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Matt's Mail-Art

photo: nuit blanche, hotel de ville

The Hôtel de Ville during Saturday's 'Nuit Blanche.'

Christophe and Bertrand's 'Nuit Blanche'

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Saturday, 4. October 2003:- I happened upon Matt Rose last Tuesday on my 'day off' and when he invited me to the Mail-Art expo he is involved with, I agreed to go because it was my 'day off' and I am never responsible for anything I say on these days, which are seldom.

But he suggested I come on Saturday, and I decided to tie it in with the 'Nuit Blanche' to make sure I was out and about - so I went and got there 15 minutes before he was going to lock the place up. It was later than I planned because the Métro was more jammed than in a usual rush hour - more than two hours before the official 'Nuit Blanche' start time.

The expo is located in a building occupied by some psycho society, on a really sad street just off the Boulevard de Bonne-Nouvelle. Matt was there with keys in hand, but he took me up to the third or fourth floor - where his stuff was - so we could look at everything on the way down instead of up.

He told me there are a hundred really serious practitioners of Mail-Art, plus thousands of enthusiasts.photo: fruit stand, fontaine des innocents It falls into the category of 'conceptual art' in the sense that the starting point is always postal. Okay, you don't immediately think of ten great things you can do with a postal theme, so don't.

'Nuit Blanche' fruit bar near the Fontaine des Innocents.

The hundred artists around the world who think of nothing else, think up lots of new ideas every day anyway. Aside from the graphic ideas, there are the techniques. These involve printing mini-pictures on glued, preforated sheets - just like real stamps.

Then they do things like mail envelopes or packages with these 'stamps' on them to real people, or get real people to mail them from - say, Thailand - or they mail them to imaginary addresses all over the world, and see how many get 'returned to sender.' Some are sent registered too.

So, on display, there are real, weird, envelopes and packages, with 'mail-art' stamps on them, that have made trips through the national and international postal systems, and here they are, franked, posted, travelled and delivered.

Matt told me he got 38 out of 50 'returned to sender' of one that he sent to imaginary addresses. I mean, you have to believe this is art that works, even if it is conceptual. Try doing the same thing with a portable phone sometime.

After the tour we went over to the boulevard and found a fairly lively bobo café, looking like a deconstruction project, in what had been an elegant late-19th century café. Matt liked its new but fake 'industrial' look, but its 21st century toilet was the only thing that impressed me. It was the only thing in the place tidily finished, functional and complete.

I learned that Matt does well in the art racket even if he is really starving because he toiled in the garden of marketing for 15 years. He's been in the art game for just about as long, so I guess he got started when he was about 15.

He had a lot of ideas for Metropole that would involve me fulltime in marketing, so I have to figure out a way to get him to do them for nothing, so we can both get rich. He paid half of what my double-espresso cost for his cafe-enlarged - with water - and we went out to the neons of the boulevard, where I watched him fire up his old, black scooter - to sort of look like one of the bandit delivery joes.

Christophe and Bertrand's 'Nuit Blanche'

Matt scooted off and I walked west on the boulevard to the Rue Montmartre where I turned left t point towards Le Jardin Amoureux at Les Halles. On the way it was Saturday nighttime in a deserted part of Paris and for stretches it was deserted, sort of what a 'Nuit Blanche' can be like when it isn't officially happening.

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