Pushing the Envelope

Mail Art and 'The Eternal Network'

Honoria (Photo By Ada Calhoun)


Many will recognize Honoria's name from her cyberopera project Honoria in Cyberspazio. "I chose that name because I wanted to have the word 'honor' in my name," she says. The cyber project, an online opera about the Internet, came out of her instructional technology studies at UT's Department of Education. She's still there, and "having a ball" doing her Ph.D. dissertation on the impact of the Internet on mail art.

Originally from Miami, Honoria has been in Austin for more than 20 years. A consummate letter writer, Honoria joined a California-based pen pal club called the Letter Exchange. (It has since folded.) Through that group, she got into a fervent exchange with a man in Atlanta, Ga. At one point, they got obsessed with fish and kept sending each other more and more elaborate mail art on the topic. Honoria recalls sending the man a collage made for an ad for an "Ef-fish-iancy Apartment." Then at some point along about 1988, her correspondent suggested that she send something to a man in Japan whose address he had. The man was mail art pioneer Ryosuke Cohen, and when Honoria sent him something, she got back a "Braincell," a weekly collage project and one of the longest-running mail art projects.

Honoria became very excited by the international list of mail artists that was attached and was delighted to have found so many others who liked corresponding. It was, Honoria says, almost "kinky," and she started writing to several mail artists in Japan and Italy, primarily sending out watercolored and collaged postcards. Since then, she has amassed many walls-full of art from around the world. Two of her favorite correspondents are a couple of Italian railroad workers who are also performance artists. While she oohs and aahs over the works, Honoria admits this selfless gift-giving between artists ensures that "the art is worthless. It's a bunch of postcards, and the fact [is] that nobody's going to buy it." But Honoria treasures her collection and believes that a mail artist's work may be measured by what he or she collects, putting her pretty high up the chain.

Asked what makes her so prone to mail artistry, Honoria says "I don't think life is a drag. I think life is fun. That's why mail art [also called 'the Eternal Network'] is the best network for me." -- Ada Calhoun

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