Andrej Tisma (21 November 1952) - Mail-artist, poet, writer, performer, net artist - born and living in Novi Sad, in 1971 got in contact with Mail-Art through Bogdanka Poznanovic, a pioneer of Yugoslavian Mail-Art. That year she became his professor at 'Novi Sad Superior school for Visual Arts', the later 'Academy'. Those days he did not used the term "Mail-Art", but rather "communication art", "contact-art" or "project art". In 1973 Tisma finished his studies and went to study in Prague at the 'Academy of fine arts', from which he graduated in 1976. During his studies abroad postal art gave him the possibility to stay in contact with his home-land, with his earlier Mail-Art works made of bus tickets and his first rubberstamps.

His real involvement with the Mail-Art network started in 1983 when he met Dobrica Kamperelic (Yugoslavia) by chance in a Novi Sad bookshop. He corresponded with him for years but on that occasion Kamperelic gave him invitations for Mail-Art projects in Brazil, U.S.A., Europe and correspondence addresses. After years of postal art networking in his own country, he now was able to enlarge his contacts worldwide in the Mail-Art network.

In the same year, Tisma did also his first Mail-Art project called 'Mail-Art Olympic Games', in conjunction with the 14th 'Winter Olympic Games' in Sarajevo. This Mail-Art project resulted in three exhibitions. But before these exhibitions, it was installed in a television studio in his home town in February 1984 and first shown on the television. This was realised in co-operation with the 'Novi Sad Television' in the program Sunday Afternoon and broadcasted in whole Yugoslavia during the 'Winter Olympic Games'. After that it went first to the 'Forma Gallery' in Novi Sad. Second exhibition was in Sarajevo, at the 'Museum of XIV Winter Olympic Games', in 1985. It was the first ever Mail-Art show in Sarajevo, combined with a lecture about Mail-Art by Tisma. The third exhibition was in Calgary in 1986, in Chuck Stake's (Canada) 'The Canadian Correspondence Art Gallery'. Transport of the exhibition was sponsored by the Sarajevo Olympic museum. The contributions to his first Mail-Art project he received in two months time and was participated by 120 artists from twenty countries.

In his own Mail-Art artwork, rubberstamp art was his first media, used also for making visual poems such as repeating a stamp print many times on the same surface. When he was in Prague, he bought a rubberstamp letter print for children, and printed some words on envelopes and letters as a kind of visual poetry and concept art. In his later rubberstamp art Tisma document his performance actions and meetings with Mail-artists in photo rubberstamps. As an eraser carver he has made also many stamps. During the Balkan war the themes of his carvings and rubberstamps were focused on the civil war and the cultural blockade. In 1995 his stamps were included by John Held Jr. (U.S.A.) in the exhibition about rubberstamp art 'L'art du tampon' in 'Musee de la poste' (Post Museum) in Paris (France). An exhibition with about 400 participants, from Russian Avantgarde, Futurism, Dadaism, Pop-art, Fluxus and Mail-Art.

Poetry is also an important part of his artwork and present earlier in his artwork then his rubberstamp art. In 1972 he began with writing concrete poetry and with transcribing different found texts from books, newspapers, medicaments, comics etc. The concrete poetry was published in 1980 in a book entitled Document. By using the pseudonym Andrej Zivor he has published more then ten books of prose and poetry since 1980 in Yugoslavia, but also in the U.S.A. and France. He started using it in 1976 when he published his first stories. The pseudonym gave him the possibility to keep his Mail-Art and his literature writing separate. As he was a known visual artist that time and didn't want people to mix his visual art activity with poetry. Also there were a few famous writers under the name Tisma in Novi Sad, so he wanted to make a different name in literature.

All his activities since mid seventies when he still was a painter, were aimed not towards visual or aesthetic explorations, but toward ethical, ecological and humane messages. Because even he thought that art can not change the world, it can influence people's minds, consciousness, spiritual level. The themes of his Mail-Art projects were dedicated to some social, political and ecological problems of our civilization: 'Mail Art Olympic Games' (1984), 'Private Life' (1986), 'AIDS and Paradise' (1987), 'Nature Gives...' (1992), 'Fax HeART' (1994). And also in his 'Love Offensive' campaign, the founding of the 'Institute for the Spreading of Love', publishing of the Love magazine, organizing the 'Anti-Embargo Net Congress' and the three years long anti-embargo campaign world-wide. All these activities he consider to be art, which is engaged not aesthetically or visually, but mentally and spiritually. He sees the Mail-Art network as a good model for the future world, because it is based on collaboration, love, exchange, tolerance, cosmopolitism. Also within his '(spi)rituals' derived from his Mail-Art activities. It began with postal exchange world-wide, then it developed into "Tourism" which was direct mental exchange with people whom he met. He called that kind of art activity "Meet art", even before he heard of Hans Reudi Fricker's (Switzerland) "Tourism". Tisma's most clear example of networking was with his 'No Ism!' stamp which he carved on December 9 in 1986. It was a reaction on Fricker's well known rubber stamp "After Dadaism, Fluxism, Mailism comes Tourism". Tisma declared that after all "Isms" there comes "No Ism". Tisma declares that "No Ism" is the shortest definition of the Mail-Art network, because you can find all the isms in it and that it is free of all rules and represents a total freedom of creation. Ryosuke Cohen (Japan) printed stickers with the names of Mail-artists underneath the slogan and did send it as gift to them. He realized that by Cohen's stickers his rubberstamp really became a part of Mail-Art network Hundreds of these stickers has been send out at the end of the eighties and were appearing on networkers mail mostly not knowing that it was Tisma's slogan. He saw also his slogan realised in a rubberstamp and realised at that moment, that he was a part of the Mail-Art network. He contributed something to the network and created with his slogan an immense collective work of art. Today he uses the internet for sending spiritual contents world wide, same as he used to send inspirited postcards by mail or distributed inspirited water and other objects. He has published a lot about that and gave many lectures, among others in Paris at the 'Institut En Hautes Etudes En Arts Plastiques' in 1991 where he was a guest professor.

The spirituality in his art became more prominent at the end of the eighties, in Open World number 57 from Dobrica Kamperelic published at the end of 1990, Tisma mentions that the changing situation in his country towards a civil war in the beginning of the nineties asks for more spirituality.

"The time for spiritual art has come. For thousands of years humankind has been led toward self-neglect and stupor, toward the creation of idols and myths it can believe in. For the moment, financial power rules the world, alienating man from work and from his fellow man. The time has come to go back to true human nature, and nurture it through love, understanding and spirituality. The new artist, the modern shaman, must heal society, nature and the cosmos by radiating his positive spirit and poetic inspiration to the whole universe." Kamperelic, D. (1990) Open World number, 57.

August 1991, when the war in Yugoslavia was on its beginning, Tisma launched the 'Love Offensive' campaign and rubberstamp, as reaction to hatred, nationalism and destruction. In November of the same year he started with the 'Institute of spreading of love' as a continuation of previous activities for peace. The institute consisted of three departments: love for the humans, the nature and for the arts. Because "Love" is the greatest art and treasure in the world, so dealing with love was pure art for him. And in an artistic way he spread also "Love" through performances, '(spi)rituals', street actions, written statements sent into the Network and much more. Such as the the bilingual Love magazine, he began to publish in January 1992 and spread it all over the world. In the introduction of the first number he stated that the aim of the institute was to collect, to record and to study all positive world trends which include feeling, demonstrating and spreading of love. Intention was also to coordinate and initiate events of such kind all over the world, and to radiate love through rituals. Many mail-artists collaborated in the Love bulletin with their writings and visual works dedicated to the theme of love, among them Ruggero Maggi (Italy), Jose Van den Broucke (Belgium), Chuck Welch (U.S.A.), Ruud Janssen (the Netherlands), Ingrid Van Kogelenberg (Belgium), … The institute received lots of reaction and it was mentioned in television shows, television news reports, on the radio and among networkers and readers it sometimes provoked deep feelings. When Yugoslavia became under an embargo he slowed down for a while the 'Institute for the Spreading of Love' to focus himself on anti-embargo actions. The last issue of the Love magazine was published in August 1993.

On June the first 1992 an embargo was imposed on Yugoslavia, including a cultural blockade. A few days later on June third Tisma send out an anti-embargo declaration world wide and made also the same day an 'Embargo Art' rubber stamp and decided to print it on all his products in Mail-Art until the end of the United Nation's embargo on Yugoslavia. Real anti-embargo actions activities started in Sremski Karlovci, where Andrej Tisma organised from 1 till 3 September 1992 an 'Anti-Embargo Net Congress' it was the year of the 'Decentralized Networker Congresses'. At this congress eight Serbian networkers signed the 'Deblockade of Creativity'. Aleksandar Jovanovic (Yugoslavia) asked Tisma if he could use the word "anti-embargo" for his planed Cage magazine, Tisma granted and a group of artists called the 'Cage art' group was formed to protest the cultural embargo. Tisma wrote widely on the subject anti-embargo and published anti-embargo articles all over the world, he made more then twenty anti-embargo rubberstamps and organized many anti-embargo exhibitions in collaboration with Aleksandar Jovanovic. (Read more at: http://www.atisma.com/antiembargo.htm)

His concern for the civil war in his country he expressed also within his performances, an other parallel activity beside his networking, which he is doing since 1984. He calls them '(spi)rituals', to stress the spiritual nature of his performances. His aim is to improve the direct spiritual transmission of his inspiration or positive energy on the audience to improve human soul. In 1985 he defines the Mail-Art network as an "immense collective work of art, pulsating spiritual sculpture that encompasses the world". Meetings with fellow networkers he began to see as spiritual sculptures, as works of art and documented them in rubberstamps. He began with public performances when he realised that meeting non Mail-artists will still be a spiritual sculpture. He had '(spi)rituals' in Milan, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Kassel, Palma and in Yugoslavia, performed in streets, churches, busses, restaurants, galleries, museums, universities, parks, hotels, fairs, on a fortress, beach, bookshop, on the radio and several other places. Especially in the nineties he had many '(spi)rituals' focussing to stop the war in Iraq, former Yugoslavia and against the cultural isolation of his country. His last performance was on the streets of Novi Sad in 1999, with a '(spi)ritual' named 'Tower of Angels'.

One of his important anti-embargo actions is the Mail-Art project 'Fax HeART'. Tisma invited networkers by mail to send messages or art to the fax machine of 'VLV Gallery' in Novi Sad, on October 20 1994 between 5 and 9 pm. In the invitation he mentioned that after two years of blockade and cultural isolation (the end of cultural embargo was October 5th that year) people and artists of Serbia are seeking for communication and art. The end of economic embargo was in November 1995 a year later. The result was that 150 faxes from 55 participants from 16 countries over the world came out of the fax machine in front of the audience that day and were hanged on the wall. After that a book was printed about the project in 1995. John Held Jr. (U.S.A.) who was present at that show published the text from the Fax HeART book in the San Francisco monograph.

Another Mail-Art project earlier then 'Fax He-ART' but which was disturbed by the political situation in Yugoslavia was 'Nature Gives …'. It was Tisma's largest project with 375 participants from thirty countries with thousands works send in. The idea of the project was proposed by a cosmetics factory from Osijek in Croatia, who wanted to sponsor the project. Tisma accepted on two conditions, namely that the documentation was a full colour book and they will send the invitations. They accepted and the project as an homage to nature started in 1988 and lasted one year. After colleting the material in 1989 the preparations for the book started, Pierre Rouve a professor and art historian from London was engaged to write an essay on Mail-Art as a foreword. And a young ecologist from Novi Sad was engaged to write on the catastrophic situation in the world. Tisma himself wrote an introduction about the project and searched for a printing-house. But situation was changing in Yugoslavia towards a civil war in Croatia when it became independent in 1991 and the contact with the cosmetics factory became lost. It made that Tisma had to search for other sponsors, yet he was able to exhibit the project in the summer of 1992 in Belgrade's 'Cultural Center Gallery'. It was soon after the cultural blockade was imposed and the project did receive interest by the media. Afterwards the show went to Novi Sad, Sombor, Zrenjanin, Sremski, Karlovci, Pristina, Nis,.... all over Serbia during the years of the international cultural blockade. Thanks to twelve other sponsors the catalogue could be printed and send to all the contributors.

Tisma's Mail-Art activities and writings are wide documented at his website and in publications such as John Held's (U.S.A.) book Annotated Bibliography of Mail Art, Chuck Welch's (U.S.A.) Eternal Network, Gunther Ruch's (Switzerland) Congress Book and Peter Kustermann's (Germany) Traveling Documentation. From 1974 on till 1996, he took part in some five hundred collective exhibitions in Yugoslavia and about forty countries all over the world. With his own artwork he made solo exhibitions since 1972 in his home town Novi Sad, but also Belgrade, New York, Milan, Seoul, Munchen, Napels and San Francisco. As a writer he published since 1976 art critics and essays, in Yugoslavian publications and abroad.

After he bought a computer in 1996 he slowly started to send out less mail through the postal system, but became more active within internet art networks and e-mail art. The Mail-Art network has been replaced by mailing lists, anti-war websites, web-rings, ... He presents the work of computer-, video- and internet-artists in Novi Sad's cultural center 'Youth Tribune', is curator of a discussion group about net art in collaboration with the online Artmagazine, and is editor of Digital Arts a magazine for computer art and culture for which he wrote also a few articles. The virtual reality has replaced all those years of correspondence, travelling and meeting Mail-artists in the U.S.A., Sweden, France, Italy, … and hosting people as Hans Reudi Fricker (Switzerland), Chuck Stake (Canada), Shozo Shimamoto (Japan), Peter Küstermann (Germany), John Held Jr. (U.S.A.), Gunther Ruch (Switzerland), and many others in Novi Sad.

References:
[01] (A. Tisma, personal interview, April 2003)
[02] Janssen, R. (1995). [Interview with Andrej Tisma]. TAM Mail-Interview Project [WWW page]. URL http://www.iuoma.org/
[03] Held, John Jr. (1995). Key to the Collection: Correspondence, 1976-1995 [WWW page]. URL http://www.geocities.com/johnheldjr/
[04] John Held Jr. (n.d.). The Open World of Dobrica Kamperelic, John Held, Jr., Part II [WWW page]. URL http://www.geocities.com/johnheldjr/
[05] Tisma, A. (n.d.). Tisma's Performance Art, (SPI)RITUALS [WWW page]. URL http://aaart.tripod.com/
[06] Kamperelic, D. (1990) Open World number, 57.
[07] The Networker's Role statement

By Geert De Decker /a.k.a. Sztuka Fabryka

Mail-Art Encyclopaedia, 2003

http://www.sztuka-fabryka.be/encyclopaedia/index.htm


biography