"I voted" stickers

I made these retakes on the ubiquitous "I voted" stickers as a fundraiser for the ACLU during the 2020 election. I created five sets, loosely based on the themes of patriotism, grief, spectacle, gestalt, and home.
Original Instagram caption: The original voting sticker with its flowing American flag operates on the theme of patriotism and civic duty. Like a lot of people, I have a complicated relationship with patriotism and with our nation as a whole, and in re-envisioning the sticker I tried to reflect on what elements of the US I feel earnestly patriotic about. Our public lands system and the time I’ve spent in the American outdoors came to mind, although this theme is not without its complexities. I live and play, like all non-native Americans, on stolen land. Although I cherish my home, especially New Mexico, I recognize that the access I celebrate came, and continues to come, at enormous cost to indigenous peoples. These stickers, and the project as a whole, remind me of my favorite @thisamerlife quote about an Indigenous woman’s contemporary road trip on the Trail of Tears.

The most happiness I find on the trip is when we're in the car and I can blare the Chuck Berry tape I brought. We drive the trail where thousands died, and I listen to the music and think what are we supposed to do with the grisly past? I feel a righteous anger and bitterness about every historical fact of what the American nation did to the Cherokee. But, at the same time, I'm an entirely American creature. I'm in love with this song and the country that gave birth to it….Listening to "Back in the USA" while driving the Trail of Tears, I turn it over and over in my head. It's a good country. It's a bad country. Good country, bad country. And, of course, it's both. When I think about my relationship with America, I feel like a battered wife. Yeah, he knocks me around a lot, but boy he sure can dance.


Original Instagram caption: Like you, my feed has been flooded with voting content lately (this series is a complicit part of the deluge). Proud sticker selfies, celebrity endorsements, artfully composed #getoutthevote posters. Voting is pitched as joyous, strengthening, rebellious even. But for me and for a lot of people it really hasn’t felt that way. It broke my heart to pick between a candidate credibly accused of sexual assault, and a candidate accused of 13+ sexual assaults. It upset me to choose between an open racist and one who said his racism was simply a long time ago, more fashionable at the time I suppose. Voting, this election cycle, this year, all produce in me an enormous sense of loss. More than ever I’m reminded of Zoe Leonard’s 1998 poem “I Want a President,” pictured here in the last slide.
This isn’t a call for abstaining or general nihilism (abstention in my mind is the pedantic choice of the privileged). It’s more an echo of a question Leonard asked over 20 years ago - why does it have to be like this and how did we get here?
Original Instagram caption: I don’t remember when I first read Society of the Spectacle (Guy Dubord). It turned up in so many Ila Sheren art history classes. It’s a little pretentious for Instagram, and what you most need to know is that it described Instagram, and what it’s done to us, all the way back in the 1960s. Dubord argues (in different terms) that our lived reality has been replaced by images - our food by food pics, our activism by Instagram carousels about activism. The spectacle was expertly monetized by the Kardashians, gave birth to the influencer, and launched the tremendous rise of the current president. This is not an original thought - the power of image, and its ambivalent relationship with reality, was discussed in countless think pieces about the last election cycle.

This year, however, the act of voting itself has to be considered within the realm of spectacle as well. Actual billions of dollars have been invested into making you believe your vote is equivalent to your very existence. This singular vote has become spectacular, all-encompassing. I’m not arguing that voting has been overhyped on social media - I’m arguing that it has become a form of social media. It is the medium between our lived reality and the one we want to be living in.

It’s inescapably ironic to write about the spectacle on Instagram. It’s a trap everyone from celebrities to your parents falls into - complaining about social media on social media. That’s why I wanted to print these stickers out and physically mail them to you. Less narcissistically than you would imagine, I want them on your laptop and on your water bottle and on your car. Put it somewhere it will look back at you, reminding you of your physical presence in the political sphere. And no matter the results of the election, allow it to ask you - Did I get what I wanted? Am I living - physically - in the world that I envisioned?
Original Instagram caption: I went to poll worker training today. I found it incredibly endearing. There were 6 people training with me - wholesome manifestations of SNL townspeople. One woman looked like she was from the 1940s in a homemade, knee-length cotton blue dress and nude stockings. She started her questions with “Well this isn’t really a question and more of a comment.” An ex-military man asked what to do about troublemakers. One man in a purple tie dye t shirt and invited me to sit at the cool kids’ table.
I was taught how to use the official poll worker flashlight to look inside the ballot counting machine to make sure none of the ballots were stuck to the edges by static electricity. What to do if someone’s hands are too shaky to do their own ballot. What color envelope to put write in ballots in (lime green).
I've learned a lot over the last few months about voter suppression, and it’s an undeniable reality that shapes our political system. But I had never gotten this personally close to all the effort that is put forth to make sure every vote is counted. Voting is such a hard concept to wrap your head around - the millions of tiny actions that on their own feel so deeply meaningless. And yet there i was, swearing an oath of office, that i would bend down and use my official poll worker flashlight to look inside just in case a single ballot was floating inside, trapped by static electricity.
Original Instagram Caption: Today’s the day! Get out there and do it!
Back to Top