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G IN Story of



The shopping Trolley gallery

As It boldly goes where no art gallery has gone before

This is the true story of my Shopping Trolley Gallery and of my mail art activities from 1996 to 2011,although somewhat simplified. For instance only general photos of the exhibitions are shown and not individual art pieces as I would have preferred because it is not possible to include all of them and to choose some over the rest is contrary to the principles of Mail Art. Those of you who practise Mail Art know this, of course, but for those who are new to it here is a short explanation. The beginning of Mail Art is usually attributed to Ray Johnson, an USA artist of the sixties who used to send hand made postcards to his friends under the umbrella of Before him there is the precedent of Vincent van EMANATIONS Gogh’s illustrated letters to his brother Theo, as has been done by unaccountable anonymous and forgotten letter writers who never considered themselves artists, let alone Mail Artists.


Anyhow, since the sixties, Mail Art has developed rapidly as an art movement with underground characteristics. It consists of the exchange between artists of any artwork that can be posted and it is not bound by the current convention or fashion of the established art world or even the avant garde of the moment. The art is not for sale and it is usually shown in unconventional places, rarely in galleries. Mail Art exhibitions are never competitive and the art work is not selected, every submitted piece is always shown. Mail Art can take many forms; postcards, books, videos,etc .The artwork can be hand or computer made. Anybody can necessary. MailArtMartha








. S . A . T . F.I.S


WINTER 1996-97

In an era in which the avant-garde is well and truly part of the gallery establishment, when the outrageous fails to shock because it has become common place and when hermeticism reigns supreme, the first show of the Shopping Trolley Art Gallery was unusual and refreshing.

...and the FISTAS artists too. In Cork Street, London

The artwork that covered the sides of the trolley was of consistent high standard and on the whole frankly accessible. The artists who produced this work do not wish to be isolated, preferring to enter into open debate with their public. These are the true rebels of today. Review of the opening night show by Geoff Stoker.

Sixty-one artists representing twelve countries responded to the invita tion. Of these a third chose to comment on the activity of shopping although the theme had been left free. A wide variety of media was employed, from stamp art to computer graphics, passing through watercolours, photography, printmaking,constructions and collages with images and experimental poems.

1996-97 The Not At All Private View took place on the 21st of December, 1996 in The Glades, Bromley Town Centre, South London. The shopping mall was at its busiest with last minute Christmas shoppers and the exhibitionwas seen by an estimated 20.000 people in the two hours it was on show.

During January and February 1997 the trolley-gallery went around Beckenham High Street, in its normal role of carrying the weekly shopping. In London the 1st ISTAS was parked in the forecourt of the Royal Academy of Arts where it was seen by plenty of people.

7 9 6 199 It visited, without previous appointment, the Institute of Contemporary Arts where it was temporarily confiscated. It was also wheeled up and down Cork Street, near Picadilly, in front of some of the most exclusive galleries in town.

Group Show During 1999 the Shopping Trolley Gallery showed the work of mail artists as it carried out its shopping trips in the local High Street. An extension was created this year to enable its work to be carried further afield: the Shopping Bag Gallery (SBG).In this way mail art was shown during a day trip to Calais during the summer, and across France down to the Mediterranean in September. There it visited Matisse's atelier in Collioure, France


During 1998 the ArtFull Snail Mail Art Project was developed under the aegis of the Shopping Trolley Gallery. Having lost many a colourful flowering plant to my resident snails, I started some time ago to paint their shells which resulted in a convenient arrangement for everybody: the snails lived happily and I got some colour in my garden. It also amused my neighbours, who kept returning to me the painted snails they found in their gardens... Networking artists were encouraged to do the same, and all over the world unsuspecting snails were sought, trapped, painted and released again. Those artists who could not bring themselves to touch the snails or did not have any around were asked to express their views on the artfullness of snails in general. I made a book with all the work I received, which was then sent to every participant and a copy deposited in the British Library.


The A rtFu ll Sn ail

w o h S r a e Y w Sinhalese Ne


The Singhalese Community of South London celebrates the Spring as the beginning of the year. We had a New Year Mail Art Show with the theme 'Peace in unity'. The work of the mail artists was much admired by the public, not less because it came by post from so many far-away places. It was recorded and shown later on Sri Lanka's National TV.

The Stretch Pro ject Vouchers for stretches to be taken in a happy place were sent out .They were returned with descriptions of very many interesting locations:

w o h S p u o r G

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Throughout the year 2000 the STG has carried the work of twenty-five mail artists as a group show to and from the Beckenham supermarkets and High Street shops. The Shopping Bag Gallery, for those places that the STG cannot reach, went with the Curator to France in September on a walking and beach holiday and to Bruges in December. The SBG also met Angela and Peter Netmail at a Stamp Fair in Newbury, England, and was taken on many shopping trips. But that was not all. The STG and the SBG both appeared in February at Candid Gallery, Islington, London, side by side with fine art paintings and sculptures, where it loudly preached the merits of Mail Art. It may have given the visitors a bit of a shock at first, but it did make new converts. In complete contrast in September the STG joined an I am quoting the organizer Vic Scott, at the Riverhouse Barn Gallery, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England.

Eat Y o ur Art o ut Julia Tant, mail artist and good friend, had been organizing regular art shows for years at what was then the CafĂŠ Prov, Camberwell,London. It occurred to me that it would be a great venue for a Mail Art show, if she could persuade the owners. Besides, since David Dellafiora moved to Australia, it seemed that Field Study was in danger of disappearing from the English scene. So I contacted the only two other London based Field Workers that I knew: Alan Turner and Patricia Collins and we organized a show. Artworks on the theme by Pat, Julia, Alan, a few local artists and myself accompanied the Mail Art show when launched in October 2000. 'Eat Your Art Out' was a great success, so much so that the owners of the cafe decided to keep it on and even helped to pay for some of the cost of the documentation. So the Mail Art postcards from around the world did weave their way around the walls until the Cafe was sold.

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Sinhales e

Ne w Y e ar Show

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This year the international community of Mail Artists have again joined the young artists of the Thames Buddhist Vihara in the celebration of the Sri Lankan New Year. I chose butterflies as a theme because of the Buddhist symbolism of this insect with its many transformations. Participants of a Mail Art workshop conducted by Julia Tant at the Carnegie Library, Camberwell, London, have also joined in with their butterflies, a very successful first time effort. The hall in Croydon hired for the day seated 1000 people and many more were standing around. About 100 beautiful butterflies were displayed on the glass screen wall that separated the hall from the foyer. The photographs were taken with the curtains closed, but with them open the front and back of the butterflies were seen which was good as many were painted on both sides. Everybody praised the art show and they were happy that so many artists from so many countries had participated in their traditional celebrations.

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The response to this project was great. It was collected during 2000 and shown, in a changing display, on the STG during 2001, the first year of the New Millennium.

Sinhales e


Ne w Y e ar Show

In 2002 the New Year was celebrated with elephants. Forty-five mail artists participated and they were joined by the local children. The show took place at the Bishop Lanfranc School, Croydon, South London, where it was seen by the many visitors who came to the Festival. It was filmed to be shown on Sri Lankan television as usual and later it was also shown worldwide on Sky Television.

Eat Your Art Out, our 2000 show, was joined during November and December 2001 by Apples. In the photo Julia Tant and I are in the CafĂŠ and the two rows of postcards at the bottom of the wall are part of Eat Your Art Out and the postcards and artwork above is part of Apples.The cafe looked stunning;the owners were very pleased with our shows and were sure that there were more customers since the walls had been covered with Mail Art. Apples was very well liked, it seems, as we had many contributors and many of them sent several pieces of work each. In January 2002 it was transferred to the Carnegie Library, Herne Hill, London.



. S . A . T . S . I . S 2 0 20 The Second International Shopping Trolley Art Show was launched at the Carnegie Library on January 6, and did the usual rounds of the local supermarkets until December 2003. It was on display on the STG . Work by 71 artists from 15 countries has been displayed in rotation. It was shown at the Carnegy Library Gallery in January 2002 and then while shopping around Beckenham.

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In January 2002 this project was shown for the last time at the Carnegie Library as well.

EX-LIBRIS was a very interesting project. On the one hand it was misunderstood by a few artists who sent very beautiful books or bookmarks; on the other hand we made contact with a whole lot of artists new to Mail Art who specialize in bookplates and who sent absolutely fantastic work. It was shown at the Carnegie Library for six weeks at the beginning of 2002, where it was greatly admired..

After the show closed here David Dellafiora mounted it in the Hub Gallery, Geelong, Australia as part of the local celebrations to welcome the Dalai Lama.

The Shopping Bag Gallery went to the Tate Britain in London with visitors Guido Vermeulen and Bernd Reichert, black and white photo taken with a spy camara. Also to the Tate Modern with David Dellafiora, Julia Tant, and other mail artists during the Field Study International reunion in January

3 0 20 During 2003 it has Germany and France.





THE SHOPPING Bag GALLERY welcomes CLEMENTE PADIN n r e d o M e t a T e h t o t On February 26 the Tate Modern Gallery, London, was honored by a visit from Clemente Padin, the South American poet, performer and mail artist.

200 4 In the cafeteria under the guidance of Peter Net Mail and with surgical masks, rubber gloves and a vacuum cleaner, we performed the disinfection of Clemente. Clemente at the Cafe Esperanza and doing the sights in London



This year the walls of the CafĂŠ Esperanza (ex Prov) were covered with postcards about Hope. We provided blank cards and crayons so the patrons, both adults and children, joined in the show with pleasure.

2004 was also the year that Patti Bristow, a very enthusiastic artist from San Francisco Bay, USA, joined the Mail Art community with a Shopping Trolley Gallery .Patti came to London and, after performing an Obscure Action for Vittorio Baroni in Camberwell Green,sticking Mail Art on an official poster, we went to the Esperanza Cafe for a chat over our coffees and Shopping Bag Galleries, surrounded by Hope postcards.

y d u t S d l e Fi l a n o i t a n r e t n I g n i t mee On a very windy day, in front of the Tate Modern and witnessed by everybody that was at the moment having lunch at the restaurant and several windblown passersby,we wrapped David Dellafiora in toilet paper which had stamped on every sheet the words: UNDER COVER FIELD STUDY, a performance by Peter Netmail.


We all signed the sheets of paper, which later were included in one David's editions of 'Wipe' books made with toilet paper.

5 0 0 2 This book project was a gift of Mail Art for my first grandchild. Most of the artwork is in images, very few wrote stories but the most interesting fact is that almost all entries refer to grandmothers or grandchildren, only very few to grandfathers. Some of the artists were young children who send pictures just as great as those of the seasoned mail artists. The black and white book was sent to all participants.

The path of p e a ce

Responding to the invitation lots of superb postcards arrived through the Summer on this theme. All the cards were on line for a long time and now I intend to make a book with them.

This year we lost the Cafe Esperanza as a Mail Art venue, unfortunately it was sold and I did not manage to persuade the new owners of the advantages of displaying Mail Art or indeed any art at all. The Shopping Trolley Gallery kept doing the rounds as usual,with its changing collection of Mail Art.

6 0 20 In its travels the Gallery went to Bosham, a village and port in the South coast of England. Its Saxon church is in a scene in the Bayeux tapestry dated from 1064. In it King Harold is entering the church to pray before setting sail for France. Behind him a courtier is pushing what appears to be an early version of a Shopping Trolley Gallery. For his duty free wine?

Fiel d St Mee ud y t in g an Art d ista mps Sho w It was grey and windy and wet, on the Millennium Bridge that Saturday midday. Even so, an intrepid band of Mail Artists of native and foreign origin gathered hopefully to see the Artistamps rise above London on the tails of two silver balloons. Not so, the balloons promptly flew away from David's hands, took a dive and finished on the river. Although the balloons had been carefully calibrated at home with just the right quantity of stamps to be able to rise easily, the stamps got wet in the rain and the added weight of the water was enough to ground them, or more accurately, river them. Even so the work of so many artists was duly appreciated and admired thanks to the Artistamps Album, which was on display at the Pub where we all gathered for lunch afterwards.

7 0 0 2

20 0 7 Above what it did happen:the balloons in the the Thames seen from the Millennium Bridge and below what should have happened. Oh, well...

All afternoon the balloons kept going backwards and forwards in the Thames, between the Millennium and Blackfriars Bridges, with the in and out tides, which had a certain poetry of its own.

After the Artistamps show closed rest of the year was taken with a one person show on the STG as my contribution to the Sticker Dude's Universe project. I printed an A4 enlargement of one of Joel's stickers and mounted it on the trolley..

2007 The show opened at the Whitgift Center, Croydon, Surrey, one of the malls I use from time to time. Then it got on with the weekly shopping as usual in Beckenham local shops. I gave away some of the Dude's stickers I had collected over the years, which were very well received.

r e e s k c er i st niv e u T h de du

During 2008 the STG received and displayed in rotation the L.I.S.T.A.S its last Mail Art show. This was also the year in which the Queendom of Retailia was discovered and many an archaeological find was made which helped to elucidate its past.

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According to Dr Ana Conder, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Anthropology, University Of Central Retailia, this personage pushing a receptacle is a shaman with an early version of a shopping trolley gallery,possibly used to collect narcotic mushrooms. The lack of wheels would have made the trolley difficult to move, pointing unequivocally to its exclusive ritualistic function. This theory is supported by the bird decoration, possibly a parakeet, on the trolley, which suggests the psychotic flight of the shaman. Other indications in its support are the disks with spirals surrounding semi-spheres representing hallucinogenic mushrooms, the feline mask of transformation and the wings each side of the elaborate headdress. From G. Russ, 1996.

8 0 20 At last the mystery of the Goddess of Creditcrunchester is lifted. Last summer a Creditcrunchesterian farmer saw bits of sculpture sticking out of the ground. Professor P. H. Otto-Shopp, Chair of Archaeology, University of Central Retalia, who was picnicking nearby realized that these were the fragments of a shopping trolley gallery. This was based on the similitude of this artefact with trolleys depicted on the frieze of classical temples representing the Salesthon, the annual race of shoppers that celebrates the religious Festival of Sales. The arms and the trolley seemed likely to belong to the Goddess of Creditcrunchester and later the professor successfully restored the image of Purchasia, the ancient Goddess of Shopping, Once the trolley was cleaned the words ‘Adquiro Ergo Sunt’, , were revealed chiseled on the cover. On the side panels appeared a procession of figures carrying containers, an integral part of the weekly Ceremony of Restocking the Shelves, as it is still carried out in our times, although with less pomp. All of these further confirm the identity of the Goddess.

d n a g n i t e e M y d u t S Field l a n o i t a n r e t n I t s The La y e l l o r t shopping art Show L.I.s.t.a.s. Showing art postcards on my shopping trolley worked very well at the beginning of my Mail Art activities Then the amount of artwork received grew and grew. For this last project the artwork sent during 2008 was above what the Shopping Trolley Gallery can carry in one go so it was displayed in several group shows. Over 140 artists have sent postcards, quite a few of them several postcards at a time. I have displayed all of them on the trolley but only one from each artist were on the fourteen posters shown at the meeting at the front of the Tate Britain on the third of January.

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w o h S S P M A T S I T 2 R A 010 e h T

This show was conceived to celebrate the Role of the Postal Services in Mail Art. The artistamps were shown at the Beckenham Post Sorting Office in July 2010 They were seen by some 1600 people collecting their post during that period and many did take down the web site address so we soon may have new Mail Artists joining the Eternal Network. There is an article on the show in the blog of The British Postal Museum and Archive.

The Post Sorting Office and Mr Brian Anderson receiving the Golden Trolley for services rendered to Mail Art.

d n a g etin

e M y d u t S w Field o h S s p m a t s i t Ar


The Artistamps Show 2010 was displayed at the meeting, this time we were not chased away as usual.They are getting used to us it seems.

Every Mail Artist that attended received the Golden Trolley for services to Mail Art and bravery in the Field (Study)

2011 At the meeting David Dellafiora staged a performance about the usurpation of the word FLUXUS by a clothes manufacturer,

We call on all cultural workers to reclaim the name of FLUXUS from the hands of high street fashion! Supposedly inspired by the philosophy of the FLUXUS movement an LA clothing manufacturer has branded itself fFuXus. FLUXUS IS NO BRAND NAME! There is nothing avant garde about vests, tops, dresses and jackets worn by celebrity cloth horses such as Jude Law. This debases our cultural heritage and is an insult to practising FLUXUS artists. FLUXUS history is a deconstruction of fashion and artifice, e.g. Yoko Ono’s , 1964. The Jeffrey Sebelia Collection of jumpers has no place in that history! Sew your label in your next deconstructed piece of fLuXus clothing David Dellafiora

As I didn’t have any fLuXus clothing and did not intend to get any, I responded with the work shown in the next page.


2011 to proceed to the deconstruction of fLuXus is necessary to look at its (con)text and to that emerges from the gaps and supplements in the text; I wish particularly to draw attention to the signifier‘con’, both in its French and English usage the deconstruction of fLuXus clearly shows the inappropriate and spurious link with the art movement FLUXUS which embraced an iconoclastic and revolutionary group of artists both sides of the Atlantic and is still universally thriving. in this my attempt at deconstructing it i have found that the mimicry of celebrity fashion and its semiotic dissemination has no essence or meaning while the dialectic of garments off the peg available online subtly and covertly subvert the conscious choices of the buyers/wearers. in conclusion, while it is not easy to account for stylistic choices made by individuals or social groups in situationally distinctive use of clothes this can never be equated with the artistic activities of FLUXUS artists, in their untrammelled Zen-like iteration and flow in contrast to the slavish imitation and slavery of fashion and the profit orientated retail trade engagement of fLuXus. besides these clothes are rubbish i would not be seen dead in them. dr. ana conder, professor of (de)construction, different university, retailia.

A note on the hardware: the Shopping Trolley Gallery started in 1996 on an old red trolley already much used, seen here on the top left. When it collapsed it was replaced by the more sturdy 4x4 model which is shown in the middle and is still going strong. Eventually a sports model for light shopping and for ceremonial use joined the fleet, the one on the right. After a couple of unfortunate home made experiments I was lucky to find a ready made Shopping Bag Gallery with two outer transparent pouches which take small cardboard panels suitable for the display of very small items.

th at’ s al l , fo l ks!

nt e s e r p e h t r o ... f Retailia, may 2012, year of the earthworm

But tha t was no t the e nd o f t he stor y as it came to pass...

...that a few month later, on July 15, 2012, when I was coming back from the shops happily pulling my trolley along ...

...we were the victims of a fiendish terrorist attack.

...and the Shopping Trolley Gallery is no more.

d n e The

Printed in the United Queendom of Retailia By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen

The Shopping Trolley Gallery Story  

My Mail Art adventures since the creation of the S.T.G. in 1996 to its semi retirement in 2011.