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“Pop is not the same as populistic”, says Winy Maas from MVRDV Architects at minute 14:19 in this wonderful talk about innovating in the future of architecture. This sentence got me thinking about roles, styles, and staging. This post is a follow-up on “Is being normal boring?”

Winy

The talk is about design and architecture, but you will notice it’s really about a different way of living, of reflecting about our world. Also check out The Why Factory: a global think-tank and research institute led by the same professor Winy Maas. You can also find some awesome research publications there.

Winy talks about things such as:

  • Porosity and air
  • Transparency, mirrors and infinity
  • Individualism: Is it about staging, making a statement?
  • The stair and activating our roofs
  • Activating new circuits
  • Block attacks (around min 32 – 33)
  • Infrastructure follows your composition
  • From Small to Big
  • From Individualism to Collectivism
  • From Egoism to Wegoism (W)EGO
  • And about pop and populism

Pop is about the (style of) the performer. Pop is about belonging to a tribe. The tribe of the style of the performer. Pop is about selfies. Pop at its worst or most extreme is probably like Netherland’s rap “artist” Boef performances who films himself on stage, and his fans filming himself filming film.

Boef

Rap "artist" Boef performing live

A strange loop of pop. A strange kind of loop. Like an endless mirror.

Instead of that endless empty mirror of pop, I prefer the mirror of Claudio Monteverdi, not only for the magic polyphonic music by the Huelgas Ensemble on this record, but for the way Monteverdi was staging as an artist.

monteverdi

The Guardian described his work as “the extra chronological disjunct here is enjoyably disorienting”

“Enjoyable Disorienting” ! Wow !

It has to do with self-image or self-picture. Picture as in Alva Noë’s Strange Tools. Picture of a role. It has to do with role. Being somebody or nobody. With or without role. Anonymity.

The anonymity I am thinking about is one of role-lessness. The anonymity of being normal. The anonymity of Buzz Aldrin, who was the second man walking on the moon. Being in the front, or blending in the background, like the fashion designer who just says hello at the end of the show and then disappears. Who is the composer and who is being staged? Without the composer, all the rest does not happen.

strange tools

Art and philosophy are strange tools (of staging), says Alva Noë in his excellent book (Amazon link): he explains the difference between choreography and dance:

  • “Choreography, as we have seen, is not dancing, it is an engagement with dancing as a phenomenon”
  • “Choreography, and all the arts, are organizational, or rather, as we shall see, reorganizational practices”
  • “Choreography makes manifest something about ourselves that is hidden from view because it is the spontaneous structure of our engaged activity”

Roles and titles. Role-ness or title-less. Is the focus of our energy the work itself or the attention for our confabulated stories – crafted after the facts – to make/fake sense of why we do what we do? Titles are usually confabulations. That’s why it is probably better to drop them altogether from our bios, business cards and alike. They are an explanation after-the-fact. To make/fake sense for and about ourself. The attention is on self, not the other, not the audience, not those who come to listen.

Too many labels. No Brand. “No Logo (Naomi Klein): taking aim at the brand bullies”

Painting the role. Painting the knight, the farmer, the father, etc and not the man. Filming the filming rapper or not. Rembrandt and Cranach are not in the same kind of business. They made different kind of pictures.

Lempertz-939-1011-Old-Masters-Lucas-Cranach-the-Elder-studio-of-PORTRAIT-OF-MARTIN-LUTHERRembrandt

Cranach on the left - Rembrandt on the right

Painting the man (as a mask – or the physical container) and painting the person is a different kind of business. Staging the speaker and staging the person is a different kind of business. Staging content is not about letting see what others already see. It is about letting see what you see and others do not see yet.

Like Monteverdi, who was already looking back from some distance at the previous century – already inventing a kind of neo-Renaissance gloss that simultaneous confirmed him as a master of the old polyphony and blazed into new baroque sounds and styles

Whether it is in painting, or making poetry, or architecting an experience, I believe we have to approach all of them like artists. By practicing and getting better at the art of staging, staging like in choreography. This goes beyond pop, roles, and style. A different kind of business: the business of stagecrafting. Or is this yet another strange loop of labeling when I just want to get rid of labels, roles, and titles?

 

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Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise in Minority Report – 2002

I had the opportunity to visit the R&D facilities of a big company, big like in 100K+ employees. I was invited to their brand new R&D site housing 1,500 researchers in brand new fully sustainable buildings (solar panels, recycles water, etc.) in the middle of nature. I was the guest of the Global Innovation Manager.

I have seen this mix/blur of innovation and R&D elsewhere and I had in my career many discussions about where innovation sits on the spectrum from pure R&D work to pure enabling unit. I have also seen several “oscillating patterns” where a company starts at the R&D end, swings to the enabling end, swings back again to the R&D end and so forth. I have written many times before on these and other oscillating patterns, that are in essence caused by structural conflict (with a big shout out here to Robert Fritz, see previous posts).

To be precise the R&D site of big company was a pure R-site. Pure research, no development. Often structural conflicts arise when R is reporting into the marketing department, which is more about the D (product Definition and product Development). The R is a different animal than the D. Or when R sits with IT and D with marketing and the structure of the company obstructs high quality flows between the two groups, instead of cultivating them.

But that was not the case at big company. Being an R-site, the site was full of R-people, most of them engineers. But the R-site of company was making use extensively of artists are part of their R-projects.

2017_Studiovisites_RinusvdVelde48-398x600

Studio/Atelier Rinus Van de Velde – picture by Joke De Wilde

This was not an “artists in residence” program where the company sponsors an artist to do their artwork. Or where business executives are invited into an artist’s studio for a one-day workshop in the mess of the artist’s working environment, hoping the creative virus would infect them.

No, this was about deeply integrating artists within the R-teams of the company. And they were doing this at scale, in collaboration with a world-renowned academy, changing artists every month, and an international art curation and selection panel.

In part this was inspired by the lateral thinking of Edward De Bono, inventor of the term “lateral thinking”.

This was indeed all about creating collisions between the creative orientation of the artists and the reactive/responsive orientation of the engineer who is looking how to best solve a problem.

In setting up these collisions, the innovation manager was in fact what I would call an “Architect of Accidents”. It suddenly hit me that research was not about searching but about finding.

Research is not about searching but about finding.

The role of the R-teams was to see what they could FIND when they collided. Nobody said: “Let’s find a balloon”. The mission was “what can you find?” if you collide these elements.

This is in big contrast with what I have seen in other R&D/Innovation teams where challenges are set up to solve a particular problem (a problem in search for a solution). A whole “search”-process is then set-up to capture the ideas/solutions, plus some stage gating to further filter (read frame to the be liked by the decision makers), and the end result is that after a while everybody feels like they are fulfilling the system vs. creating what they want. No wonder the change agents get frustrated!

Robert Fritz compromise

It reminded me of Jean Russell’s four types of inquiry, so nicely illustrated in the concentric circles of Jay Standish at OpenDoor (#gratitude):

strategic_cosmology_four_realms_450 (1) croppedstrategic_cosmology_450_px cropped

Indeed, this was a story of continuous learning, from what is imaginable, what is possible, what is testable, and what is provable.

Research with artists at big company was about finding what is imaginable.

And different practices have different preferences. Good artists are more than just good craftsmen; they let you see/find/discover something that was always there but that you would not find without their help. They let you find what is imaginable. Most engineers can probably be mapped to the science or math circle, with a preference to test and prove things are true, can work.

And different practices have different methods. As you can see from the concentric circles second picture, the philosophy circle is more about theories of change, where as the scientists want to test the assumptions of these theories and reduce the set op options that can be proven to be true.

What the R-team at big company was doing was an effort of being open to new (or existing) insights. In that sense, learning is about letting go of ego. Finding is about being open for the unexpected, the un-searched.

In that sense, my initial spectrum from R&D to Enabling was probably the wrong framing. I tend to prefer these days the concentric circles.

To open the nut, to find the crack inside, one must integrate artists in the innovation flows, especially to help find what is imaginable.

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I am in the business of cultivating high quality connections and flows to create immersive learning experiences and structural change. Check out: https://petervanproductions.com/

 

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Petervan Astract Nr 364

Artschool 2017 > "Overlap" 
Acryl on canvas stitched on wooden panel 125 x 85 cm

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Tokoma Art installation - Petervan Productions 2017
With soundscape

 

Snijden zoals Fontana

Berekend, bere-sterk, een-malig

De kommer van het zwaard

Vervelt haar tot een paardekop

Geslagen en verslagen, moe

Moe ligt ze daar te verwezen

Wringend haar haar in nat

Mat

Patstelling van verwijten en verlangen

Toka haar platform

Ma haar ledigheid, lenigheid

Leeg-heid, licht-heid, of volledig

Haar canvas draait in eeuwigheid

 

Tokoma (rough translation)

 

Carving like Fontana

Calculated, bear-strong, one-time

Wistful sword

Molting hair to horse-head

Beaten, defeaten, dead

Lingering, languishing

Wringing her hair wet

Weary

Stalemate between blame and desire

Toka her platform

Ma her empty-ness, lithe-ness

Lite-ness, Light-ness, Full-less

Her canvas spins into infinity

 

tokoma

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morning-light-window

De lome ochtendsluimer
Kijkt in mij binnen
En raakt een snaar van stilte
Welzijn, wel te zijn, zijn
De irissen sissen fluisterend weg
Verdacht
Tussen de stenen
Glimmende kikkers
Kwakend van verstand

Morning (rough translation)

The lazy morning slumber
Looks inside me
And touches a chord of silence
Well-being, be well, be
The irises sizzle away in whispers
Suspicious
Between the boulders
Shiny frogs
Quaking minds

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Greetings to you, your friends and your family! Hope you are doing well. It’s about four months already since I started my long-term sabbatical as Petervan Productions.

lucian-freud

Lucian Freud Working at Night, 2005
Photo by David Dawson/ Private Collection

 

A quick update:

  • Artschool continued at +/- 9 hours per week practice in the art studio of the art academy. Getting nudged by my coach to do more focused image analysis, and be more concentrated and relaxed. Pretty happy of these two recent paintings.

the-containers-by-petervan-croppedthe-drama-cropped

The Containers” and “The Drama” – Petervan artwork
Acryl on cotton canvas stitched on wooden board – 122 x 82 cm
  • During Jan/Feb 2017, I spent some significant time writing the script for the performance “Tin Drum Is Back” (see details below).
  • I visited some great art exhibitions and had some very pleasant conversations with art curators.
  • I am still reading and making plenty of notes that may end up in some blog post or essay soon.

A couple of updates on the performance

tin-drum-design-brief

Imagery from Günter Grass film “The Tin Drum”
Used as part of the briefing for designers

What is it?

  • A 45 min “one-man” trans-media show and experience, possibly in episodes
  • With only authentic, original and self-crafted visual artworks, soundscapes, poetry, and staging
  • High quality end to end production from invitation till post event
  • Showcase for 21st century corporate narrative to enable deep change

What is the narrative about?

  • A journey through maturity levels of change agents
  • Discovering the unexplored talents ànd barriers for real change
  • Delivered as a number of vignettes for different change agent archetypes
  • Each vignette has a “what is/could be” stage, going deeper and deeper into the change agent persona, making the change agent more vulnerable, but also more open for high quality connection
  • The ambition is to resonate with the audience at an aesthetic non-cognitive quality, to make deep connections, and sending an invitation to create deep change together

What’s next for the performance?

  • Funding and sponsoring (sponsor deck available upon request)
  • Overall sensory identity (detailed designer briefing ready)
  • Build, iterate and dry-run the performance
  • Location scouting for the performance
  • There is a load of material ready to move into produce now, but it’s going to take more time to get this funded and delivered with the high production quality standards envisaged from the start.
  • The performance “Tin Drum Is Back” is now targeted for end June

 

la-fabrica

Scouting - La Fabricà – Refurbished cement factory by Ricardo Bofill

Petervan Productions ambition update:

I have fine-tuned a bit the ambition of Petervan Productions from “to architect and create high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences and deep change” into “to architect and cultivate high quality feedback flows to enable immersive learning expeditions and deep humanistic change”.

That may feel like semantic detail, but I think it is not. It is the result of an iterative process:

  • Scripting the performance “Tin Drum Is Back” has been somewhat cathartic in the sense it is a further reflection on where I come from, where I am, what I am meant to be. It makes me think deeply about what is the essence of Petervan and Petervan Productions. The performance feeds back into the ambitions of Productions and the other way around.
  • I feel grateful for some high quality conversations on “deep change” with a private collective of thinkers, experts, artists, designers, and curators during Jan and Feb 2017. Those discussions may lead into some body of work articulating what we mean with “deep change” and what are the levers and accelerators to make that sort of change happen in organizations of all kinds and sizes.
  • I was deeply influenced by Jean Russells latest book “Cultivating Flows. How Ideas Become Thriving Organizations” (Amazon Affiliates link) which I strongly recommend.

flows-cover-lo2_1_orig

 

So, what’s next?

During March – April 2017, the plan is to work on:

  • The production aspects of the performance (see above)
  • Build and expand the collective of leaders, visionaries, artists, craftsmen, designers and producers

As you can notice, I am still relatively well focused. One of the tricks is to use the Morning Monk Style:

Between when you wake up and noon:

no meetings, no calls, no texts, no email, no Slack, no Internet.

You instead work deeply on something (or some things) that matter.

In the meantime, I kindly reject any requests for consultancy, speaking engagements, etc. I have 1-2 leads that want to work with me as their architect for immersive learning experience events. But I am not in active prospection mode.

If there is something worth reporting, next update is for May 2017. Looking forward to hearing from your latest adventures as well.

Rebelliously yours,

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zadah-20-jan-2017

Artschool 2017: first evolution of painting with Zaha Hadid space 
as inspiration - Acryl on cotton canvas, 90*90cm

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