Gentlemen of Chance is a slow communication experiment in social hacktivism and “spiritual bureaucracy”. The art/action/communication consists of mailing 108 letters to prominent public figures from the Forbes 400 list. These are people who may influence fortunes or multitudes. Each letter contains a unique type-art impression designed for the individual recipient. The letter invites each person on a hero’s journey mindfulness practice to discover what action they are destined to take to help repair an imbalance in the world as they see it. The letter requests that each recipient responds with their journey’s findings by filling in an enclosed “form” and mailing it back to the artist.
Carbon copies of the individual swatch artworks were mailed. The 108 original hand-typed artwork swatches are preserved each on its own sheet of business letter paper. Scanned images of these art swatches fit together to form a 30″x30″ assembly that represents wave action. This assembly is used to visualize the influence of the 108 recipients and group them symbolically into a single image.
- The Communication – “Gentlemen of Chance” message recipients each receive a hand typed, formal, business letter on vintage stationery with a surrealist array of stamps and graphics that differentiate the letter from the rest of the postal mail. Each “gentleman of chance” is invited on a hero’s journey meditation with a specific set of instructions. They are invited to use an enclosed type-art as a graphic key to their experience.
- The Gift – One-of-a-kind type art images for this action are created using only the period symbol from a 1965 Olivetti Underwood. Artworks are created in three-by-three-inch squares on vintage arctic white laid typing paper. The images consist of marks of various pressures using only the period (full stop) key on the typewriter. Some marks are overtyped one or more times. Each piece is created in duplicate, using carbon paper. The copy is enclosed with each letter to be used as a key for the recipient’s journey. Each square is one section of a larger 30″ x 30″ work. Please see notes below on the representation and significance of this format.
- The Reply – “Notice Form 108” asks its recipient what impressions s/he experiences from their journey. It compels the recipient to participate in a bureaucratic response format to help them on their mindfulness pathway. “Form 108 – Notice” is included with a self-addressed, postage paid “non-business reply” envelope to facilitate a return to the artist. The form is created again in the same format as The Gift, to eventually create an additional large-scale type-art image, should the Notices be returned to the artist.
Gentlemen of Chance Details and Notes
Working as an individual and making tenuous contact with public figures through the mail creates both possibility and doubt. During the construction and production of the hand-typed letters, questions of value, purpose, relevance, and outcomes inevitably surface for me.
It is useful to note that the letters themselves may not be read by their recipients, but that it is the act of authoring, drafting, and hand-typing that is the purpose of the work. The use of vintage stamps that each contain an image of patriarchal power is intended to call out and notice the social placement of the recipients themselves.
The enclosed letter
Each impression, overtype or placeholder is equal to US$1Million. Images with more impressions are mailed to recipients with higher net worth. Ongoing calculations page here.
All 108 originals together form one 30-by-30-inch, black-and-white, type-art, pointillist image made up of 150,900 total impressions or spaces. (Eight of the tiles are removed to leave a square image.) These impressions as actions taken in the creation of the work represent the total net worth (2015) of the 108 individuals combined (US$1.509 Trillion) with each point, overtype or space representing US$1Million.
*** It is interesting to note that US$1.5 Trillion is roughly equal to the GDP for 2014 of Australia.
*** It is interesting to note that at the U.S. federal minimum wage it would take a worker 66 years and 4 months working full time to earn US$1M, the amount represented by a single point on Gentlemen of Chance.
“Form 108 – Notice” conceptually asks what the original U.S. 1040 tax form might look like if it were re-envisioned to accommodate non-governmental, non-financial reporting.
The original U.S. 1040 form represents the first time a national income tax was put into place permanently in the U.S. Its purpose was to tax income on both individuals and corporations. The tax assumes an earner’s responsibility to society in its mandate.
“Form 108 – Notice” represents the first time a business form is used to ask unanswerable questions. It seeks to understand what other non-tangible responsibilities are present in the amassing of wealth. Only the recipients of the forms will be able to answer these questions. To date, none of Form 108 have been returned.
As of the end of 2017 three responses were received from the offices of George Soros, Richard Branson and David Geffen. None were returned on the supplied envelope or form.
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