Latest contributions from Mail Artists around the world. Lubomyr Tymkiv responds with a contribution reflecting the history of his country and the development of the scouting movement along side nationalism and the growth of the army (the Ukranian Sich league). Lubomyr’s alternative gallery space will play host to a collection of mail art by Young People in the North East in 2014 and beyond.
Ryosuke Cohen, Japan, is responsible for the Brain Cell mail art project, which he began in June 1985 and retains thousands of members in more than 80 countries. The project is a networked art project where individual artists contribute stamps, stickers, drawings or other images. These are sent through the mail to Cohen, who assembles and prints them as part of each cell. He prints 150 copies (30 x 42 cm) with a small silkscreen system called a Cyclostyle, (now out of production). Each participant is mailed a Brain Cell print along with a documentation list of contributors world wide.
Cohen keeps a copy for himself. Some of the remaining Brain Cells prints from each edition are assembled into sets of 30 consecutive editions. These set are sent to artists and Mail Art shows around the world.
Cohen also uses Brain Cells prints in the Fractal Portrait Project (another long running art series by Cohen) and as additions to Mail Art Add and Pass pages.
New Brain Cell editions are published every 8 to 10 days. As of December 31, 2012, there have been 847 issues.
Cohen described the origin of the project’s name in 1985: 🙂 “Well, I’ll title my work “Brain Cell”, because the structure of a brain through a microscope looks like the diagram of the Mail Art network. Thousands of Neurons clung and piled up together are just like the Mail Art network, I believe.”
Hartlepool’s Heugh Battery is a WW1 battlefield site. The Museum provides an excellent translation of the battle that took place in December 1914, when a bombardment of Hartlepool took place carried out by three German Battleships. Hartlepool was defended by Heugh & Lighthouse Battery.
These BL 6 inch Mk VII naval guns were used to defend the dock yards and factories (including the Aspirin Factory and munitions factories) of Hartlepool. What really interested me was trying to understand how the guns fired the brass shells, whether in Hartlepool or the Somme. What was the physical journey these shells took, to become Trench Art. Reading Nicholas J Saunders book, Trench Art: Materialities and Memories of War, he defines Trench Art as “any item made by soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians, from war materiel directly, or any other material, as long as it and they are associated temporally and/or spatially with armed conflict or its consequences.”
The Heugh Battery has a collection of Trench Art and embroidered postcards in the cabinets on show in the cafe. The work shown here belongs to a private collector. The shells have been ornately decorated with oak leaf (typical of the time) a dove of peace and intricately designed with a semi-moorish pattern. Often made by local blacksmiths stationed in Belgium or France or local inhabitants, the work is an excellent example of Folk Art and the development of souvenirs, (a french word meaning memory or remembrance). The surface of the metal has a resonance similar to etching & engraving, which is one of the reasons I am drawn to looking at these objects in closer detail. I am interested in exploring the heritage around these objects and want to understand the social history surrounding these objects, from the women who made the shells in the factories, to the lives spent in the trenches and the cultural significance of the designs, to those who treasured the objects later and brought them home.