Ray Johnson and the Mail Art Scene in Eastern Europe

  • Kornelia Röder (Autor/in)


Research into the relationship between Ray Johnson and the artistic scene in Eastern Europe is still in its infancy and this neglected area will be my focus in order to create a new understanding of the intercontinental exchange of ideas in art and communication during the Cold War. Ray Johnson's New York Correspondence School was a key development in the formation of the international mail art network, and for Eastern European artists this network provided one of the very few ways for them to make their activities known, despite the state system of control and censorship. Johnson's ideas about art as communication inspired the Hungarian artist and organizer, György Galántai, to launch the Buda Ray University in Budapest. An examination of projects like this will provide the framework for the reconstruction of the invisible process of networking across borders and walls in former Eastern Europe. Providing examples of various projects, exhibitions, and network activities, the article draws a vivid picture of the mail art scene in Eastern Europe, which paralleled developments in America and Western European countries. In doing so, it broadens the knowledge of ties between artists from East and West, highlighting the importance of the mail art network for these relations. Moreover, the view into the history of postwar art gives us a notion of the significance of autonomous, artist-initiated communication channels. Today, these forms of independent communication and exchange are more important than ever before.