Scroll Contributor | Q+A with Peter Foolen, Peter Liversidge’s Pen Pal


For our final Immaterial post, we’ve interviewed publisher, collector, and designer, Peter Foolen, where he discusses his rather peculiar way of pen-palling with artist Peter Liversidge. Foolen, who is based in the Netherlands, shares with us anecdotes and insights on Liversidge, the postal service, and his passion for collecting.



Paddle8: How did you and Peter Liversidge come to be in correspondence?


Peter Foolen: One of my favorite artists that I have worked with is Marina Abramovic. I published two of her prints in the early 90′s, and I was very pleased that she has chosen Peter Liversidge for participating in this exhibition she has curated for Paddle8.


Since 1994 I have been in contact with Thomas A Clark and Laurie Clark, who run the artist-run Cairn Gallery, then in Nailsworth, England and recently in Pittenweem, Scotland. In 2000, they exhibited a series of paintings of the North Montana Plains by Peter Liversidge–one of his first shows. He was an artist I didn’t recognize, but I felt very attracted to these small, almost abstract paintings with striking titles like ‘The evil twister does its maiming and killing on the North Montana Plains.”  Tom and Laurie put me in contact with Peter Liversidge, and I visited his studio in London.


Then he started to send me things with the mail.   The first of these things were small white cards with text, printed in letterpress with a small Adana kitchen press. They said things like “Darkness is the cover for all kinds of evil on the North Montana Plains” and “In the bleak mid-winter months very little stirs on the North Montana Plains.” Very special. Then cards arrived in my letterbox with our address written strangely–painted in watercolor, or wiped out with tipp-ex, or written with mirror writing (which was corrected by the postman), or in a kind of pseudo Russian or Albanian language. These cards are part of his “Address Series,” made as an edition and numbered. It’s been an ongoing project since 1999.


In 2009 I began receiving objects, sent to me without packaging, but covered in postage stamps with the address in acrylic paint. The first one I received was a piece of plastic, probably from a fish box from the beaches of Tiree, Scotland. He’s also sent a blackboard eraser, paint brushes, a metal paint tray, paint sticks, a toy plastic baseball bat, a paper plate, a tent peg. He frequently sends wooden rulers. To date, I have received 9 different kinds, varying in size from 15 to 100 centimeters. Today I actually received another very nice 30 cm wooden ruler in the post.



P8: What is the strangest thing you have received in the mail from Peter Liversidge?


PF: The funniest thing the postman has delivered was this big plastic baseball bat covered with stamps. Another was an intriguing wooden object which I first couldn’t identify, and turned out to be a beautifully crafted train whistle. There was also a US dollar mailed with just a stamp and ‘will history be kind’ embossed on it. It is amazing that the dollar was delivered at all since it’s strictly forbidden to send bank notes with the post without a decent envelope.


The objects are never really strange. They’re ordinary things, often neglected in daily life. But one pays attention to them when they are received as a piece of art in the mail. I don’t think of this as mail-art in which sending very strange things is the main purpose, or, in the tradition of W. Reginald Bray, to experiment with the possibilities of the postal service. Peter Liversidge uses the mail to transform objects into something special.


For Peter Liversdige the postal service is also a collaborator in the work. The attached post labels and alterations are like contributions to the piece. In his upcoming show at Sean Kelly, he is sending wooden objects from London, and the postwoman who delivers the post to the gallery is the only person who can install the objects in the gallery for display.



P8: Do you know how your postman feels about this?


PF: Funny enough I was often not at home to receive the objects. I found them in the letterbox or I picked them up from neighbours after holiday trips. They’re always a big surprise. Still it’s very special when a postman shows up at the door with a baseball bat or a metre-long wooden ruler, smiling and proud that he succeeded in delivering such a thing undamaged, all the way from New York, Helsinki, or the Hebrides. Occasionally we have this grumpy postman, complaining that this is not the proper way to mail things!


It’s also an amazing thing that to send a 36 inch long ruler from New York to Holland costs 3 dollars, or 35 postage stamps. Sometimes it takes a long time before things are delivered, and sometimes they never appear. Some time ago he did send me two balloons and only one was delivered. There is an artwork lost in a mailroom somewhere.



P8: How do you keep these organized in your house? Do you have any plans for the objects?


PF: My house is like a depot. I have worked with many artists as a publisher of artist books and editions, and everything I receive from them is stored in boxes in an archive. Most of Peter Liversidge’s works are in those boxes, or if it’s too big, I wrap it up carefully. I recently made a proposal to the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven to make a display of all the objects and cards posted over the past 10-12 years.  Hopefully it will be realized next year. I also plan to publish a big poster with all of the objects printed in actual size. It would also be nice to publish them all in a book one day.



See Peter Foolen’s blog for more of Peter Liversidge’s “Address Series,” or see his Dossier from Immaterial.

Peter Liversidge’s solo show “Where We Begin,” opens December 9 at Sean Kelly Gallery.


We hope you’ve enjoyed Immaterial as much as we have!
Paddle8′s NADA Editorial with Michael Nevin opens December 1st.