Finnish artist Ritta Ikonen has a rare relationship with postal services around the globe because of her ongoing Mail Art series. The documentary project started in 2003 when Ikonen was a student at the University of Brighton. She began crafting and sending A6-sized packages relaying her travel experiences to her illustration instructor, Margaret Huber. Since then, Ikonen has sent hundreds of parcels constructed with human hair, fish, and broken bits of a record, among countless other objects. “All the cards are snapshots from the everyday: materials that float my direction from the sea/ streets/ subway, finds from mushroom forays or other people’s parties,” the artist tells Colossal. “Sometimes the postcard is a test on a new adhesive or a snapshot of a larger project that I cannot store in its entirety.”
Despite her unusual packaging, the artist says only a few pieces haven’t reach their destination, although works arrive in various conditions often accompanied by an apology from the mail carrier for the “damage” done.
I have discovered that my crocheting skills aren’t yet at the point where I can produce a legible address and fluff from the dryer breaks down too easily in international mail. Most everything that I have considered risqué (white powder packet during anthrax scare, shrimp, small fish, film camera (filled with selfies by the postal workers on its arrival), acupuncture needles, etc.) have all been dutifully delivered to Margaret Huber’s mailbox.
In 2018, Ikonen began sending the mail pieces weekly, although before they head through the postal service, they’re put on view at a PO Box in Rockaway Beach, New York. The artist also is part of a group exhibition at Gallery 8 in New York that’s open through March 8. If you can’t see Ikonen’s unconventional work in person, though, some of her documentary projects are featured in a book devoted to postcards.
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