One week ago I launched Kickended, an archive of Kickstarter’s $0-pledged campaigns. After a few days I discussed it with Nell Frizzell for The Guardian’s Art and Design section. Below the full article, here the original source.
Kickended: the enthralling world of crowdfunding flops
Nell Frizzell, Friday 14 November 2014
In the world of crowdfunding, the line between success and failure is remarkably thin. Potato salad thin. Christian rap album thin. Conspiracy novel about the “possible antichrist” Bill Clinton thin. Which is one of the reasons why the Italian artist and researcher Silvio Lorusso created Kickended, an online archive of every Kickstarter campaign that failed to gain a single dollar of support. Using KickSpy, the site trawls the crowdfunding platform to bring those silent, failed projects into the light. Not to mock, but to mark.
“Their failure is only a result of their context,” says Lorusso over the phone from Italy. “If you took some of those videos out of the Kickstarter box and put them on, say, YouTube, you would think they were really interesting art projects.” And, in the case of the New England Bridges project, which aimed to chronicle people’s thoughts about bridges as a downloadable publication, or the glorious video by the remote viewer and astrotraveler Michael Tellstar on his proposed paranormal educational TV pilot, I can see what he means.
Of course, risking failure is intrinsic to making art; from stage fright to that tricky opening sentence, creativity is all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Or, as Samuel Beckett put it, sometimes all we can really hope is to “Fail again. Fail better.” But could anything have made the Prosperity fashion bracelet (a coloured strap “designed to be positive and uplifting”) or the bra that doubles as a pocket fail any better?
“I use the archive to explore the notion of failure,” says Lorusso. “But I’m not doing this to make fun of people. There are lots of Tumblrs that just publicly shame campaigns; I wanted this to be neutral. I’m not saying these projects were bad.”
He must have come across some stinkers though? “I’ve seen a lot of Christian rap,” he admits. “But those are some of my favourite videos. I’m not at all religious, but I’m fascinated with that niche genre. I’ve also seen movies specifically inspired by religious visions.”
A quick scroll through the almost 10,000 projects that have cropped up on Kickended since it launched a week ago can feel like ploughing through the world’s largest GCSE art and design portfolio. There are paintings made of lightning, the Occupy Wall Street movement reimagined as a kid’s book and something called Painted TV which is, essentially, four amateur canvases strapped to a huge flatscreen TV.
There are multimedia projects based on Mary Magdalene’s first encounter with Christ after the Resurrection, there is a socially minded group of Australian musicians led by Paiten Platypus and Kailen Kangaroo known as The Buskateers, a collection of vaguely Nazi-inspired sci-fi erotic crayon drawings called The Goofies, and at least one “documentary about the actual rediscovery of an ancient site that was used as an interdimensional portal to other worlds.”
“I think a lot of visitors to Kickended must feel these people are really lonely – not even one of their friends gave money,” says Lorusso. “But I don’t think it’s necessarily like that. Maybe they just didn’t work hard on the campaign.” There is, however, a more personal reason for Lorusso’s apparent sympathy: “Kickended originated from an unfunded idea of mine,” he explains. “I submitted to Rhizome – a US platform for net art – and although I got down to the final 20, I didn’t win the commission. And because I wasn’t able to programme it myself, the project couldn’t exist. So, you could say Kickended came from my own failure.”
Lorusso believes these totally unfunded projects have “a purity” precisely because they remain unrealised and abstract: “A lot of these ideas only exist as one line of text and a picture,” he says. “It’s up to you to imagine what it would have been like. With most successful Kickstarter campaigns, the project is already nearly complete – you can see the product or watch the trailer. But here, you don’t have a clue what they would have been like – so you can build it, and make it great, in your mind.”
There is a project in the archive called The Ham Toner which, as far as I can tell, is a giant corkscrew you wedge into the ground and use for reverse sit-ups. According to the blurb, “What it targets is your backside; like nothing else”. It is also described, somewhat erotically, as having “Full penetration, welded every 180 degrees on a solid steel shaft.” Is Lorusso really saying these kinds of projects are beautiful acts of creative risk and folly – not simply the butt of a thousand well-toned jokes? “It’s easy to be negative and cynical about it,” he says. “I value Kickstarter, but I think as a system it should be seen in a critical way. Especially when the Silicon Valley-driven narrative pushes the American Dream that everyone can make it. Their algorithm only shows successful campaigns, but it’s important to look at the ones that didn’t make it and wonder why.”