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GALLERY 2014

mobilization

Sponsor A Wealthy Child
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Webpage


Description of campaign/project


Sponsor a Wealthy Child (SaWC) is a transmedia game that upends the logic of aid. Families from the South come to the rescue of Western children suffering from "relational poverty". Three infomercials tell the stories of these children "in need" by copying the aesthetic used by NGOs. An interactive platform allows users from the South and from the West to be paired. My basic goal through this project was to delineate the correlation between the accumulation of material possessions and the erosion of social relations over the past 50 years, especially in the Western world. SaWC asks: has material wealth undermined the relationships we can have with our neighbors, friends, grandparents?

My project brings above all a critic to our consumerist society, but it also adresses questions to the North/South hierarchy. By fliping the direction of humanitarian aid, I also flip the normative frame of what is a fulfilling life. Suddently, people of the Global south, although most of them are dramatically poor, have something the Westerners have lost in the last decades: quality's relations. Through a map displayed on the project's site (Sponsor-now.org), the West becomes a uniform region, without specific borders, just like Westerners treat Africa, Asia or South America. Middle East becomes Middle West, Far East becomes Far West, and so on, which remind that it's the british empire who creates those eurocentric and simplistic terms at the end of the 19th Century, during the peak of their colonial era.


I deliberatly choose humor to engage a wider audience to reflect on this complex question. As an artist and queer activist, I prefer parody and culture jamming to raise awareness instead of guilt and alarmist approaches, which can sometimes repulse mainstream people.

Through SaWC, many dichotomies emerge: Who is rich? Who is poor? Is this a real campaign or is it fictitious? My goal is to obscure these polarities to provoke a cognitive dissonance within the viewer/participant. I think that a brief disrupted mental state is a condition to provoke a change on people's habits.


Humbly, SaWC is not a monkey wrench for the eco-warrior to throw into the doomsday machine... It is instead, an intellectual uppercut to the head that can shift consciousness away from first world practices of overconsumption, and toward a more sustainable approach that values human interaction.


I work on SaWC for 4 years, in which 2 years were dedicated to fill public grant's forms and to contact mainstream TV broadcasters. It was a huge amount of energy for finally no result. The project was mostly built with volonteers and a crowdfunding campaign that raised 6000$. Next time I'll work on a project with a similar edgy and critical outlook, I'll keep my energy to do it. No more grant application...

Curators comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

Irony is one of the most profound, suggestive and tactical forms of intervention into normative ideas, disagreeable or uncomfortable realities. In this it is inherently political. This project is all of these things and more. It is deliciously and hysterically polemical, a satire on social inequality that confronts us with the outrageous divisions of class and social status that exist in the world but, most alarmingly, continues to widen and create schisms amonst people and communities.

Satire is often thought of as a form of humour, a gentle poking of fun or sending up a social more or foible. But satire, as this work astutely enacts, can and should be profoundly confrontational. And not only does it force us to think twice about categories of "rich" and "poor", but presses us to question that inner voice within each and everyone of us, to ask what do we think critically about the situation being satirized.

The picture of a pampered white rich kid and her pooch being cradled by a black woman from a culture that knows or understands nothing of such privilege (nor, for that matter, wants to) is indeed a radical intimacy: though not between these two women, but the image and the viewer.

What kinds of responses have you had to the sponsorship campaign?
Are people generally into the satiric import of the work or do you get negative responses?
What do you think your audiences take away from the work in terms of a radical politics?

Thank you for the opportunity to engage with such a powerful work.

View other works commented by Darren Tofts  ››

This is a fantastic (and much needed) parody, with a really strong visual communication strategy. The years of development and thought that have preceded this are evident; and I especially congratulate your for proceeding despite the funding knock backs! I hope this is the start of a long life for Sponsor a Wealthy Child!

I say this work is ‘needed’ because it cuts right to the heart of the Western Supremacy that dominates much of this world. The West’s belief in it’s self that, “We are the most advanced, free, just, successful, healthy, knowing, forward thinking and equal” feeds many of the world’s problems and prejudices, that are not simply frustrating, but also dangerous. And Sponsor a Wealthy Child challenges just this.

I want to see more of your videos, but unfortunately I don’t understand French. I would also like the ‘game’ component of the work clarified further – but perhaps this will all happen when the project goes live in late November.

You have described some of the dichotomies that emerge through this project raising questions like: Who is rich? Who is poor? Is this a real campaign or is it fictitious?

I too find myself asking is this campaign real or simply a fictitious parody. And I come to the conclusion that if it is going to be most powerful the work must be real.

So, will you actually be taking sponsorship money? I think you should. And how will you be spending it? How can you shift this from a symbolic culture jamming art work using humour and parody to a very real campaign that achieves the outcomes it claims? Or better yet how does it exist in and move between both of these worlds? Is it possible to take this to conferences in the international aid and NGO sector, and present your work in a similar vein to the Yes Men? How can you support the sponsorship to have real life outcomes for ‘wealthy children’ and their sponsors from the global south? Are the same questions/campaign approaches relevant in the West and the South? How will you eventually come to understand the impact this work has on peoples world views, and in particular the self portrait Western Supremacy paints for itself?

I look forward to seeing how this work takes on a life of its own. Good luck!

View other works commented by Alana Hunt  ››

Other comments

julien.boisvert
3 years ago

Dear curators Darren and Alana,

First, thanks for your review and for the good words. I couln't answer in the past weeks since all our energy went to the launch and promotion of the project. The platform is now public at http://www.sponsor-now.org . Sorry for the delay but on the other hand, I now have enough feedbacks from "sponsors" and "wealthy children" to answer correctly to your questions.

Most people who have visited the platform understand the satiric approach and approve it. The only hard critics we received where from people who found out about the project on social media, and didn't dig to understand further. These ones were scandalized by the idea that « fuckin rich kids » should be helped and might deserve our empathy. They didn't get the critic of our consumer society and prefered to keep the focus on economic poverty in the south, which I understand. But I prefer when we look at the big picture. Consumer society produces, at the same time, material poverty in the global south and relational poverty in the Western countries. Both phenomena have the same origin, so why struggles against poverty in the global south couldn't integrate this critic about relational poverty in the North? I think it's time to enlarge the debate and show that we all lose because of consumerism: citizens of the south, citizens of the north, and the environment.

Alana asks: How can you shift this from a symbolic culture jamming art work using humour and parody to a very real campaign that achieves the outcomes it claims? It's a good question. Since the project is launched, it has a good success on the web, at least its french version. Humour and parody play an important role in this success, especially among western youth. I doubt that those kids would participate on the platform if it would be presented as a real campaign. Since we call it « an online game», it's easier (or even the only way?) to convince them to create a wealthy child profile. Once they are matched with a sponsor, it mays not be a classical sponsorship, but it's a real intercultural experience. And from that, I think a consciousness can raise.

Do sponsors of the south understand the satirical side? It looks like most of them do get it, but they don't care whatever it's a fictional or real campaign. These binary categories seems to be more important for us in our western cultures. Sponsors are just happy to participate and to share their culture and their know-how. This said, I should make a quick survey soon to know exactly what is their perception.

Thanks again Darren and Alana for your relevent questions,
and let's keep in touch!

Julien
http://www.sponsor-now.org

Curators comments

This work has been commented by 2 curator(s):
Darren Tofts Alana Hunt go to comments ›

Entry details

Title

Sponsor A Wealthy Child


Headline

A transmedia game that turn the world upside down!


Concept author(s)

Julien Boisvert


Concept author year(s) of birth

1978


Concept author(s) contribution

Co-producing, directing, screenwriting, graphic designing


Country

Canada


Other author(s)

Thomas Aubert, Evelyne Lafleur Guy


Other author(s) year(s) of birth

1982


Other author(s) contribution

Thomas Aubert is the web developer on SaWC. Born in France, he lives in Quebec since 1999. He works mostly on interactive web projects. More infos: Hysopemedia.com Evelyne Lafleur Guy, toward her personal company Tapis Rouge Films, is the co-producer of the three short films. She is a volunteer on the project like about 50 others volunteers. For more infos on her company, see: Tapisrougefilms.com/en/company


Country

Canada


Competition category

mobilization


Competition field

nonacademic


Competition subfield

artist


Subfield description

Sponsor a Wealthy Child (SaWC) is a transmedia game that upends the logic of aid. Families from the South come to the rescue of Western children suffering from "relational poverty". Three infomercials tell the stories of these children "in need" by copying the aesthetic used by NGOs. An interactive platform allows users from the South and from the West to be paired. I work on this project for 4 years with a team of volunteers based in Quebec (French Canada). The official launch is planned for November 2014.