added a new and unexpected direction
to the artistamp communication.
Another series that I appreciated were the artistamps to write a
complete letter on - the artistamp as the container of the whole information
: "write your letter on this stamp" - so the envelope became
useless - the only thing one needed to post was the postage stamp - it
is a pity that this artistamp couldn't be issued by the bel
Gian postal services as a real postage stamp - just as my annual request that an official "mail-art" postage stamp be issued by belgium has been rejected for nine times or so.
Postage stamps have often played an important role in my performances -
E.G. The destruction of full sheets of postage stamps & artistamps,
real identity cards and real Belgian money via a paper shredder - meaNwhile,
I was wearing a suit of authentic Belgian paper money (of 5o francs) that
I removed and set on fire - the performance
was called "value shredder" (Brussels, 1982).
During another performance in 1986 I was wearing a complete suit
made of official Belgian postage stamps (50 cents value) - I cut my moustache
in the shape of an angular artistamp - enlargements (a3 photocopies) of
Adolf Hitler's moustache were hung on a wall and covered with postage stamps - it is an historical mistake to believe that hitler's moustache was real - it was fake, because it "was" a postage stamp - one can verify it through a magnifying-glass - then the hair on my upper lip was shaved and replaced by a real postage stamp - like hosts, postage stamps were placed under the noses of the public - after this, I covered a naked girl
with strips of postage stamps - the strips looked like feathers - from
the photographs taken during this performance, new artists'stamps were made & sent through the mail-art network.
Destroying to create - since the early seventies I love to tear
to shreds official (cancelled & uncancelled) postage stamps from all
over the world - at first to make collages, later on to create with the
tiny paper pieces new artistamps - a series of these artists' stamps was
edited in 1988 - I do the same activitity with official
rubberstamps under the name "the broken stamps of bureaucracy"
For the hungarian project "world art post" of artpool
(Budapest) i used an earlier concept (april 1981) of a performance where
i was stamping my own body - so the idea was that i myself (= the image
on the artistamp) cancelled the artistamp - in other words, it was the
ultimate act: the artistamp that is cancelling itself
Until today i curated three artists'stamp exhibitions - the first
one "philately and mail-art" in "de media" in Eeklo
in 1986 - the second one "kunstenaarszegels" was held in "Il
Ventuno" in Hasselt in 1988 - the third one "the artistamp collection"
in the Begijnhof, Centrum voor Kunsten in Hasselt in 1995.
A fascinating phenomenon of the conceptual aspects of artistamps
is synchronicity - mail artists or networkers living thousands of miles
from one another and having at the same moment the same idea to realize
a specific artistamp - it is always a pleasure to search all these resemblances
and coincidences in the catalogues of artistamp projects.
When a work of art becomes the subject of a postage stamp or an
artistamp, this means an official or semi-official acknowledgement that
it is well respected art - so there is no doubt about it : art is (postage)
stamps, art is artistamps!