The One World Postal Art Exhibition

Written for the United Nations in 1995 by Mark Bloch

The One World Postal Art Exhibition welcomes all forms of human expression by allowing artists and non-artists to exhibit their heart-felt artworks and to thus reach out to people who would not normally see it. Participants in 184 countries have been invited through an open invitation to express themselves without regard to marketability or subjective notions of quality. The goal is to increase public and personal awareness of what art can be.

The goal of this show is to eliminate constraints that impede cultural exchange, creating immediate and beneficial effects which can be measured on a human scale. By together focusing our vision on the single planet (One World) that we all share, at this time of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the UN, our combined efforts in this humanitarian enterprise signal the opening of a real opportunity for a working example in which people of diverse cultural and linguistic heritages can learn from each other.

This exhibition's 3 fold strategy:

1) Education - In general we hope to educate the public through use of the media and in particular by working together with primary and secondary schools on the Lower East Side of Manhattan who are invited to participate in their own right and to interact with art work sent in from around the world.

2) Science - Via new media such as video projection, Real Audio, digital sound and photography, VRML, C-U-See-Me teleconferencing software, the Internet and the World Wide Web, we will carry the exhibition electronically, in it's entirety, all over the world via links to other remote computer sites.

3) Communication - We will promote peace and development by letting anyone who desires to share in the creative process. We are affirming the possibilities of cooperation and collaboration by fostering self-empowerment and equal access to knowledge through partnership and dialogue. The exhibition will be a rallying point for people of various cultural backgrounds in New York and around the world to come together and compare personal visions of global cooperation.

At this important time in the history of our One World, in the midst of this difficult transition from a culture of violence to a culture of peace, this demonstration of creativity and freedom of expression is a much-needed opportunity to create an effective strategy for interaction across cultural boundaries. It is also an opportunity to begin a dialogue so that all the peoples of our planet and our respective communities might embark on the new millennium with a renewed sense of purpose, with those who do creative cultural work teaching by example, showing the way and empowering themselves, rather than seeing themselves as victims.

What is a postal art show?

Postal art is art that travels the planet via the international postal system. This phenomena has been going on since the 1950's and has been the subject of many books and magazine articles. It pre-dates the Internet, even in its earliest form, by many years and in many ways anticipated today's interactive, international exchanges on the World Wide Web, Usenet groups and the Internet proper.

The "art" consists of the continuous interchange between participants, which is sometimes referred to as "The Eternal Network", or just "The Network", as well as the objects (collages, photocopies, drawings, little paintings, postcards, magazines, limited edition "zines", little magazines, writing, poetry, found art, posters, games, 3-dimensional objects, rubber stamp art, audio and video tapes, etc.) that are mailed. Postal Art, (also known as Post Art, Correspondence Art or Mail Art) takes many forms, but two main categories are (1) one-to-one correspondence between individuals and (2) postal art shows.

A postal art show usually consists of mailable works that are sent through the postal system for the purposes of an exhibition, publication, or other project. Unlike traditional art shows, the art is usually not juried, censored, and is not returned when the show is over. Thus, postal art is less like a commodity and more like a gift to a friend that you do not know.

Since it's inception in the early part of this century and wider dissemination in the 1960's, 70's and 80's, postal art has proven to be an effective tool to promote peace, human rights, and mutual understanding between people of diverse backgrounds. The free exchange of ideas that is a cornerstone of this participatory network provides a greater awareness of other cultures. Mail artists in South American countries were jailed for sending it. Artists in Eastern Europe used it to communicate with the West. Today, artists in the former Yugoslavia reach out to the rest of the world via postal art, requesting contact and help in understanding the crisis in that region that has isolated them.

The Focus: One World, the Earth, the UN

The One World Postal Art Show will commemorate the concept of One World. Themes such as The Internet, Earth Day, and the 50th anniversary of the United Nations will provide the focus. Artists and non-artists worldwide are invited to submit works for an exhibition to be held in New York City in April 1996 on the theme "One World." All works received will be exhibited. No work will be returned. All work becomes the property of the organizers. A documentation of the show, preferably in the form of a small book or poster, will be sent to all participants. All work, any size, any medium is welcome. The only requirement is that it arrives by mail (or e-mail.).

We hope that acting on the above themes will foster greater communication among participants and visitors to the show as well as the sponsoring organizations.

For instance, because the United Nations membership is open to all "peace loving states" with its chief concerns being:

peace keeping disarmament human rights social and economic development international law aid to children aid to refugees fighting hunger environmental concerns intellectual property world health

Artwork on these subjects has been recommended. The One World Postal Art Show will address these concerns, commemorate the United Nations and serve as an international barometer of how effectively the UN has lived up to its goals. The show will also be up during the week of Earth Day, a celebratory day for the Planet Earth.

We believe that a fifty year anniversary is a good occasion to sing our praises to the idealistic goals and actual achievements of the UN. At the same time, the peoples of the planet will be able to fill out a "report card" on the organization. Has the UN lived up to its promises? "We the people" now have an opportunity to let our voices be heard. Participants will address one or more of the above concepts with their inspiration as their only guide.

The Exhibition

The work will be exhibited at the Angel Orensanz Foundation at 172 Norfolk Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. This particular structure used to be a synagogue, in fact one of the oldest in this part of New York, and one of the earliest sites of the Reform Judaism movement. It was taken over by this non-profit arts foundation in the 1980's and supports various cultural events. It is an enormous structure and it will be utilized to the fullest during the opening of the show.

The community will play a big part in the show. This part of New York has long been the site of a true "melting pot" of different cultures. Waves of immigrants including Germans, Italians, Irish, Jews, Ukrainians, Poles, Hispanics and others have moved through this neighborhood at different times since the early 1800's, always enriching it, with each leaving a unique mark. Artists followed in the 1960's. The families and individuals of the neighborhood will be engaged through local posters inviting them to participate as well as attend as well as by reaching out to local schools and institutions.

See the enclosed invitations to area teachers so that they could invite their classes to participate and teach a lesson on the UN. Their work will be displayed like a giant sheet of postage stamps. We invite children to share their vision of One World, with the hope that we might root out injustice, discrimination, poverty and violence, which are prevalent in this area of New York City. We hope these local children, both through their work and by visiting the show, will provide a dialogue with the community and teach adults about the folly of conflict and the beauty of innocence.

At the opening, guests will be invited to view the exhibition while there will be refreshments served and small art objects, such as a mailing list, for sale. Live music and performance from various cultures will be performed. A large sphere will hang in the middle of the room with images from around the world projected on it.along with video from a computer with images from the World Wide Web site where the show may also be seen (

The actual exhibition will be hung on the wall and in free-standing kiosks, employing both traditional and non-traditional techniques and organized by theme at the time of the hanging of the show. Entries are still being received. Some of the general categories are outlined herein: Many people seem to have focused on the generalized theme of One World, with maps and flags of many of the UN's member nations being depicted. This will form one category. Another is pictures of indigenous people. Many participants chose the theme of postal communications and feature stamps, postmarks and cancellations woven into collages and designs. Symbols of peace and war create a dialogue between art showing birds and art depicting guns. Texts from artists in Serbia can be juxtaposed with a plea for materials from Poland or a manifesto from a former USSR republic. Other works focus on the plight of women or refugees.

Each group of work will be hung together by subject matter, creating a dialogue between the artists that made them, the countries they come from and others with similar concerns. Artists were invited to send their work to the One World Postal Art Exhibition c/o Postal Art Network, PO Box 1500, New York, NY, 10009, USA. E-mail contributions were sent to panman <at> via the Internet.

The show is dedicated to all those who have dedicated their lives to the quest for world peace without distinction as to race, sex, age, language or religion.


Ultimately this is an education project, demonstrating classic and contemporary visions of cooperation between people of all nations, a monitor of shifting tides of culture and politics. It will bring a sharp focus to international cultural cooperation and the practical use of cutting-edge scientific advances for humanitarian purposes. We welcome your sponsorship and participation.