Artists Go Home


Artists Go Home was an open-call during the global lockdowns in 2020 for artists to respond to the works of Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt (1932-2024). This call was inspired by the original Mail Art Movement, in which Wolf-Rehfeldt was an influential voice. (See Wolf-Rehfeldt’s biography here).

Mail Art was a powerful communicative tool in the 1960s, 70s 80s, and 90s and brought together thousands of artists from all over the globe, most of whom never met in person. It was a subversive movement that overcame dictatorships, isolation, state control, economical constrictions, and physical barriers, and that became a worldwide network of solidarity and exchange. Drawing on this legacy, ChertLüdde reactivated a network of artistic activity through the Artists Go Home project, aiming to borrow from this spirit of free communication without borders and hoping to provide some means of connection and innovation at a time of isolation.

We developed the idea for Artists Go Home while the interruption of mobility and freedom in daily life that came with forced isolation pushed us to reconsider the ways in which we stay connected and how we produce content around the subject of our cultural environment. The context of the global lockdowns compelled us to look backwards for inspiration and work towards reinventing our future.

This is not nostalgia or reiteration, but rather a reflection on the velocity of the art world as we knew it, which became consumed by the speed of production and development and did not allow for deserved attention on certain content.

Upon these reflections we decided to dedicate the solitary time during the lockdowns to rethinking the history and meanings of the Mail Art Network, focusing specifically on the Mail Art Archive of Robert Rehfeldt and Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt.

ChertLüdde had collaborated with Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt to create a long-term and ambitious project, the Mail Art Archive of Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt and Robert Rehfeldt, to exhibit the works of the mail art movement. (Information about the mail art archive is available to view on our website here.)

Several exhibitions showcasing material from the archive and two in-depth publications have been produced, including an alphabetic presentation of all mail art received by senders with surnames starting with the letters A and B. (View images of these exhibitions here).

In the early 1970s Robert Rehfeldt coined the word CONTART, which he defined at the time as “living in your mailbox.” This concept and many other texts and mottos used by Rehfeldt, which circulated widely through his ideological text-based works for more than twenty years, helped us reflect on the actual situation we experienced during the Covid lockdowns and the sense of community it demanded.

In 1987, Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt initiated a project called Mail Art Collaborations. Upon invitation by Guttorm Nordo to take part in a Mail Art exhibition in Norway and following a practice well-known and diffused within the network (initiated by Ray Johnson’s collaborative Mail Art Projects), Wolf-Rehfeldt sent her postcards to a number of fellow artists and asked them to intervene upon her artwork. The resulting series, comprised of 51 postcard works, is a powerful testimony to the spirit of collaboration and interaction. (Images of these correspondences available here.)

Following the legacy of Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt and Robert Rehfeldt, ChertLüdde sent selected artworks by Ruth to our personal network and invited other artists to intervene with their own messages.

The collaborative works were shared through ChertLüdde’s communication channels, following an organic process of feedback and experimentation, and have been collected into this online exhibition.

(…) Robert Rehfeldt together with Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, developed the idea of “contact culture,” and the pair became central gures in the global mail artists’ network, thus overcoming the relative cultural isolation of the GDR in the late socialist period. Robert Rehfeldt’s motto “Your ideas help my ideas,” printed in the graphic pieces that circulated beyond the Cold War information blockade, became the principle powering his “art letters.” (…)
Klara Kemp-Welch and Cristina Freire in Artists’ Networks in Latin America and Eastern Europe