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Aug 5, 2011

Fundamentalist Consumerism

Holy Ground, by Tim Holmes, conte crayon
I'd never heard that term before I read an article by psychologist Bruce Levine who says, "Americans are broken by increasing domination of “fundamentalist consumerism” and “money-centrism” at the expense of all other aspects of their humanity—this breaks our integrity and weakens us. We are also broken by increasing social isolation, bureaucratization, surveillance, the corporate media, and by other public institutions." As an active professional artist I have been mourning for many years the tragic situation where the art world increasingly resembles the drug world as the focus moves from art and esthetics to money. In every sector from commercial galleries to the art market to even supposedly educationally-oriented museums, concern is for profit at the expense of all else. This is not to say that museums have sold out entirely, but most galleries have. Talk to any gallery owner and unless they are independently wealthy and run the gallery as a community service you will hear the same refrain: we must sell to keep the doors open! (Out with Kollwitz and in with velvet Elvis!)

The result is not so much a world of art as a market of entertainment and decor. That is what sells in a capitalist system. Unfortunately, this is just a symptom of the tendency of capitalist culture to reduce EVERYTHING to economics. We can see the same degradation in local business, news, the internet, Hollywood, politics, even religion. When turning a profit is the highest aspiration the result is inevitable: entertainment replaces quality; spin replaces truth.

For me, the answer has become avoiding the professional art world. I now share my art in areas where money is not the top priority– small non-profits, churches, community groups but mostly with individuals. The alternative world where quality, beauty and community are the highest priorities there are very few material rewards and little publicity. There is no way around this dilemma. The rewards are clear: if you value treasure you have to traffic in fundamentalist consumerism. For those who truly value spiritual gifts do so at the cost of material rewards. But the fruit is happiness and a deep sense of meaning, which becomes worth more than all the gold in the world!
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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.