Potato salad as art? A look at the unfolding saga on Kickstarter

A Kickstarter campaign involving a Columbus, Ohio man’s project to make potato salad has gone viral. At the time of this publishing, the campaign has raised over $65,000 in its effort to reach a mere $10 goal—and there’s still 24 days left to pledge. It’s being touted as a curious fluke, a viral phenomenon. It’s also a work of art that continues to unfold as the contributions pile up.

The campaign is called “Potato Salad.” There’s no video of an eager entrepreneur pitching his or her idea to you. Just a photo of a bowl of potato salad, along side it lies a white and red checkered cloth napkin.

Whether intended or not, Zack Danger Brown’s campaign is a social satire. It’s an evolving one that grows more compelling each day as the media feeds off the campaign’s growing popularity. The responses vary, but include (mostly) outrage, some cynically tinged support (“I fucking love the Internet”), and the birth and embrace of the #PotatoSalad hash tag.

At its core, Brown’s campaign is understated and even elegant—it’s neither silly nor mocking in its tone. There is no overt naivety nor the wisdom of a visionary apparent in its conception—the viability of a Kickstarter to fund the making of potato salad is never broached. It’s simply straightforward: “I’m making potato salad.” That’s it.

The campaign in itself is nothing other than a seed. The public’s reaction is where the idea takes root, and how it blossoms (or whether it does) is anyone’s guess. Brown’s campaign pokes fun at the multitude of ridiculous Kickstarter ideas, most of which, rightly so, do not get funded. In this instance, the joke’s punchline is the excruciating thought that tens of thousands of dollars can be raised in a matter of a few days for something so trivial and arbitrary (and something so commonplace and Americana) as potato salad.

The Kickstarter-campaign-run-amok phenomenon is where it gets interesting. This is largely out of Brown’s hands at this point—a piece of performance art taken over by the audience. This is evidenced in the comments section of the campaign, which is littered with links to copycat campaigns (guacamole as an example), jabs (“So, this is what rich people do for fun”), and copious notes of support. What will likely erupt in the coming days (and die down shortly thereafter) is the cacophony comprised of a fickle and cynical public that will be drowned out only by our culture of outrage. Watch for the demonization of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, mounting disgust with Brown’s “Potato Salad” campaign (the level of which will be set according to amount of contributions it garners), snarky words of support for the campaign pointing out how heavy with irony it is, and, of course, more of the carnivalesque coverage of the unusual by the media.

— Ross Blanchard, Editor-in-chief

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