Calling your representatives or mailing them postcards are effective ways to get your thoughts across to the government. A third option that blends the benefits of both is to send them a fax: the delivery is immediate and the message material, allowing you to get creative with visuals. One group harnessing the power of faxing is Los Angeles-based design studio Use All Five, who recently launched Artifax, a project focused specifically on highlighting the importance of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA — along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and other agencies — is one of President Trump’s targets to cut as part of his proposed budget, and to urge Congress to save it, Use All Five is fighting back with artistic faxes.
Artifax features a number of artworks designed so far by 25 artists and designers, including Casey Reas, Andrew Thomas Huang, Leesh Adamerovich, and Pentagram. Anyone is invited to select one of these works and add a custom message to their regional representative, whose office Artifax will then send the fax to. Use All Five’s art director Troy Curtis Kreiner told Hyperallergic that the team has sent about 3,000 faxes to Congress members so far.
Another faxing campaign that emerged after the presidential election is Post Fax, which sends delightfully hand-drawn faxes to staffers and interns at congressional offices, particularly those in swing districts. Created by two artists who to remain anonymous, the project aims to “counteract the toxic political culture infecting the hearts and minds of our countrymen,” as the pair said in a statement. Their documents feature comical illustrations to highlight concerns, such as Betsy DeVos’s role as Education Secretary, and pointed activities to approach issues from a fresh perspective, like a labyrinthine maze intended to make a recipient consider the consequences of building a border wall.
“This project aims to stir people where they already are, through a welcome distraction from the tedium of office work,” the artists said. “Our aim is to win their trust using a gentle approach while subtly advancing a progressive agenda.”
Launched in January, Post Fax is currently on a brief hiatus but intends to create more hand-lettered faxes soon. Within a few weeks, the artists will also start offering special, decorated fax machines to those interested in sending their own faxes, along with a manual for tips on political faxing.
The process may sound archaic in 2017, but as Kathryn Schulz recently wrote for The New Yorker, faxes do reach congressional representatives. They get entered into a “constituent-management system” like any other message, and staffers will read each one. And as Schulz reported, personalized forms of material communication actually have more sway on a lawmaker’s opinion than a phone call. Faxing a message may take much more time — but that’s why services like Artifax are particularly handy for amplifying your concerns while adding a little creative flair to your political activism.
As much as I appreciate the collective’s culture jamming initiatives, I don’t know that their putative premise ever bears meaningful fruit.
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While it may be strange to think of food insecurity as a basis for art, the works in Food Justice reveal barriers and injustices in food access.