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Sep 8, 2010

Maximum Security

Simon Surrounded, oil, Tim Holmes
We love our personal independence– no more so than here in Montana– that allows Americans to suddenly become rich or launch beyond their inherited social place. We never hear about the downside of this, our treasured individuality, which is that if you sink you sink alone. In a real community nobody sinks unless everybody does; the more advantaged or skillful contribute more, the disadvantaged less, and the few who cannot take care of themselves are lifted by the group. No one is left out. In our culture we have created a system where people still sink, only more invisibly so. While social services are crucial for the survival of some, they also serve to divert our personal responsibility, making us think that if there is an official program to help the needy then we have fulfilled our duty. Not so in true community.

I'm afraid that one day we will face such a catastrophe that's severe enough to wipe out individuals but leave communities standing (think a large ship v.s. 1000 personal liferafts facing a seastorm). If that day comes will we see our neighbors struggling and dying alone while real communities (perhaps indigenous villages) survive? Such a crisis might be widespread unemployment. On my return from Europe I was astonished to find so many responsible, educated, presentable young people– the most employable of their peers– who cannot find work. What if that condition worsens?  "Sink or swim, baby"?  I wonder what it would feel like for all to become personally "insecure" enough (so dependent on community) that community is not only popular but critical.  This is one of the old cultural values our ancestors enjoyed but that we have lost.
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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.