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Dec 9, 2011

The Enlightenment is but a Thin Veneer

Duende- the dark aspect of creative power., 36 x 52 in., crayon, by Tim Holmes
I remember a stark line from the film "The Field" in which the priest of a small Irish village comments that religion is but a thin veneer painted over the superstitions of the people. The villagers had essentially adapted the language of religion to carry on the same brutal lives they had lived before.

I read much the same thing in a marvelous paper called Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change by Clive Hamilton in which he reflects something similar concerning the Enlightenment and our obsession with science. We take great pride in being able to dissect reality with the prickly-sharp blade of our intellect. But, as it turns out, only in so far as it doesn't threaten our deeply-held preconceptions. He puts forward an elegant argument that the climate change debate exposes not so much a real conversation over how to address a critical problem as the tragic human tendency to paint a real danger with illusions just to preserve our sense of comfort. In this case a belief that we are 'above' nature and our intelligence will somehow prevail might be the precise cause of our demise. Intellect is no good if it isn't applied.

"The climate crisis is upon us because we are intoxicated by our subjectivity... the desire to disbelieve deepens as the scale of the threat grows, until a point is reached when the facts can be resisted no longer", he says.  One thinks of the poor souls who had to jump from the flaming tower, choosing a quick death to a slow roast. Let's hope we don't choose to wait that long to act boldly!

Hamilton's paper can be downloaded at:
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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.