CHAT-CHAIN-MAIL – a participatory mail art project


I recently contributed to festival CHAT 2020’s CHAT-CHAIN-MAIL project curated by Katy Whitaker and Lara Band. This is a Mail Art project that aims to build ‘a chain of thoughts, ideas and art as the piece moves through the physical world’. Unsurprisingly the mail has continued travelling for several months and passed through many cities and across oceans.

For my part I made a picture of a group of rocks with different traces, paintings or marks on some of their surfaces, and in these I included elements found in the two collages that kicked off the mail art. I was excited at the prospect of being involved in CHAT-CHAIN-MAIL as a kind of ‘slow archaeology’ approach which fostered a material connection and creativity across a globally dispersed community of practitioners.

I liked the way in which the pace and ‘old media’ of snail mail might reflect something of our contemporary experiences of being grounded in our own geographies, as a consequence of the pandemic, but which also linked to one of the primary ways (i.e. post) in which people in the past once maintained strong connections despite spatial and temporal separation. I like the fact that not everything need be instant always. The idea of chainmail seemed to embody this idea / desire.

As the project curators note: ‘It is not only the image that matters. The material properties and networked nature of Mail Art are things that archaeology has the means to attend to. And the connectedness of Mail Art, tangible items whose properties are not mediated by a screen, affords the possibility of real-life, physical inter-connection between people otherwise kept apart from one-another in a time of pandemic.’ It will be interesting to see the final work as a collaborative suite of geographically dispersed individuals.

More about the project can be found on the Festival CHAT website at:

Image: UK Frederick, CHAT-CHAIN-MAIL artwork, watercolour on paper, 30cm x 21cm