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Aug 9, 2016

Sky: Falling. Mind Head

Is it just me or is the world somehow falling apart? Why is it that I feel that my percentage of success
in dealing with the business world continues to diminish?

Decades ago my experience in the art world was that businesses were run by humans and pretty much did what they said they would do; any mistake was quickly rectified. Then over the years my success with honest galleries diminished to the point where I finally abandoned the prospect of working in the art business because the chances of honesty had become so small. Case in point: just this year the one gallery that is not actively screwed me over (after selling quite well for several years) seems to be dark most of the time and the owner has been arrested for breaking and entering. This is not a comment on the state of the whole world perhaps. But I do find it extremely curious. (Am I a fool or a tolerant Christian for not storming in with the police to seize my work?)

Furthermore, it seems my regular business transactions that I initiate grow less successful over time, from computer printers to internet service to health insurance to just about anything that is not dealt with systematically. I have grown increasingly wary. Now when I order something–from the rental car to the phone service, I'm on my guard. So listen to this strange story of the simple act of shipping a package from here to Germany:

I did my research and found the company that would ship the package for much cheaper than the three monopolies of international shipment: DHL FedEx and UPS. It's called XS Baggage and when I shipped my stuff to Europe with them eight years ago–though not without complications–my experience was they were easy to work with. So I got my quote, they said it could be delivered in a week, I scheduled the shipment, enclosed all the requested documents, paid and went for a watermellon.

But a string of bad incidents then unfolded.  XS contracted with DHL, and regretted that I needed to reaffirm some of the information I'd supplied, questions that weren't relevant before. Rather than being delivered as promised it was held at customs, subject to commercial duties and taxes that XS knew nothing about (despite my preparatory paperwork in this regard). For 2 weeks the box sat in customs while the two companies repeatedly requested the same info I'd supplied. When I called for clarification inevitably it was the other company at fault and I found myself in response to endless questions saying, "call this person at this number in this other company" as if I'm on staff. At one point my friend Olivia (playing the recipient in this drama) had to provide her (German version) personal SS number! (What? Germans need an SS number to receive mail?)  She and I give all the info we had. No action. So I called customer service, only to be told that our info was wrong, including that Olivia's SS number is "not valid"! How do you confirm something like that? It's like being told your face is the wrong one!!

So of course I called the number given with the direct 5-digit extension (and not only reach yet another person but am told, I'm not making this up: "we don't use extension numbers any more"  (!!!!) Who writies this stuff??)  I explained that I'd happily pay immediately any new charges, if only the package is delivered! The promised delivery date had long passed, and now they need a "letter of authorization". "Yes, say I, that's me and I authorize!" "No, it has to be from the shipper."  "I AM the shipper!" "No, we have a contract with someone else." Well after an extra fee the package finally got delivered, a month late, followed the next day by–get this–a letter to Olivia announcing the upcoming package delivery!... Mr. Kafka, we will see you now!

This fiasco makes me very curious about the state of civilization.  I'm just one guy who ships one such package every perhaps 3 to 5 years and this is how much trouble I have to go through? What's the frustration level of a normal person who has many such transactions to do and is not in fact starting a new civilization? If a business such as an international shipper cannot deliver what they are apparently in business to do, how can they stay afloat?? Do other people have these problems or am I stuck in some kind of Orwellian House of Morons?

It's almost like I have to have the State consumer affairs division on speed dial. Every time I make a simple transaction I have to contact them because I feel like that I've been dealt with fraudulently. Am I the one guy that always picks the single carton of spoiled milk? As with my ex-galleries, eventually I begin to think the fault is my own because other people don't seem to complain. But am I being unfair? We make a contract, I accept and I expect the other party will deliver. Why is that so hard for me to achieve? Is this some kind of karmic payback from the capitalist gods because I live so simply? I think of a person like Garrett who does international business with one hand before breakfast, responding to 30 emails every day, solving problems, dealing with clients, dead tenants, international customers, an array of cultures. And HE's not suicidal! How is it that I am finding such an unfriendly world outside of my own circle? How is it that other artists survive without even making contracts with galleries?

I suspect The Problem has to do with my falling outside of normal patterns. If you operate like a machine cog in a patterned world, probably things move more smoothly for you. But I'm an individual! I like dealing with other human beings! I particularly like the intimate interchange with another being in trying to solve simple problems. I like businesses like the local Ace Hardware store, where I went last week to buy a screen of a certain size. I got home and it was the wrong size. I returned it immediately. The woman looked at me, appoligized, replaced the item AND gave me $5 off! The Human Being responds to me, so I was thinking.

I'm not used to dealing with machined responses to unusual circumstances, like individual preferences. I can feel the tug of conformity, knowing it'd be much easier to simply shut up and take whatever is offered on the Sale table (that apparently makes every other customer blissfully happy.) Conform, and your life will be easy. Insist on your own way and you will pay an unknown price. All alone. And you WILL BE HAPPY about it!
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Tim Holmes Studio

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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.