Friday, December 10, 2010

Basho Meets Banksy: Christine Forster

Okay, so here's a bonus interview for you all, because Ms. Forster's Kickstarter project to write 1000 haiku for 1000 strangers is still running.  Donate if you can; read no matter what!  Let's see what she has to say...

1. Short answer prompt: Compare and contrast Kickstarter and the aristocratic artistic patrons of old.

I think Kickstarter has truly given artistic agency to the people and allowed them to choose they believe is worth funding. It's about experiencing and affirming art as a community now, versus a few select uber-weathly art sugar daddies determining tastes. People want to do something good, and feel like they're part of something new and different. That's why Kickstarter works so well. The old form of patronage may have been the best system for past eras, but now I think the model is shifting to fit the present.

2. 1000 haiku... that's going to take a while.  I mean, perhaps not as long as 1000 sestinas, but still... what inspired you to take on this project?

After a friend told me about Kickstarter, I knew I had to create a project around haiku. I started writing them in grad school, and they kept the creative part of my brain lit up while I was in a spirit-crushing grad school program. After I graduated, I felt burned out on academic and professional aspirations.  I realized that I needed to create an artistic project to focus on instead. The specifics of the project came to me in the middle of sleeping one night--I had a dream about 1000 Haiku.  Honestly, I think I was too mesmerized by the sight of those three zeros in "1000" to question it. It's a very ambitious but not impossible number.

3. Skirting the edges of legality?  You realize that would effectively make you the Banksy of haiku, no? 

I can only hope to be that a fraction that incredible. I love Banksy. In fact, in my project launch email to friends and family, I described 1000H1000S as a "Basho meets Banksy" moment. Even though I love the privacy of a small art form like haiku, I'm intrigued by public spaces and who gets to use them for what means. Why should business and corporations get to print ads on every blank space in the world? I think it's time that we get to see more beautiful, non commercial words and images in public spaces, and if that means taking a risk and putting some haiku out there, then so be it.

4. For a $1000 donation to the project you would seriously tattoo a haiku on yourself?

Why not? I can think of many worse tattoos I've seen. I was really curious to see if anyone would sponsor me at that level, but so far no one. It was more of a joke than anything, but I'd follow through with it.

5. Why do so many artists get so squeamish when money starts to become involved?

Oh, boy. I think people in general get squeamish about money. In a culture that promotes greed, you're hesitant to get too involved with the stuff, lest you lose all your priorities and start fantasizing about swimming pools filled with cash, gilded toilets, etc. On the flip side, there's this perpetuated glamorization of the starving, suffering artist and the idea that if you're not suffering horribly, then you can't make art.

Also, we live in a ridiculously demanding consumer culture where we've been taught to think that "the customer is always right". Once money enters the equation, it feels like a business deal where you have to negotiate and compromise, and that can be a vulnerable position to be in. I think artists should be conscientious and mindful about their funding sources, but being a martyr doesn't make for a good artist.

CHRISTINE FORSTER is working up a bio for us.  But here's her blog: .

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