The archive as a work of art: Guy Bleus – 42.292

CKV is exploring the existence and expression of the archive as a work of art. As part of its study, it visited Belgian mail artist, (b. 1950, Hasselt) Guy Bleus, who has developed his archive into an overarching artistic project.

The Administration Centre – 42,292 is the name mail art and conceptual artist Guy Bleus bestowed on his artist archive in 1978. The archive contains every exchange of mail art activity between Bleus and over 5,000 domestic and foreign artists from sixty or so countries – classified by name and inventoried. Housed in a former cinema, The Administration Centre – 42,292 is one of the largest mail art archives in the world.

The significance of this archive lies in its potential to reconstruct the mail art artist community’s far-reaching network. After all, mail art is not an explicit art movement in the traditional sense, but rather an alternative, international art scene with artists who distribute their work primarily through postal communications, and not through the museum or gallery sector. Typewritten archive labels bear names such as Vittore Baroni, Ken Friedman, Ruud Janssen, Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Danny Devos, Ria Pacquée, John Held Jr., John Evens and Geert De Decker.

In 1979, the artist had his own name registered as a trademark at the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property in The Hague, under the categories ‘Kl 3 Parfumeries. Kl 16 Printed matter, magazines, books, photographs, envelopes and letters. Kl 28 Games (…), toys.’ In that way, ‘Guy Bleus’ officially became number ‘42.292’, and from then on used it to sign his work as a legitimate pseudonym. The semi-bureaucratic act of this registration is characteristic of Bleus’ socially critical oeuvre, which puts concepts such as communication, administration and bureaucracy to the test. Bleus focusses on ‘administrative practices’ in his work to parody this bureaucracy. He incorporates documents such as official licenses and certificates, stamps and artistamps into his mail artmakes forgeries and, in this way, also designed an identity card for the planet Mars, for example.

Bleue expanded this archive at an unprecedented speed as a ‘work in progress’. In the 1980s and 1990s, the artist concentrated on his fax artAt the end of the 1990s, he collaborated with around thirty mail art artists to publish the first ‘e-mail art manifesto’. At the beginning of 2000, Bleus introduced a mail art postage stamp that made it into circulation among the general public. Not too long after, he launched the international mail art project, Scents: Locks: Kisses.