Before I begin I would like to add a few disclaimers: This is not directed at any one or any project specifically nor is it a response to this great Ted Talk. I understand that there are plenty of legitimate kickstarters out there. I have donated to numerous kickstarters. Being human, I will more than likely one day become a hypocrite and make a kickstarter myself, but, for right now, these are my feelings.
Recently, Welch & Penn has been given an opportunity to do something great, but like all things it requires a good amount of funding. For fear of jinxing anything, I’ll leave it, vaguely, at that. In discussing the numerous ways in which we could accumulate the necessary amount of money, Penn and I never once suggested the idea of making a kickstarter or using any of the other various online/social media fundraising sites. Something about asking people for money for you to make art just seems strange, perhaps backwards even.
Believe me, I do not think art should be free, this is by no means an argument for free art, art should have a cost. It’s part of how artists make a living and without there being a price tag on art it becomes a normalized expectation of society rather than an individualized critique of self and/or society ( whether or not you think the two are intrinsically linked or separate is a place this blog does not want to go right now). But I feel as artists, it’s our job to find a way to accomplish our own goals. I believe in not only having, but expecting, people to pay money for shows, merch, and, most importantly, your respective finished products, but only once they’re finished.
In its defense, like all social media, kickstarters allow for instant gratification. They ensure that the people who support you are receiving what they would have, theoretically, bought online or after a show and in that sense it allows for artists to bond with people in a new, stimulating, way. Furthermore it allows people the chance to feel as though they are a part of the artistic process in an active and engaged way. But the danger lies exactly in these aspects.
Sites such as kickstarter have the potential to make art about incentives, in a tangible sense, rather than experience and participation. And surely art, on a professional level, is a business and most contemporary business models are based around incentive systems because of their proven effectiveness, but the incentive to art has previously been a personal, mental, and emotional one. Romanticism aside, it’s something someone goes to view because it stirs them or intrigues them. Whatever physical items they walked away with from it were secondary to the experience and only acted as means bringing back the memories and emotions. Other people have always been a crucial part of the creative process. And maybe it’s partially our failing as artists, myself included, that we don’t acknowledge this fact, or the people themselves often enough. The most important component of art has always been the relationship between the artist and audience. Now though, through the use of sites such as kickstarter, the focus is shifting to the process and the work of making art, rather than the relationship fostered by the finished product. Whether that’s indicative of our work-oriented culture and the economic climate we’re in or the desire for people, artists included, to be a part of the Hollywood-ized, dramatic struggle of art is certainly open for debate, but regardless, it seems as though we’ve lost sight of what truly matters in making a piece of art. Expression.
I want people to understand me. And I want to understand them. That’s why I started writing. I want to better communicate with the society and poetry is the best way I know how. So when I see this influx of kickstarters, it makes me wonder if we’re starting to take art for granted as artists. That we’ve let it become something people should give us money for on the principal that we make it and will continue to make it if we have the means rather than out of a personal necessity to make it. And that’s not to say I think people who make kickstarters are just sitting in their rooms, constantly refreshing their page to check for donations; what I mean is that, personally, my greatest fear is getting paid to do nothing except write poems. What would I have to write about? Sure, myself and my surroundings, okay, but that only fosters a kind of introverted intellectualism that becomes completely unrelatable to most people. In order for art to continue to be relevant to society, artists have to actually be in society.
I feel like the struggle, if you will, to fund yourself is a just as much an integral part of the creative process as actually spending time to work on your art. So much of my inspiration for pieces comes from the misadventures and odd jobs I’ve done in order to fund myself and my artistic endeavors. Poems are started from triggered images, remembered stories or the unique perspectives gathered. So many people toil every day to provide for themselves and the other people in their lives at the jobs I work on a whim or for only a few months until I can start a new project, and they do it because they have to, just like I feel I have to write and artist everywhere feel the need to do what they do. I’ve found that, even if the experiences don’t necessarily yield anything to write about, they always remind me why I write. And I don’t want to lose that.