The benefits and pitfalls of the sharing economy

Jonathan Grossmalerman, from the Jan & Feb 2015 issue

By Jonathan Grossmalerman

Courtesy the artist

I’ve just discovered the most amazing thing...Kickstarter! Do you know about it? It’s a place on the Internet! Just past the porn part. You can go there and ask for money, and then, rather than one big person giving it all to you, a thousand veritable nobodies chip in what they can, and through the magic of maths it becomes a whole lot of money! It’s absolutely astounding! I didn’t believe it myself until my assistant Neal showed me how easy it was to set up a so-called Kickstarter ‘campaign’. In no time at all we were off and running! Boom! Free money!

You see, I’ve been in one of those jams... a money jam... the kind that happens when you want something very badly but don’t have the money. You understand, after all, that it’s not been an easy year for me, what with my fruitless search for a gallery and the return of my high-maintenance muse Joyce. Yes! It’s true! She’s returned from the cold, black night! The band is back together! I already feel as though I’m on firmer footing with the world. Regardless of my financial situation, which has forced me to learn how to budget.

I’m so desperate I’ve even taken to watching ‘Life Hacking’ videos on YouTube!

And I’ve had to do it all on the sly! I’m simply too scared to look into those big brownish, maybe blue or hazellike eyes and tell her I’mbroke! If she does already know it, she’s too kind to let on and, bless her, continues to spend generously. I’m so desperate I’ve even taken to watching ‘Life Hacking’ videos on YouTube! I’ve learned stuff too! Like, for instance, milk lasts several days longer ‘in the fridge’ than left on the counter. The same rule applies to any number of things, and I now, frankly, really enjoy the daily ritual of putting items ‘in the fridge’, which, in turn, has gotten awfully full of things. It’s an embarrassment of riches in there! Did I tell you I also heat my entire 200sqm loft with a tea light under a flowerpot? It’s amazing, or at least it would be if it worked! God it’s cold in here!

In any case, what I meant to write about was Kickstarter and how awesome it is. You can just ask for money! Can you believe it? And then they give it to you! I’m repeating myself, aren’t I!? But it’s true! Anything! Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you wanted a helicopter. Perhaps a Robinson r22 Beta ii, nothing too big, but certainly large enough to get you and a few friends where you want to go... eg, your beach house in Amagansett (you know, just as an example) without having to deal with that miserable Long Island Expressway trac (what the hell is up with that, right?). Or maybe you need it for a show where you were going to paint a helicopter... or hell, maybe you want to paint a few helicopters! I mean, no point in holding yourself back, and with Kickstarter, the sky’s the limit. I mean, it doesn’t only have to be a helicopter, although who doesn’t want a helicopter? It could be any number of things.

Things such as paint, brushes, canvas, a Warhol, nice shoes, making a video, a suit that actually fits right, a bionic hand, camera people who have been waiting patiently to be paid, a good Calder print, production assistants, makeup lady (less patient), Soho Liquors, studio assistant, ‘research’ trip, more hb pencils, entertainment lawyers, a boat, an ingenious invention, an electronic scale, etc.

The only sticking point seems to be in filling out the ‘Kickstarter Rewards’ boxes. Am I supposed to send Grossmalerman knick-knacks to these people? If so, what? What could I possibly send them that isn’t worth a great deal more than the paltry $25 they’ve deigned to send me? Which, I might add, is only worth anything to me provided it is ‘bundled’ with the $25 a few thousand other people have sent me. I suppose I can come up with some tchotchke or other, but the thought of it really grates on me. It suddenly feels as though I’m working for the money, and that’s not very ‘sharing economy’, is it? A real conundrum. Is it possible that I have stumbled upon Kickstarter’s Achilles heel?

This article was first published in the January & February 2015 issue.