Artists Turn GoFundMe Comments Into A 'Get Well Soon!' Card For A Sick System
"We're thinking about it as an archive of well wishes, but an archive that shouldn't exist, that exists because of a terrible structural inequality that we all face," says artist Sam Lavigne.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
These days, the crowdfunding site GoFundMe is full of appeals for help with rent, medicine and child care. Along with donations, supporters can leave comments like these.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Best of everything, big guy.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Best of everything and many prayers your way.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Best of health to your baby.
MARTIN: A couple of artists decided to use the comments on GoFundMe as raw material for a work of art. NPR's Neda Ulaby has more.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: This online artwork is called "Get Well Soon!" It's more than 200,000 comments arranged in tight alphabetical rows of hope, cheer and sympathy. So much data, so few words.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Best of luck.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Best of good luck.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Best of luck and good luck in finding your cure.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: Best of luck. And, hopefully, this nightmare time will be over soon.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Best of luck. Stay strong.
ULABY: Yes, they're generic, says artist Sam Lavigne, who's one of the works creators.
SAM LAVIGNE: But I think what stands out is as you read more and more of them and you kind of read them all together, there's a feeling of - for me at least, a feeling of overwhelming sadness.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Can't wait for you to come back cancer-free.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: Can't wait for you to come home, and we can all hang out again. We miss you.
ULABY: Each comment is a window, he says, into someone's struggle, loss or love.
LAVIGNE: We're thinking about it as an archive of well wishes but an archive that shouldn't exist, that exists because of a terrible structural inequality that we all face.
TEGA BRAIN: What sort of dystopia (laughter) has produced this type of system?
ULABY: "Get Well Soon!'s" co-creator, Tega Brain, says this artwork reflects a system where human experience becomes content. Content is intellectual property. And privacy is up for grabs, as it has been for many years.
BRAIN: Companies like Google and Facebook were literally founded on scraping information off websites.
ULABY: So that's what these artists did. They scraped GoFundMe for these comments to comment on how the Internet currently works, with data scraping spun into the social media that underpins so much of what we do.
BRAIN: As a practice, I think this is something that we absolutely need to be thinking through and how it commodifies things like experience or, like, communication and what that means.
ULABY: Since it was founded more than a decade ago, GoFundMe has made hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue while raising more than 9 billion for things people need, like wheelchairs and operations. But, says artist Sam Lavigne...
LAVIGNE: We're never going to donate our way out of a health care crisis. We're never going to donate our way out of the housing crisis or unemployment crisis. And yet we're constantly being asked to do that.
ULABY: This artwork is a get-well card of sorts, he says, to a sick and dysfunctional system.
Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.