Josh Ronsen Exhibit B
Josh Ronsen, Exhibit B, 2020

Fluxus is the “event” according to George Brecht, fluxus is the creation of a relationship between life and art, fluxus is gag, pleasure, and shock, fluxus is an attitude towards art, towards the non-art of anti-art, towards the negation of one’s ego, fluxus is the major part of the education as to john cage, dadaism and zen, fluxus is light and has a sense of humor.

Ben Vaulter (1979) “Text on fluxus,” partly cited in: Pina, Sonia da Silva. 

Josh Ronsen is a polyvalent artist from Austin, Texas who is inspired by the Fluxus movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Ronsen plays guitar, clarinet, piano, and a dizzying array of other instruments and non-instruments as well as being a performance artist, writer, editor, and visual artist. Primarily a musician, Ronsen founded brekekekexkoaxkoanx in 1996 and also performs with other experimental music ensembles, including a collab with Vanessa Gelvin at NMASS 2020 last Tuesday (a virtual event on YouTube).

Mail Art by Katerina Kikoltsou
Katerina Kikoltsou, Untitled, 2020 (Mail Art)

If you are not familiar with Fluxus, it was a loose group of artists, including John Cage, Yoko Ono, and other leaders of the avant-garde at midcentury. Fluxus artists were process-oriented and never sought agreement on goals or methods. They did share a light, playful approach to redefining what art is and could be. Inspired by Dadaism and Zen Buddhism, the group sought to blur the boundaries between art and life, and between performers and observers.

Mail Art by David Schultz
David Schultz, Social Distancing, 2020 (Mail Art)

Mail Art is a practice pioneered by the Fluxus movement in the 1960s. Since then, Mail Art has become a global network of artists exchanging artworks and collaborating on projects. Being focused on visual art, Lonely Ocean talked to Ronsen mainly about his longstanding involvement in Mail Art. Josh was kind enough to share a few of his favorite postcards, including this wonderful work by the artist’s mother, GerriAnn Ronsen. We see a family resemblance in both style and sensibility.

Chianti by GerriAnn Ronsen
GerriAnn Ronsen, Chianti (Mail Art)

Like other Fluxus events, Mail Art is anti-elitist and anti-commercial, that is, you can’t purchase it. If you would like to collect Mail Art, anyone can create a card and send it to a fellow Mail Artist, who is then obligated to send you a postcard in exchange. Cards are generally the size of a standard large postcard and sent through the mail without an envelope. Include your name (or pseudonym) and a return address (not just email). Some Mail Artists do use rubber stamps or prints, but the most prized pieces are original, one of a kind drawings, painting, collage, or mixed media, like this gorgeous piece by Heide Monster.

Unitled by Heide Monster (Mail Art)
Heide Monster, Sharpie, nd. (Mail Art)

Ronsen says that the best part of being a Mail Artist is to come home and find an original piece of art waiting in your mailbox. Kristen, having known Josh for longer than she cares to admit, received a delightful Tiny Book about Spoons by Josh many years ago, and would have to agree.

Mail Art by Love and Loathing
Love and Loathing, Untitled (Mail Art)

Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.

Lemony Snicket

Over the last two decades, Ronsen has amassed boxes and boxes of postcards. He has also organized exhibits of Mail Art on various themes, such as “Revising the Century.” At one point, he collected the tiny work of some 50 artists into hand-made boxes for Tiny Box (2009) and created a poster of ant artworks for Mail Ant (2008). Check out this video of the Tiny Art Exchange in 2014.

Tiny Art Exchange, 2014

This post barely scratches the surface of Josh’s many creative endeavors, but he did request that I mention his upcoming Mail Art show at Northern-Southern Gallery in Austin, Texas at some future, but as yet unspecified, date.

If you would like to try your hand as a Mail Artist, you can reach Josh at [email protected] or ronsen.org and ask to get involved. Also, if you happen to live in Texas, Ronsen established the Texas Association of Concerned Mail Artists in 2005. With his typical humor, Josh invites anyone to join this group as long as they meet the three criteria, “One, you must be a mail artist; two, you must live in Texas, and three, you must be concerned.”

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