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Apr 28, 2017

Reasons for Being Here

"Who Gives All Gifts",  by Tim Holmes (detail)
My life has been dedicated to making art. According to my own definition, "Art is any intentional human creation which appears to serve no other purpose".*  In other words, my life is about making totally useless stuff. (If you insist that relationships or spiritual awakening are "useful" I'd say you're confusing doing and being). If one were to ask me "what is the point of your life?" I'd be speechless. You want to avoid such an embarrassment in own life, but it does point out a stark cultural attitude that deserves some scrutiny.

Last night I attended a symposium about AI development I've been working for months to implement. It was a great community meeting and I heard a lot of talk about the smoothness and sophistication and dreams of a human future. But I couldn't shake the feeling that most all the debate about technology and humanity ––not just here but across the globe––simply refers to the capacity of human enterprise. At what point does the conversation turn to the purpose of human life? Do we even think about that any more now that we have defused communal spiritual forces among us like the social influence of religion? There seems to be an underlying assumption that the quest for greater capacity is unquestioningly worthwhile and valid. We're caught in a blind rush to greater efficiency without deeper examination. When do we stop to wonder if increasing capacity is really worthwhile? When a new device appears that allows you to eat your dinner twice as fast or to answer 100 emails a minute, will you be able to ask "Does this benefit me or just feed my assumption that capacity is all there is?" Does a mad rush into technology make us leave behind our joy in being alive?

I believe we in the first world have largely passed the point where greater efficiency truly helps. But we're so fixated on 'progress' that we're unaware of its effects. The joys of human fulfillment seem to have been lost in a struggle for results at ever-greater speed. The business world seems to me mostly fixated on transforming nature into money, individuals on becoming more efficient consumers, and communities on attracting and fostering those impulses. Where is the attention to the question of WHY? We are each left to determine the meaning of life for ourselves with little discussion and almost no attention paid to the quality of life that makes life worth living!

I hope you can seize the courage (yes, I find it difficult myself) to look at every "benefit" presented––faster internet, a brand new item, a faster, cheaper, easier anything that comes along–– and seriously think about whether it just feeds a heartless desire for 'more' or it truly brings joy and makes your life more fulfilling.

* This is not the entire definition, which is one I've refined throughout my life. I invite your comments.

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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.