Awardee: Mehgan Rose Abdel-Moneim

Primary Artistic Medium: Multidisciplinary

Idea

VoiceBox

Each element in this interactive installation is aimed at removing barriers to political participation, de-centering partisan goals, creating connections with curious/interested individuals, and always allowing space for people to make their own choices. This project is not about getting people to vote for a particular party or candidate, nor is it about changing anybody’s mind. I am interested in exchange and presenting a simple, lighthearted format for political participation – for absolutely anyone. With the VoiceBox, I aim to simplify and physicalize the pathway for people to reach their government or vote- if they want to.

While contacting representatives is a critical part of government function, the VoiceBox seeks to make this process easy while evoking childlike imagination. Writing a message in a bottle and sending it out to sea. Writing a letter to Santa Claus. Speaking to an imaginary friend. By pairing these allusions with the seriousness of political activity, I hope to understand more about motivation for political participation; what is dead in some of us, and lives in others. Through these installations, I hope to learn from Philadelphia residents about their thoughts on political activity, and explore different avenues of community engagement that carries this city forward.

The Voice Box is made of 4 elements- a huge, colorfully painted box with a letter slot, a large coordinating How-to-Use sign with representative contacts, a table with letter-writing supplies and stamps, and a bilingual attendant (me). All of the pieces used to create the VoiceBox installation were found objects or objects that I traded from friends or acquaintances. I set up a bartering system on social media to trade produce, books and other items in exchange for supplies I needed to craft the project, including cans of paint, stationary, envelopes, etc.

My first installation happened at Sunflower Philly, where I collected 12 letters, two mail-in ballot requests, and one voter registration application to deliver. I am pleased to say that I have been invited to return. The plan is to do pop up installations in public parks and other spaces across Philadelphia, ideally with a fresh coat of paint/new theme each time.

With support from the Art is Essential grant, I will be able to continue to purchase stamps, trade for supplies, transport messages, and devote time to being outside in Philadelphia with the VoiceBox.