Inspiration is a phenomenon of the spirit, and for that reason can be transmitted, exchanged and received even without the aid of physical media such as painting, sculpture, sound, gesture or written text. All that is necessary for the transmission of inspiration is a spiritual link between two or more beings. Long-distance telepathy, parallel thought flow, wordless dialogue, the "spirit of the times" and morphogenetic fields of influence--all these are familiar elements of everyday life and experience, even though science, despite intensive work on the problem, has not yet succeeded in deciphering them completely. Art, which has always been in advance of science as far as recognition of new human paradigms is concerned, makes use of these phenomena on an equal basis along with other means of expression.
Encounter art is one of those forms of artistic activity which leads to direct exchange of inspiration among spiritually awakened beings: either among artists themselves or through direct contact between artist and audience.
It is possible to follow developments in non-material art
forms--whether they be encounters, dialogues, interaction or spiritual exchange--starting in the late 1950's with the advent of the "happening", a form in which the artist's spontaneous, unplanned actions involve the audience as well. This was followed by the Fluxus movement, which spilled over into life itself, and finally the "lectures" of Joseph Beuys, in which he transmitted his ideas to the audience.
Mail-art, the art of communication, continued these tendencies, strengthening personal relations among people and placing them at the center of the creative act. It's no accident that within the framework of this international movement we find instances of the creative act such as the regular dinner parties involving artists (Correspondence Dinners) that were organized by New York artist Ray Johnson in the 1960's, or "tourism", as the Swiss artist Hans Ruedi Fricker called the act of meeting with artists around the world that began in the early 1980's. Along with his countryman Gunther Ruch, Fricker organized the Decentralized Worldwide Mail-art Congress in 1986, at which the emphasis was again on creative encounters among artists from different parts of the world. The 1980's also saw examples of artistic projects involving telepathy, for instance the projects organized yearly by Polish artist Andrzej Dudek-Durer. All these forms of creative activity were based on a spiritual exchange among artists, an exchange which itself constituted the final work of art.
After phases in the history of art in which the artist first communicated with nature and society through the work of art (pre-modern), then with the work itself as a collection of visual elements and a reality in its own right (modern), we now come to a phase in which the creative act retreats from thc material world into the artist's mental domain.
Conceptual art, and the dematerialization of the art object which took
place in the early 1960's, are the best-known manifestations of this new
attitude. By following the logical development of non-material trends in
art, we arrive at
spiritual art, to which encounter art can also be said to belong.
In 1985 I defined the international mail-art network as "an immense collective work of art, a pulsating spiritual sculpture". The impulses which constitute this sculpture are meetings between artists, whether by means of postal services or personal encounters. Personal encounters naturally take precedence, for they involve more of the senses and permit faster, almost instantaneous feedback, which in a single day can take the place of a thousand letters. The result of these artists' encounters--those, of course, whose creative activities and underlying motives are essentially oriented towards communication--is to produce a spiritual exchange or spiritual attunement which also has broader implications for contemporary spiritual movements. Meetings between artists from the mail-art network enable them to crystallize and reinforce their ideas, ideas which radiate outward and fertilize what is known as the "spirit of the times". The development of this form of creative activity furthers the transmission of inspiration from the artist to the onlooker, that is, to every potential recipient, whether through personal meetings, telepathy or magic.
1 May 1991
Translated by Richard Williams