The World Exists To Be Put On a Postcard
That is the name of exhibition running at The British Museum.
Postcard? When was the last time you heard the word?
Have you received one lately?
Even more so have you sent one lately?
Have you ever thought of postcards as work of art?
Some of the well-known artists did. At least for a period of time. During the 1960s and 1970s postcards were used as artistic medium to highlight political and social issues, such as feminism, anti-war protest and the fight against AIDS.
The World Exists To Be Put On A Postcard highlights a selection of 300 works from more than 1,000 artists’ postcards recently gifted to The British Museum by the novelist and former art dealer, Jeremy Cooper.
I happened to be in the museum to witness this exhibition and was blown away by what could be achieved through humble postcards.
The exhibition has works ranging from feminist artists such as Lynda Benglis and Hannah Wilke, to Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s anti-Vietnam War is Over postcard.
According to The British Museum blog the artists’ postcard began as a child of the Conceptual and Fluxus movements of the 1960s.
Artists connected with the Fluxus movement often used postcards or ‘mail art’ as part of their artistic practice. In the 1960s and 1970s, the postcard embodied the movement’s engagement with experimental art forms and expressed a disenchantment with the elitism of the art world. The experimental Fluxus artist Ben Vautier created what must be one of the most confusing postcards ever made. It reveals a space on both sides of the card for the address, enabling the writer to send the card to two people at once. When it arrives at the post office, the question is, ‘who should it be posted to’? This dilemma is reflected in the title of the card, The Postman’s Choice.The British Museum
The writer Jeremy Cooper started collecting them in 2008 after an illness because he wanted to reconnect with art without spending huge sums of money. Through dealers and eBay, Cooper has steadily built a vast collection of more than 8,000 works examples, a reflection of the surprising number of artists who have engaged with the medium since the 1960s.The Guardian
I particularly liked the a postcard by Guerrilla Girls which outlines the benefits of being a woman artist such as working without the pressure of success and not having to be in shows with men.
There were many which had provocative slogans such as “Beethoven was a lesbian” and “I don’t give a shit what your house is worth.”
Certainly the most shocking one was of a man suspended from hooks while photographers took pictures. The British Museum blog has artist approved picture on the site. The artist’s name is Stelarc. He was born in Cyprus and grew up in Melbourne. He specialises in self-inflicting performances. His preferred method of documenting and promoting his work was through postcards.
Overall an engaging exhibition. I am so glad I happen to be in London at the right time.