The future of the United States Postal Service looks grim. While the institution tries to scrape its way out of a $20 billion deficit, many fear that it’s on the brink of disappearing altogether: Staples can now sell stamps, after all.
It’s no surprise that we might find ourselves in this position in the age of the multi-billion dollar messaging app. But at least one artist is putting up a fight to save the Postal Service, even if the gesture is small and largely symbolic. For $25, Jennie Ottinger’s "Postal Mortem" project will subscribe users to a postcard delivery feed (in the style of a Facebook timeline or Instagram) three times a week. (You can sign up here, or mail her a letter.)
Ottinger says she’s no anti-tech Luddite. But her connection to snail mail is uniquely personal. “I have letters that my dad wrote to my grandparents, even from when he was really little all through college. I have the letter where he’s telling his parents about meeting my mom,” she says. “They died when I was fairly young, and I never really knew them. [The letters are] the strongest connection I have to them.”
The Postal Mortem subscription buys two to three months of a postcard stream, as well as flyers touting the advantages of communicating through the USPS. It’s no coincidence that many of Ottinger’s postcards will depict characters writing love letters to inanimate objects--in 2011, she launched a project drawing attention to the preciousness of the physical book, in which she hollowed out novels, replacing their innards with SparkNotes summaries. This past month, Ottinger also held a letter-writing drive to Rep. Darrell Issa, the congressman from San Diego who has made gutting the USPS one of his pet issues.
“I’m not going to save the Postal Service,” Ottinger acknowledges. “But that kind of makes it more obvious. It’s so futile that it shows how great the problem is.”