In the old mail-art network in the 80-ies you had quite specific groups you encountered in the communication. Traditional groups as you would call. the, Writers and Poets, Painters and Performers, Visual Artists and Conceptual artists. Also newcomers that entered the artworld for the first time. Scientists, Scolars, hard workers in the industry that were looking for a creative outlet, Housemen or Housewives who wanted to reach out into the world and looked for connections.
WHen you look at the network as a network of networks, the idea that the mail-art network was a analog version of the current Internet isn’t such a strange thought. The Moma even did a special exhibition on this theme and called it:
Analog Network: Mail Art 1960-1999
They write: “Mail art—broadly defined as artists’ postal communication—emerged in the early 1960s from Fluxus, Nouveau Réalisme, and Conceptual art practices and expanded into a decentralized, global network. This exhibition traces the growth of correspondence networks, shows politically oriented works, documents discourse about the practice, and concludes with mail artists’ adaptation to the Internet.
And with the choice of the ending year (1999) they somehow suggest the traditional mail-art ended with the rise of the Internet. I am not sure it went that dramatically, but somehow the number of exchanged mailings decreased dramatically because communication goes mostly digital now. The sending of artifacts has become very expensive with the rise of postage costs, and international letters now are so expensive some networks mainly communicate locally.
(above: image form the website of MoMa, NY used to show the Analog Network image)