‘English Suppressionists’ mailart – language, culture and geography

Zine, English Suppressionists

English suppressionists
‘The English Suppressionists’ is the title of a mailart project and resulting pamphlet by Keith Bates. Printed on vivid blue paper, in a dark blue ink, the zine contains both text and art. Many of the pieces submitted to the project are made up of images alongside words in satirical adverts, instructions and collages.
The artists consider their own cultural identities with feelings varying from candid impatience to critical fondness. The introduction to the pamphlet explains the decisions behind the name ‘Suppressionists’ as this invokes both an association with existing art movements such as the Impressionists and Expressionists alongside a darkness which could hint at ‘the antithesis of art’.
Some of the characteristics of Englishness which are explored are negative traits such as bottling up emotions rather than expressing them, stiff upper lips and other ‘character armour’.
Issues of language, culture and geographical location are all dealt with as part of the project. Jonathan Stangroom’s show ‘Multiculturalism’ brought up the fact that most international mail art dialogues are conducted in English and this is highlighted here in Bates saying that ‘language is not a neutral vehicle for expression’.
The Suppressionists end up taking on a dual meaning, both of the English tendency to suppress expression of emotion and the fact that the dominance of the English language in art suppresses the identity of other cultures.

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