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Cultura International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology

Volume 9, Issue 2, 2012

Semiotics of World Cultures

Lars Elleström
Pages 103-122

The Paradoxes of Mail Art
How to Build an Artistic Media Type

This article aims to show that so-called Mail Art (art distributed via the international postal system) is based on five paradoxes. These paradoxes, which correlate to how Mail Art is distributed and exhibited by means of changing technologies, its aesthetics, its democratic ideals, and its transnational character, explain how Mail Art has emerged and been constructed as an artistic medium on the stage of world cultures. While the paradoxes of Mail Art are specific for this particular medium, I argue that all media types are more or less marked by inherent paradoxes. The fact that Mail Art includes all kinds of material, sensorial, spatiotemporal, and semiotic modes makes it an unusual art form, but here it is primarily meant to be an example of the ambiguous ways in which media types in general are delimited and defined.

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