Every week in 2011, Yukon artist Joyce Majiski constructed, wrote, and mailed a postcard to California artist Zea Morvitz—and Morvitz reciprocated in kind. It was part of a mail-art project that became known as 52 x 2 Postcard Exchange.
The idea for the project has been lying dormant in Majiski’s mind for a couple decades.
“I was in Berlin in 1990 and I went to an exhibit of postcards that the German Expressionists had sent back and forth to each other. I thought it was so neat that they did that,” says Majiski.
Perhaps all she was waiting for was an appropriate partner for a similar endeavor. Morvitz filled that role perfectly.
“We both have a real love of literature and hand delivered mail,” she says. “I’ve had a pen pal since as long as I can remember.”
There was really only one rule for the project; the postcards that were sent back and forth had to have uniform dimensions: 5 inches by 7 inches. Everything else was up to the creativity of the two postcard-makers. The results were eclectic.
“There was a huge variety of postcards. I sewed a rock onto one, and had stir-sticks holding another one together,” says Majiski. The one with stir-sticks was a tri-part postcard, meaning it had three parts folded in on each other.
So is there anything besides size that all these postal artifacts have in common?
“They we’re all successfully delivered through the mail,” says Majiski. Though she punningly admits some of the deliveries were “pushing the postal envelope.”
Still, the vast majority of postal workers she encountered thought it was a great idea, says Majiski. And she encountered a lot of them because for much of 2011, she was traveling throughout the United States, mailing her art from local post offices.
There was, however, one exception.
“One guy was very obstructionist and refused to sell me a stamp, unless I put my postcard in an envelope,” she says. This completely defeated the purpose of Majiski’s art project.
Her solution: “I finally told him I’d put it in an envelope at home, so he sold me the stamp and I went outside, licked it and stuck it, and then put it in a mailbox.”
Of course, it arrived at its destination.
The written content of each postcard wildly fluctuates, but they tend to be little stream-of-consciousness poems, based on the immediate thoughts of the artist.
This is a case where McLuhan’s famous maxim, “The medium is the message,” might be applicable. The important thing about this project isn’t necessarily what the postcards say, but that postcards themselves still have the ability to say anything at all. For Majiski our increasing reliance on electronic media is alarming.
“There is an expectation with emails that you will reply to people instantly. But we have a slow-food movement, and a meditation movement, I think we need a slow-communication movement too.”
And there is some hope on the horizon. When Majiski and Morvitz’s work was shown at The Yukon Arts Centre this September, the reaction she got was encouraging.
“A lot of the feedback I got was from people who had been inspired to pick up a pen and start writing,” she says. The revolution begins.
In the meantime, the two artists are looking for a venue to show their work in California, and the entire project can be viewed on 52x2postcards.tumblr.com
Those interested in purchasing a book of the artwork can contact Joyce Majiski at email@example.com.
Peter Jickling is a Whitehorse playwright and the assistant editor of What’s Up Yukon