The popular crowdsourcing site GoFundMe is a go-to place to appeal for help with rent, medicine, child care and favorite causes. Along with donations, supporters leave comments ranging from “Can’t wait for you to have the glasses you need!” to “Best of everything big guy,” to simply “Get well soon!”
Artists Sam Lavigne and Tega Brain have turned those well wishes into an artwork called Get Well Soon! It consists of more than 200,000 comments scraped from GoFundMe and arranged alphabetically in relentless rows of hope, cheer and sympathy.
Many of the comments are admittedly generic, but each functions as a window into an individual world of struggle. “I think what stands out as you read more and more, is there’s a feeling of overwhelming sadness,” Lavigne observes. “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.”
Co-creator Tega Brain adds, “What sort of dystopia has produced this type of system?”
She says Get Well Soon! reflects a system in which people’s experiences become content, content becomes intellectual property and privacy is up for grabs.
“Companies like Google and Facebook were literally founded by scraping information off websites,” she notes. What else are we giving up, she wonders, when stories of hardship and resilience become part of a for-profit company’s revenue stream?
Since GoFundMe was founded a decade ago, it has made hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue while raising more than $9 billion for various needs and causes.
Still, says Lavigne, “We’re never going to donate our way out of a health crisis. We’re never going to donate our way out of a housing or employment crisis. And yet we’re constantly asked to do that.”
Get Well Soon! is meant to be a get well e-card of sorts, he adds, to a sick and dysfunctional system.