Main liberty post

Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Liberty in Prison – Digital Mix


Spoiler: there is nothing in this post that is business, FinTech, Blockchain or AI related.


It has been a quiet couple of weeks since my previous update of Jan 2018. I am getting used to the post-employee rhythm of the day: art, garden, chickens, biking. My day schedule is getting close to “the perfect day” as described in Freed From Desire.

The Artschool project

Most of my artwork is related to the Hot Dogs Tonight (HDT) project. If you want an intro on HDT, check out my previous post.

As the HDT is at times so geometrical and becoming a real obsession – and to assure you and myself that I am not completely flipping – I sometimes alternate with more organic work like this:

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Messin’ – Acryl on canvas – 120x100cm

But back to HDT: Marie-Ange, one of my teachers at academy, introduced me to PVL, who had been experimenting a lot with painting on canvasses that themselves where prints on canvas.

When he heard about one of the sub-projects of HDT, he suggested me to go fully digital and print on canvas instead of painting on printed canvas. He sounded like a perfectionist: nothing below 750 dpi, always use high quality print shops, only use Adobe Photoshop, etc

So I “perfected” the prison window to this reference shape (all formats, colours, line weights, etc are now documented for different sizes…)

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Reference Prison Window – Digital Mix

I also tried a bigger painting (120x100cm), with 720 little prison windows. The yellow went fine, but for some reason the purple paint started creeping under the mask tape, and I lost the precision of the preparatory work. I tried to hide the imperfections with carbon black acryl markers, but made it worse (although some disagree).

I should have tested these new markers a couple of times on test surfaces before applying it to the 720 HDT canvas. Also the canvas started undulating after applying and re-applying so much tape. Again, some good lessons learned in addition of having become some semi-expert in mask taping.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – 720 Windows – Acryl on canvas – 120x100cm

I also started to prefer the shape without the prison bars: hoping less is really becoming more. I experimented with different settings, formats, colours, with/without lines, taped lines, acryl marker lines, etc.

This time using very cheap 20x20cm canvasses from the local Action-store (discounter)

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Small windows – Acryl on canvas – 20x20cm

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – 20 experiments for essence – Acryl on Canvas – 20x20cm

People seem to be intrigued by the HDT work, and it can serve many different (post-fact confabulated) narratives. Some narratives that seem to tick/stick:

Golden Cage: the life of employees with all the perks and stocked fridges, but still living and operating as self imposed inmates, loosing all sense of agency, and keeping quiet and obeying whatever real or imaginary authority. I can imagine HDT full-size installations with different insides/outsides to let the visitor experience what they missed by staying inside the cage.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – NYC/SFO/LON/SYD – Prints on Canvas – 20x20cm

The whole theme of surveillance, sous-veillance and the prison guard’s option to open the window at will, or worse overlooking all the prisoners in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, so well put into the social media context in Andrew Keen’s Digital Vertigo. Keen has btw a new book out “How to fix the future”. The look from within the prison cell, seeing the sunshine outside. The look from outside, seeing the cheap light bulb inside.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Inside/Outside – Print on Canvas – 20x20cm

Trumpism: Americans seem to be frustrated with it. There seems to be a sort of complacency that leads to statements like “As long as it does not burn in my house”. Your own house has become a prison cell and/or refuge. “Liberty in Prison” seems to appeal to that, as well as the baseball hat referring to some other possibilities than America First. Same for all the shootings in schools, schools being experienced as danger zones: Schools behind bars.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Liberty/School behind bars – Digital Mixes

The HDT shape can also be seen as some sort of code, a symbol, an icon, a tag, a font, a sign-of-the-times. I have used it as part of the design of the world clock installation, or contrast experiences in Green/Red/Blue. For the world clock, I also have a more complex design with gyroscopes and smartphone holders, and a smartphone app to take pictures/selfies from behind the prison window.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – World Clock - Installation 6 acryl canvasses – 20x20cm

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Green/Red/Blue – Acryl on Canvas – 50x50cm

The algorithms of the online print shops pointed me to cross-sell offerings for all sorts of merchandise. I have now received designs for T-shirts, baseball caps, notebooks, mugs, pencils, stickers, etc

I could not resist and ordered the black T-shirt, and it did arrive nicely in my mailbox two days after uploading my JPEG file to the print shop. The caps are not ordered yet. Still hesitating for white caps, or red caps to make the link with “Make America Great Again” and to find some alternative tagline. Could be something with “resist” or “released” or ???

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Merchandising – The T-shirt exists 😉

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Stencils/Templates/Etches/Monoprints

The HDT project unleashes many other ideas. Some folks refer to the Blue Dog Phenomenon by George Rodrigue or the OBEY memes of Shepard Fairey, who recently even started covering huge apartment blocks with his memes. I have no idea where HDT will lead me. It just happened to me. There is no plan. Let’s celebrate happenstance.

My academy teachers told me there are enough ideas now, and it’s time to “execute” and make some of the existing work “presentable”:

  • Most of my canvasses are stitched on wooden panels. After a while, especially with a lot of tape-work, they start undulating. I need to get some of them properly framed (or do it myself) so they look somewhat “neat”.
  • I have load of digital work and try-outs. My teachers say that that work is worth seeing as well. This could include printing some of my digital designs on high quality paper and presenting them in some kind of gift box that people can browse through

New tools

I completed my studio with the following new tools:

Co-creation: Prison-Window-as-a-platform

I am playing with the idea of making available the Prison Window in different formats (PSD, JPEG, etc) and inviting other creative folks to have a go with it and sharing their results with the community. I will probably do a separate post with invitations and assignments for that.

I will probably start simple with some Google-Doc folders, but wondering if any cloud platform already exists to do just that. Also interested on any models for licensing and compensation models for collaborating artists. You never know somebody wants to buy this stuff. Just ping me if you know of any platform or models that can serve my needs. I will be eternally grateful 😉

The Pigs & Chickens Project

Just a moniker for my garden project. And for this edition just some pictures will do.

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Petervan Industrial Constructions © 2018 – Self made vegetable box

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Petervan Chicken diversity/inclusion/#metoo 2018

Interesting quotes/random ideas/reflections

  • About Trump: “As long as it is not burning in my house” and “The destruction of complacency”
  • About time: “Future Memories”
  • About employees: “Self imposed inmates”

Social media disconnect

As in “the perfect day”, I am now almost completely disconnected. I have unsubscribed from almost all mailing lists. I am down to about 2 emails per day and of course an empty email box. My mobile can only take calls and text messages. 3G is disabled. I have stopped tweeting, FB-ing, etc. I put a blocker on my browser (https://blocksite.co/) on my laptop and mobile and it does what you’d expect it to do. I feel I have more agency with my time. I am enjoying the physical and emotional silence.

What’s next?

During Apr – June 2018, the plan is to work on:

  • Hot Dogs Tonight, with a focus on wooden 3D objects, and more rough and bigger scale projects
  • Pigs & Chickens Project
  • Studio Oxygen (see previous post)
  • Lots of biking (it’s spring and summer after all)
  • Whatever feels interesting (A.F.E.A.R.) and comes naturally into my flow: a couple of leads developed after my latest post, we’ll see how that goes.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Green – Acryl on canvas – 50x50cm

That’s it for this edition. If there is something worth reporting, next update is for June 2018.





Poem 21418

Ik wou dat ik jouw schilderij was

Gestreeld worden door je penselen

Geslagen door je vodden en lompen

Overspoeld met kleur als door een zacht deken

Rough translation

I wished I was your painting

Caressed by your brushes

Beaten by your rags and tatters

Washed with colour as by a soft blanket

There were some interesting posts the last couple of weeks; all indicating that there is something fundamentally wrong with how organisations measure people’s performance.


Petervan artwork – detail of 2016 painting on performing
Acryl on Canvas


Some examples:

I could add numerous examples of other organisations I met where the people are merely serving the system, not the company or its customers anymore.

Whether it is lean, daily standups, filling the boxes of an archaic ERP system, personal improvement programs, re-orientation processes, competencies management, performance appraisals, or innovation ideations, acceleration and incubation programs.

Niels Pflaeging used to have a slide he called “the bullshit slide”:

Niels bullshit slide

Niels Pflaeging “bullshit” slide from 2014


In his recent blog post “Change is like adding milk to coffee”, Niels continues:

Take a step back and you will see that people act consciously and intelligently (overall), to other things than the change itself. They may resist loss of status and power – which is quite intelligent. They may resist injustice, stupidity and being changed. Which is also intelligent. The change may also cause need for learning that is not properly addressed. And these are the things that we have to deal with in change: power structures, status, injustice, consequence, our own stupidity, top-down command-and-control, and learning.

In other words, people don’t resist change, they resist bullshit.

As Niels’ slide shows, the bullshit is omni-present and something structural that needs to be fixed. Only structural change will change the behaviour and culture in your company, all the rest is tactical and innovation theater.

People have good antennas for this; they all feel deeply that they have become self-made self-imposed inmates of the golden cage, forced more than half of their working time doing the wrong thing: filling the forms, the quarterly updates, pushing up and watering down information and ideas upwards the hierarchy and doing nothing else but complying with the organisations’ processes. We are getting audited you know! It’s the process, stupid!

They all share that disjoint between one’s personal expectations of success and impact and corporate or even individual metrics.

I recently had a catch-up call with a friend in the Bay Area, and she was worried she’d become too conservative, she was staying too long with one company (18 months now, 2 years in a job seems to be a career in Silicon Valley…), and worrying all the time whether she was making the most significant impact.

We seem to have been brainwashed that our happiness, fulfilment or whatever you want to call this nirvana state is all about “realising your full potential”, some decades ago the mantra of one of the big tech companies.

I think this is exhausting. You will never reach your full potential and you will always be out for the next big thing. It will never stop. You will never be satisfied.

IMO, maximum impact is the wrong metric. We have to get rid of (comparative) scores in general: they are not real anyway – always ready to trick or comply with the system – and they are always about ticking the boxes about past performance. They don’t add value, at best the measure past value.

We need something that measures our individual progress – individual as opposed to comparing with others. Measuring our progress in building new, future capabilities. Measuring future value potential. Am I better at this than last month? Have I learned something new this week? Etc.

Scores are after the fact. They are confabulating. They are past-performance indicators.

IMG_0023 cropped

Petervan artwork – Left overs of tape cutting – Feb 2017


We need some future capabilities indicators, showing our own individual continuous learning and cultivation of new skills. Our capacity to making-the-right-cut for the future.

Haydn Shaughnessy once coined the term KCI – Key Capability Indicators. I liked that a lot. At that time, the term was in the context of organisational innovation indicators. I wonder what individual learning indicators would look like.



In my Mid-Jan 2018 swan song post, I invited my readers to start a conversation on “Let’s do something interesting”.

Tourists stroll on a pier in the Black Sea town of Balchik, Bulgaria, on August 25, 2017. # Dimitar Dilkoff : AFP : Getty

Tourists stroll on a pier in the Black Sea town of Balchik, Bulgaria
August 2017, Picture by Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP / Getty


A couple of Skype calls later, I stumbled upon a number of criteria that I would use to assess whether proposed work is interesting of not. The five criteria fit into a handy acronym A.F.E.A.R. that of course has nothing to do with fear but all with continuous learning opportunities.

A.F.E.A.R. stands for: Advancing, Fun, Edgy, Alertness, and Risky

  • Advancing: the work has to have a good level of humanistic advancement. End 2017, I condensed my sabbatical thinking into five trends for humanistic advancement.
  • Fun: not much to add here, other than that it is not about entertainment. Fun is about meeting interesting people and novel insights, lots of laughs, a good meal, a good drink. Joyful would equally qualify.
  • Edgy: the work has to be edgy. Like “at the edge” of comfort and trends. In Dutch there is an expression “Er moet een hoek af zijn”, meaning a bit “dotty”. Many synonyms here, I particularly like: absurd, odd, unconventional, weird.
  • Alertness: The work must include the creation of situations and interventions where people feel slightly at sea, because that’s the place of highest alertness.
  • Risky: as in not yet done before, an experiment. I never do something twice. I have no templates, starting from scratch for every new project. There are no best practices of the past. I live in the present.

I could have added another “A”, the “A” of Art. Because I have a deep belief that only by using art as support to content – aka not art as entertainment – we can resonate with our guests at a level beyond the cognitive.

In a recent intro letter for a gig, I wrote:

“I am not in the event-production or entertainment business. I am in the business of creating immersive learning experiences. I am an experience architect, and work with professional production companies and facilitators. My work is edgy and risky. I believe that the arts are a limitless and untapped resource that can bring experiences and content to new levels.”

So, my work is “Edgy and risky”: do you still want to play?



Edition-117 of Delicacies. As usual, max 5 articles that I found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan


Petervan artwork 2018 - Detail hand-cut tape on canvas on wooden panel


Edition-116 of Delicacies. As usual, max 5 articles that I found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

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