Banking

a time-based work. 2003-2013, realized 2017.

The artist conducted a work in a large international investment bank with an operation in New York City. The duration of the artist’s work was nine years. The work began in 2004 and ended in 2013. The elements used in the work were: employment as an executive assistant, tasks and responsibilities required by a senior executive, relations with a department of 150 senior and junior bankers and their executive assistants, relations with the same persons in the offices of the bank located in other cities, relations with the human resources and infrastructure employees and executives of the bank, relations with senior executives in the companies that were clients of the firm, a desk, chair, telephone and computer terminal in a shared office space with the above-mentioned persons; various material office “supplies” such as pens, tape, staples, a printer, paper; a set schedule of working hours, an assemblage of computer software programs and internet sites, an employee identity card. Significant elements used in the work were personal engagement with a daily buddhist meditation practice, regular study of the principles of buddhist philosophy, mind science, and practice, regular participation in group retreats and discussions of buddhist philosophy, mind science, and practice.

The initial phase of the work was characterized by the following experiences:

resistance

resentment

irritation

judgment

disheartenment

distrust

An example of a relational effect during this phase is visible through the following incident: The executive is traveling. The executive calls the artist on his way to his departure airport to check if the artist has arranged a car service to pick up the executive at the airport when he arrives.  The artist says yes, and provides the name of the car service, the time scheduled, the number on the car, the name of the driver, and indicates that the driver will be inside the airport with a sign with the executive’s name on it.  The artist mentions, slightly impatiently, that all of this information is also printed on the itinerary that the artist prepared for the executive and reviewed with the executive just before he left. The executive says “ok” and the call ends.  After the executive checks in for his flight, he calls the artist again and asks if there is a car arranged at the destination airport. “Are you sure” is said. The artist provides the same response as was given the first time the executive calls, but with a bit less patience. The executive responds with a slightly longer, I-hear-your-exasperation-and-I’m-not-appreciating-it kind of way “ooo-kay!” and the call ends.  Finally when the executive arrives at his destination, there is another phone call – “Just landed.  There’s a car to meet me, right?”

This phase lasted approximately 2 years, during which time the artist gradually let go of negative emotions of resentment, feeling undervalued, mis-used, and of judging the environment and people to be characterized by hopelessness, degraded intentions, selfish aspirations and poverty mentality. The artist gradually gained the trust of the senior executive and other executives and employees. The artist was able to soften, and in so doing the environment and people around her also softened.  The artist effected this phase result primarily using the personal meditation practice. 

The second phase of the work was characterized by the following experiences:

curiosity

appreciation

supported

friendliness

sympathy

collegiality

occasional mild enthusiasm 

This phase lasted approximately 4 years. This phase was a slight arc in the life cycle of the project, with a peak in 2008 and slight but perceptible waning of the primary qualities indicated above between 2008-2010.

At the early part of this phase, the artist was also volunteering at the buddhist center where she studied and was training as a meditation instructor in that tradition. That the artist had a regular meditation practice was known by the executives with whom she worked, the administrative colleagues and occasionally by the clients of the firm with which she had regular contact.  Once or twice, a colleague would comment that meditation instruction would be useful in the office.   

One example of the relational qualities realized at the peak of this phase was the artist’s ability to gradually extend the amount of time she took off. During her allotted vacation time the artist would attend study retreats at meditation centers. Initially limited to two weeks of vacation time per year, this was coincidentally expanded to three weeks firm-wide for all employees at her grade level in 2007. Subsequently she was able to request a leave of absence of 5 weeks in 2008 to attend a longer meditation and study program. The senior executive with whom she worked supported this request. Though initially only partly paid time off, the executives in the Human Resources department decided to manipulate the time-keeping system in such a way as was as to allow the entire time off to be paid.

(further description of the project forthcoming: Phase 3: Boredom. Phase 4: Departure.)

Conclusion

The artist’s work was not known as a work by the investment bank. The work was not known as a work by the artist during the work. The primary intention of the work was income. The unintended consequence of the work was profound.