With many resorting to phone calls to government officials as a form of activism, voicemail boxes have begun to fill up and congressional employees have become overwhelmed. Now, some are resorting to a service thought to be long outmoded: faxing. “The thwarted and clever remembered that it was still possible, several technological generations later, to send faxes,” Kathryn Schulz wrote in a recent New Yorker article, noting that one Republican senator received some 7,276 of them over the course of a single day.
Artifax, a new service run by the Los Angeles–based design studio Use All Five, is using the sudden faxing fervor to protest President Trump’s plan to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. Through Artifax’s website, users can select a piece from a group of artworks and have it sent to their representatives. (The website avoids any confusion about who those officials might be by asking users to enter their ZIP code and then offering a menu of representatives based on geographical location.)
“Calling Congress is important,” the Artifax site states. “The aspect of human, direct contact that phone calls provide make them much more impactful than emails, which can be easy for staffers to ignore.” But: “Voicemails get full, and faxes still have that material impact that commands attention; they’re physical, and inconveniencing, and that’s what it takes to convey an impactful message to your representatives.”
Consider this the latest entry in fax art, the history of which is more dense than you might imagine. In 2009, the Drawing Center in New York held a show called “FAX,” which surveyed artists who use faxing in their work, from Mel Bochner to Wade Guyton. And, in the late ’90s, the British collective BANK started its “Bank Fax-Back Program,” for which the artists faxed press releases back to galleries as a stand against art-world pretense.