What Would Your Personal History Look Like In 182 Postcards?

What Would Your Personal History Look Like In 182 Postcards?
Arts & Culture

Finnish artist Riita Ikonen has been creating and mailing 'postcards' for the better half of the past decade. Now she gathers the eclectic collection together to look at where she has come.

Karen Baker
  • 8 september 2012

Image credits and copyright: Kaisa Rautaheimo

For the past nine years, Finnish artist Riita Ikonen and fellow artist Margaret Huber have created and sent over 200 ‘postcards.’ With the only requirement being that the objects are postcard sized, the resulting objets d’art take every form imaginable: metal piping, bundles of hair, a driver’s license, paintbrushes and more. Each serves as an artifact of the artist’s own history. We recently spoke to Ikonen about the project, titled ‘Mail Art’, now on show in New York through October 7th.

Tell us about the background of Mail Art. What was your inspiration?

In 2003 a holiday project titled ‘Location Vocation Vacation’ called for mail art. One postcard per week was to be sent to Margaret Huber, my then second year Illustration tutor at the University of Brighton. Since then around two hundred have been sent (and received) by Margaret from all over the world. Arranged into postcard size (the only rule of the project) and mailed exactly as they are without envelopes.

Tell us about the post cards – what was the most surprising one you received?

I would say hair from a recent haircut, fish, a sachet of white powder (a reference to a topical Anthrax scare), a piece of a boat, seeds, copper pipe, mossy bark, little fish, seeds etc. have all been dutifully delivered to Margaret Huber by postal workers. Only some eight cards have ended up in the dead letter office.

Margaret and I meet up a couple of times a year, usually in a pub for a card handover. It is only then that I find out which of the cards have made it all the way and in what shape. Sometimes the cards arrive in pieces, carefully enveloped in an ‘Our sincerest apologies’- bag by the postal workers.

Do you see any common themes emerging from the 200+ cards?

Many of the cards are beginnings to other projects and material studies for larger costumes. Over the years they have accumulated to a growing materials archive and an active testing ground (especially for new strong adhesives). They are objects to mark my past.

What do you plan on doing with the cards next?

182 of these cards will be on show at the Christopher Henry Gallery from September 5th until October 7th. The project has been going for nine years now and has been exhibited in Japan and London before. I’m looking out for the good opportunity to show the cards in Finland where great many of the cards have been sent from.

I make three special cards every year for the RCA- Secret exhibition in South Kensington where the cards can be bought in an auction.

Thanks, Riita!

For those of you in New York City, stop by the Christopher Henry Gallery on 127 Elizabeth Street to see Ikonen’s post cards in person. On view from September 5th through October 7th. Otherwise, click through our gallery to view more.

Click through the gallery to see more postcards from ‘Mail Art:’

Mail Art // Riita Ikonen

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