1.27.10 "DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture" by Amy Spencer


Today sharing information is as easy as hitting the send button. In earlier days, innovation and effort were required to send art and information to other people. Many artists in the 1900s used “the postal system to exchange artwork and ideas.” This movement known as the Mail Art movement was started as early as 1916. I was shocked by this fact. To me, the early 1900s seem like times where no one defied the ‘norm,’ but this article by Amy Spencer definitely burst my bubble. I found it interesting that during the Mail Art movement artists sent art pieces through the mail for others to add to and then send to other artists. According to the article, this still happens today and allows a “fun approach to art.” Another movement discussed was the Fluxus. In this time many artists were encouraged not to sign their own names but to sign Fluxus instead. This was to stop any egos from forming. The idea of not identifying yourself is intriguing because so many people have an innate desire to be recognized for the work the individual has completed. All of these movements and more created a foundation for the DIY culture we have today. Knowing some history behind how the DIY movement started is fascinating. I originally thought the DIY movement was a more recent period, but after reading this article I have discovered that this previous thought was incorrect. Since the DIY is based off these previous movements I feel that this would be the reason many artists are getting back to the basics with art by eliminating technology usage. By doing this it gives art a handmade feel thus making it DIY.

I was really intrigued by many of the points that you touched on in response to the mail art and Fluxus sections. I hadn't really thought about the date they had put with the idea of mail art. 1916 does strike me as very early for such radical movements. I believe that in history today we often loose focus of some of these radical ideas that were present to make way for the more main stream cultural issues and problems. The section of Fluxus was also of interest to me because while I found the idea of not putting your name on the piece intriguing, it seemed as thought some of the artist found their way around this idea to fit into this new movement. The article talked about how instead of signing the piece "Fluxus" some of the artists used "combat names." While I may have misinterpreted this portion of the reading, I feel as though this takes away from the sense of inclusiveness that this movement was trying to create, and rather creating a disconnected ego through these names.

This article covered a lot of the themes for the creation of a zine as the last article did. They both covered about how zines were made in the 20th century in resistance to the government and society. I feel that a lot of work in the current era is still influenced by the Dada movement. Artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Holly Hock, still have an influence in the cut and paste and creating images by using other resources and bringing them together. I thought that the Mail Art movement was extremely interesting. It was such a different idea and something creative. This was an excellent idea to get artists connected all around the world. Since this was started in 1916, technology was not nearly anywhere to what it is today, so it was harder to communicate and to exchange ideas. This idea was perfect to connect artists and build relationships and an artist community. I thought that it was very powerful that once the typewriter came out, it allowed people the opportunity to write whatever was on their mind and truly express themselves. This also sparked a rebellion in many to stand up for their own ideas and share them with whoever their writings could reach.

Something that was emphasized a bit in this article was the relationship between artist and audience. This concept was applied to both zines and art. For zines particularly, it said that underground writers often tried to "forge a close bond with their reader," and that "they wanted readers to feel that the work was their own and did not belong to a distant writer." As for art in general, the article stated that "many held an almost utopian ideal that the interaction between the artist and audience was a vital one and that the spectator held as important a position in the artistic process as the artist." I can grasp the concept of taking art down from its pedestal and making it for everyone, and it's a cool idea, but I'm not sure if it would really work that way, at least from a personal standpoint. Whenever I have done something creative, I can say that 90% of the time it was completely for myself. As in it came from me, it meant something to me, and I kept it for myself. To me there is a significant relationship between the artist and the art, and the audience is just kind of an afterthought. But maybe I'm just selfish.

I agree with you when you say there is a significant relationship between the artist and their artwork. I believe this to be true with some artists (including myself) but obviously the fluxus and mail art movements were challenging these conventional ways of thinking. In my case, I put so much time and effort into my work that there is real significance for me. Also, I am painting for myself and not for any particular viewer or audience which I think is just as important as creating art “to forge a close bond with their [viewer].” I agree that there is some elitism in art but creating art that is meaningful to you and because it makes you happy (and therefore ignoring the viewer) is not what I would call elitist or selfish by any means.

The thing that interested me the most about this article was learning about the different developments of art and how it influenced DIY culture and zine culture. First off, it was interesting for me to find out that Dadaism had a significant influence over zine culture. For instance, “their editorial style” and how they played with collaged texts in unconventional ways can be seen in zine culture today. Also, I was really intrigued by the fluxus movement and how they tried to bring art down from its pedestal and make all artists equal. I also really liked the idea of community that was promoted through the Fluxus and later on upheld through the Mail Art movement. I have never heard of that movement before reading the article but I really related to it. In my art class last year we had to create a collaborative piece where each artist got to start working on a canvas and then we would switch and work on somebody else’s canvas and continue to do this for a period of time. That reminded me of the mail art where each artist got to put their own touch on a work of art distributed and thus it didn’t belong to just one artist but to everyone who worked on it. I believe this goes along with the idea of Do-It-Together culture.

I agree that learning about the different movements in art and how these influenced zines and the DIY culture was interesting. It is also intriguing that all the movements led into the next with each becoming progressively more hands on and inclusive. This is probably due to the inevitable advances in technology. I like the point that throughout all the movements, artists are trying to connect more with their respective audiences. Because I am not very dense in the knowledge and history of art, reading this article allowed me to see the foundation from which the zines were produced. It is really cool that you were able to partake in a Mail Art type movement in school. Instead of having one art piece, you would have multiple. By contributing to the Do-It-Together society, I feel it would be really awesome.

I thought this reading assignment had a lot of interesting information about art movements and how they influenced zines. It seems like zines have really changed the way we view things. They've helped people to express themselves when other things didn't work. I love the fact that zines took pressure off of people and allowed them to do things so freely. It's nice that they could choose to publish a lot or just one thing. I agree with the article on how it's a good idea that some writers publish their poetry and work on the internet. I mean so many people are on the internet nowadays; that's why I agree with the statement that writers can reach "a potential audience for their work." I think it's a good way to show people their work and get it out there for others to see. I also liked how this article mentions the early history of art movements and how they continue to influence zines today. It shows how far along they've come and how the changes made in advancements,technology, and techniques have had an impact on each other and zines. I enjoyed reading about the fluxus movement. I loved the outlook from it- "that art should be accessible to all and indeed, that anyone could produce it." I think that gives people hope that they can do things involving art and it's not limited to certain groups or people. It was nice to read about how they wanted everyone to be equal and not have egos. I think that would establish a balance between everyone and help avoid conflicts. However, I could see if people wanted to stand out and be different from everyone else. If they wanted to get their work out there and be heard by others then I could see how they would want to put their name on their work- or how some put "combat names" to go along with the artistic movement. Lastly, I really enjoyed reading about the mail art. I think it sounds like a lot of fun and a good way to stay connected to art and other artists.

The advance of technology is inevitable. As times change technology becomes more and more accessible. Many of the zine artists either chose to embrace the new technology or prefer to continue producing the old-fashion way. "people prefer performance of paper. Others have embraced the new technology." For example the Bay Area dada group of the 1960s "engaged in self-publishing" and took "advantage of new affordable print technologies. With the advance of technology artist are able to broaden their horizons to publicize their work to a larger audience. This is especially important when they emphasize the relationship between the artist and their audience. This relationship is important to many artists because they are trying to convey their message and their views through their art and it is important for them to have an audience who can understand and respect their views.

I completely agree with your comment that technology is inevitable. Technology is constantly updating itself any changing. It is changing in every which way, which includes art. Some artists want to jump on the technology band wagon which, like you said are starting to reach greater audiences. That's definitely a plus to technology constantly changing is that we are able to share things with many different people and many different places. However, it is understandable that some people like to be old fashion and stick to their ways. I guess it just depends on how the artists wants to reach their audience.

In this article, I liked reading about the ever changing technology and how zines adapted to it. It seems as though some people jumped on to the changes in technology such as printing and copying. In contrast, there were those artists who stuck back with the traditional "cut and paste" or going along with doing it themselves. I guess it had to do with preference. I also enjoyed reading about the many different movements and how zines fit into or didnt fit into these movements. Movements that expressed the artists or groups feelings towards almost anything including the government, the society and sometimes religion. It was as if someone made a new movement to reinvent the art or make it different, make it there way.

I was most intrigued by the section of this reading which was about "mail art," from its conception to the changes it has undergone with the advent of new technologies. While I agreed with the author when she spoke of the need to "share one's thinking with others," (as with zines) and of course, the idea of mail art sounds exceedingly fun, it seemed to me that while the artists involved in this movement were building relationships, networks and collaborative pieces of art, the audience which was so important to them was, in some ways, lost. Although these artists were sharing work among themselves, and acting as both artist and spectator (a very zine-like thing to do) I could see how some people who perhaps appreciated experiencing art but did not want to create it themselves would be left out of the mail art loop, so to speak. Although Genesis Orridge wanted to be "part of popular culture, involved with everyday life and responses," some parts of the "mail art" movement seem counterintuitive in that they exclude from experiencing the art, those not directly involved in the making it.

This article was very informative on many of the movements that led up or played a role in shaping zine work. I found the CabaretVoltaire influence of Dada very interesting, as well as the section which brought light to mail art (a form of art which I had previously been oblivious too). I enjoyed the simple idea of sending around a piece of art in which everyone added to. It, in some ways, reminded me of the flat Stanley project which some of you might have done in elementary school. You essentially made a paper cut out of yourself and send it to different people around the states or world. These people would take a picture of your flat Stanley in an interesting setting and send him back. This theme of more personal but abstract networks was also explored in the title of one zine which stood out to me, "New York Correspondance." The idea of changing the noun to verb gave a sense of interaction as well as simply showing more abstract and complex meanings. Just as a last side note, I thought it was rather humorous how the mail art movement sparked concern of subliminal messaging throughout the postal service.

I definitely agree that the historical side of this article was something I found interesting as well as informative. I had no idea what mail art was before, and find it to be the perfect definition of "do it together art." Prior to the article, I did not know Dadaism and the fluxus movement helped aid to the history of zines. What better way to get your artwork out there then embody the spirit that zines inspire, do it yourself!

Much of the focus of the zine creators and designers was about the audience; reaching the audience, broadening the audience, and keeping an audience. It states early on that, “Many held an almost utopian ideal that the interaction between artist and audience” (100). One thing I find confusing or contradictory is that the artist wants the audience to “get” their work, to feel the same emotion and pick up on the satire or message, yet these pieces of literature say the zines are very cryptic and cut and paste-like. If something is very scattered and random, it is hard to find the meaning of the piece of art. It also says on page 104 that the artist wanted the audience to feel like the images could be theirs, yet their production and distribution of the zine was underground and hidden away. There is a gap between the secret nature of the production and the ownership of the work.

That's a really good point about how artists want their audience to get their work. Obviously, an artist should hope to reach and identify with their target audience, but if their work is so cryptic and hard to 'get' then does that make it a failed piece of art? Or, does it not matter if the audience 'gets' the art or the artist. I would think in terms of making a living, it would be important for the artist to make art in a way that at least some people liked the art. However, that brings up another good point, is 'getting' the art the same as 'liking' the art. I would argue no. I can think of some pieces of art that I really like, however, I entirely do not 'get' it.

You bring up a very interesting point. I agree that it confusing to find that relationship between the artist and their audience, because it is sometimes hard to understand what the message is that the artist is trying to portray. Many zine and DIY artists choose to make their work very unique and busy, which can make it difficult for the audience to interpret the message. I do believe that creating a relationship with your audience is crucial in the DIY era, but feel that it is also important that your audience can interpret and understand your point of view.

It was really interesting that you bring out the point that "Much of the focus of the zine creators and designers was about the audience; reaching the audience, broadening the audience, and keeping an audience." A lot of zine makers are free to do and express on their own zines and artworks and yet, they depend and rely on their audience to keep them motivated and alive. I agree that if something is just randomly copied and pasted, it's hard to define it as something (such as art). These zine makers must have mad skills to create something unique!

It is amazing to find that the creation of zines could lead to so many inspiring changes in art/zine history. I had just thought that zines were a simple form of creation created by everyone and anyone, but the different types and motives when using zines is remarkable. I still can’t believe that some of the creation of zines came from rebellion and political movements in history, like the Situationist International. I can see that the artists of zines are very clever and full of determination to get their zines out in public and around the nation, even finding creative ways to distribute their work. A perfect and clever example would be the Potlatch group, who “mailed to people chosen at random from the phone book". The sense of unity in “Mail Art”(which “a small scale artwork ‘in progress’ is sent out to other artists with directions for the next artist to add to the work and pass it on”) was stunning because of the random collaborations between artists around the country. John Held Jr says it best: “Mail art is to art, as zine is to self-publishing. They are both based on DIY ethics… Mail art is based on co-operation and collaboration, rather than competition.” In our present time now, we worry about our own works being copyrighted and such to prevent things being stolen. However, back in the past, the zine maker’s desire to share and spread their “message” they skillfully created is so remarkable and outsized, they are more willing and generous about having their works passed on to others without copyright.

I thought the same thing about zines. At first I didn't even know what they were, and now I know that there is so much to learn about them- their messages, how they're created, etc. I agree with you that the artists are very determined and love what they're doing. I thought it was interesting and creative how they thought to distribute their work through mail art. I think it's a great way to get their work out there for others to see. I just love the whole idea of mail art in general. It really connects people together. That is really true about people, nowadays, and how they copyright all their works. I think some just want all that fame and fortune, but of course that's not really the real reason; there are many other reasons why people copyright their work. On the other hand, it's nice how zine artists didn't mind not having their works copyrighted. It's like they just wanted to have their work out there and spread their messages around to people.

I like the point of how they mailed things to random people in the phone book. It's a great way to get your art to people who may not have otherwise seen it. But, though it will reach a larger audience, if there is not constant communication or feedback, how can the artist maintain that audience member if they are chosen at random? If that person ends up really liking the work, is there some way to find who the artist is? I am not familiar with this idea, so i'm not sure the answer.

I also thought it was interesting that now people are worried about having their works stolen or their copyrights violated when there were these 'zine creators that actually wanted people to reuse their content, as with the anti-copyright mentioned in the article. You really hit the nail on the head about the deeper level of 'zines and how they actually contain controversial or clever material.

I found this article to be pretty cool and interesting! Now I want to do mail art. Or, would the new-age term for mail art be email art? It was interesting to see how the styles of zines progressed. It was a form of rebellion and change that dated back quite a ways, which I was unaware of. I like how the article compared mail art to zines in that: "Mail is to art, as zines culture is to self publishing". I certainly agree with that and the way it relates to DIY culture. People wanted to find a way to make art that was definitely not mainstream and discounted the aspect of quality. I find it really interesting also that mail artists found a way to make art using people and networks before the internet. Of course, it would be much easier now to do email art, assuming it is 2D, but nonetheless mail art found a way to expand to other people and areas without the internet. I also like the comment about how zines "resist judgments of quality in pursuit of an open system". It certainly is a main theme to DIY culture. DIY culture doesn't necessarily need to be of high quality because we cant all be experts, but still, we are doing it ourselves.

I agree with you in a certain communication sense that Mail Art is equivalent E-mail Art, only in the idea of how we communicate. I feel that the whole reason why Mail Art came up was a creative new idea for networking. And it also had many other significant aspects to it which is significantly different than what E-mail Art would be. I feel that if e-mail art ever happened, it would not have nearly even close to the same effect since it is 2-D and the whole significance of it has been changed. E-mail art would just be less craft since it would be so easy for practically anyone to create and send.

I agreed with your comment on one of the main themes of DIY being the need to "resist judgments of quality in pursuit of an open system," I thought your description of the reasons was accurate. Of course, we cannot all be extremely skilled at numerous endeavors and the fact that we are all trying something is very worthy. This is the reason there are so many Do it Yourself books out there for people to experiment with. I do however notice that there are a few things we generally discourage as a society from doing yourself, such as, being your own doctor or dentist. Is it only when a life hangs in the balance that we think it cannot be done by anyone? I think that the DIY culture is not only good but vital to encourage more creativity in every aspect of our society, yet I must maintain that a downside of the DIY culture is that some people should simply not do some of the things that they are given more access to through DIY. There is no way to judge who should or shouldn't be making art, and I think that it is better to live with the "open system" than lose potential artists, but quality should not be completely spurned, as it sometimes seems to be within the DIY culture.

From the article, it seems almost as if all of these DIY-based movements sprouted up as a group effort. There are names in each that may have played a large role in defining the art form, but there is a universal attempt to create or strengthen a community. We are presented with ‘zine culture, which created a new means for spreading and creating new ideas and cultures. Without the audience (essentially the community,) there would be no one to give the message to. In the fluxus movement people sacrificed their own names for the sake of a stronger, purer community of artists. Looking at Dada, the connection is easily made in that, similar to fluxus, artists were attempting to “shake the bourgeoisie sensibilities of the art world” through their art. With all of these ‘uprisings’ in the art world, it seems as if they are aiming for a unified group that has a by-the-artist-for-the-artist mentality and they all know that if they want it, they’re going to have to do it their selves. It just really struck me how selfless the artists are portrayed in these movements. Overall it was a really interesting reading.

It was interesting to read about the progress of diferrent styles of zines. I like how this article provides detailed information about how artists from different groups tried to interact with the audience by reproducing their work. Before reading this article, I had no idea that the modern day zines were greatly influenced by the early dada artists. It is very interesting that the dada artists gathered often and created work in response to a widespread conflict, experimenting with different materials and methods. I would certainly love to do such an activity with people who have the same point of view as I do on a certain political issue or controversy.
The mail art movement was also extremely interesting to me. It reminded me of when I was in elementary school, I would draw a circle and eyes in it only, then pass it around to my friends so they could complete a face. I love the idea of many artists creating one art work.

I totally agree with your first statement "The advance of technology is inevitable". Nowadays it is so easy to make an art work simply by clicking the mouse, and also make hundreds of copies of it with just one machine. It is true that with advanced technology, the artists and audience can have a better interaction. However I also believe it's important that we know the different methods the zine artists used before and how they published them.

I was introduced to Dada artwork in high school, but never knew all that much about the origin of it so I really enjoyed reading about the origin of the movement and where the name even came from. I thought it was really cool that the movement went back all the way to the early 1900's. Nor did I know that Dadaism started in Switzerland. I also thought the movement was strictly sculpture and found objects, not collage and text.

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