15 Minutes of Existence During A Pandemic: Pseudonyms in Mail-Art and Social Media





Citation of Original Publication

Saper, Craig J., Dj Readies, and and Craig Sapper. “15 Minutes of Existence During A Pandemic: Pseudonyms in Mail-Art and Social Media.” Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, no. 36 (June 1, 2020). https://doi.org/10.20415/rhiz/036.e09.


CC BY-NC 4.0 DEED Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International



Based on a College Art Association paper on “Not Utopian Dreams: 1960s Avant-Garde Conceptual Art As Warning of Our Current Crisis,” delivered on February 12, 2020, about a month before quarantines and lockdowns began, this article begins with a description of a slip of the tongue during the introduction to that paper. The slip, uncannily connected to the themes of the paper and the entire panel, leads to a discussion of pseudonyms in mail-art and social media. Against the intention of those involved in stamp, mail, and networked-art projects to produce a radically progressive politics and aesthetics, the anonymous and pseudonymous style now looks like the nefarious cyber-manipulations. Reading right-wing disinformation (that occurs by sending-on memes, tweets, and snippets), in terms of mail artists' "on-sendings allows one to see the contemporary mass manipulation as a logic, grammar, or structure. You don't need to intellectually agree with the message to send it on either in disgust, like, or laughter. That's how the earlier on-sendings work: no editorial judgement. They work before any interpretation or close-reading; they work before any established identity has claimed authorship (it could be a bot). The messages appear in a long anonymous chain. The key difference between manipulative cyber-media and networked art involves anonymity and pseudonyms. The participants and artists-audiences know who and where the messages come from; it is only the spying eyes of the delivery person or governmental investigators or marketers who saw only the pseudonym without an identity. It was anonymous for the censors and oppressors, and, at the exact same time, it is not even masked let alone anonymous for networked artists even though we all have well-known pseudonyms, handles, or a dj's monikers. The space between pseudonyms and anonymity determines its sociopoetic position.