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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.

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

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I recently had some conversations with prospective clients on the need for alignment and coherence of physical and emotional space when trying to create great experiences. I started to call them “sacred spaces”.

As you know by now, I am not in the events business. I am in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning expeditions and deep change. In essence, I want to resonate with my client’s guests at another (additional) level than the pure cognitive. I believe this ambition also requires its own awareness and vocabulary, but more about that in some later posts.

One aspect of that vocabulary is our expression of sacred spaces. What first comes to mind is a church, a cathedral, some religious building of some sort.

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Sagrada Familia – Barcelona – 31 Oct 2014

In the best cases, the moment you come in, you are struck by a lightning of beauty, awe, stillness, and grandeur. The entry into the space feels almost ceremonial. You cross the entry, the line between outside and inside. The experience of the space sends vibrations down your spine. You feel suddenly whole and small at the same time.

This whole- and small-ness creates some kind of safety; some form of familiarity that this space is the right space, that this space is right. Just right for what it was designed for.

I think in similar terms about the spaces for our experiences.

Our spaces must be safe spaces. Closed as with an entry door. The entry into the space is a ritual moment. The coming out as well. It must be a physical experience: guests have to walk through the “arc of change”. They must do this in a “communion” style, as a collective, creating a visceral experience of the collectivism in their change process.

The space is about “roundness”, round as in circle, but also round as in generative, coming back to the starting point with new insights.

The space becomes a pulsing “egg”, a “womb” that will be our “nest” for a couple of days. It has of course to do a lot with right spaces for humans, and Jean Nouvel’s views (video here) on architecture. The video is also called “Reflections”, just like the latest from Brian Eno, one ambient song of 54 minutes (interview here)

jean-nouvel2

“Combining big bold shapes with intricacy and delicacy. The ability to be bold and delicate at the same time. The relation between time and light. The sphere above, the cupola. A spiritual space.”

I love the idea of the cupola. In my opinion, the closed space described above needs a roof – like a cupola – with some lattice membrane. But at the same time, the space needs to be “porous”, with light (the crack) coming in through the lattice, and light (enlightenment) coming out to inspire others. Or even better, some form of post-enlightenment as in Danny Hillis’ entanglement.

And light itself can also be the “roof” and the trees of the space forest. Check out this wonderful video of Fujimoto’s light forest:

light-forest

 

I shared the video with my good friend Marti Spiegelman, who replied:

Thanks for the link – this is extraordinary. It reminds me that sometimes the light itself is the sacred space – I’m thinking of the light beam on the floor, when one of the walkers stands in the light – and sometimes the light creates the boundaries, or defines the edges, of the space – as in a forest when there is a small round clearing, it’s traditionally considered to be a ‘power spot’’ [another name for sacred space] where you can call in greater powers of nature and the universe to create change.”

I was looking for some good description of sacred and sacredness. I think I found it in an article about a fashion book by Belgian fashion designer Ann Demeulemeester.

book-demeulemeester

“It looks and feels almost sacred, with pages so thin the images can be seen on both sides of each sheet; it’s a truly delicate beauty. For this reason, every single page is printed only on one side, creating a uniquely singular reading experience. The size and weight of the book gently contrasts with the fragility and smoothness of the paper, while the almost total white of the inside is in opposition with the blackness of the sides and the linen cover. Text is kept to the essentials, limited to an introduction by Patti Smith (Demeulemeester’s longtime muse) and a short final dedication by the designer herself. The book was designed by Victor Robyn, a Belgian graphic designer who has been in charge of realizing Demeulemeester’s graphics for years—from show invitations to printed fabrics. The art direction is curated by Victor Robyn, Demeulemeester herself and Patrick Robin, her life and business partner.”

Happenstance that I visited this week Casa Argentaurum, an art gallery in Ghent run by Caroline De Wolf, who kindly opened her space for me. It was one of the last days of the exposition about Ann Demeulemeester’s jewellery.

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Necklace – Ann Demeulemeester – Casa Argentaurum

At the end of our conversation, Caroline gave me a copy of the catalogue of the 2010 exposition “Things, Thoughts, and Territorities”.

book-andrea-branzi

The book has some great design drawings by Andrea Branzi, and also a wonderful testimony of the artists’s love relation with Belgium (mostly Flanders btw). Somewhere half way, there is this superb quote:

“Architecture is not the art of building, it is a very complex discipline,

interpreting history, technology and the changes in society.”

It could have been the tag-line for Petervan Productions, as I see myself as the architect who conceives, gives birth to the vision together with the client, and then pulls together and orchestrates the resources, experts, and artists to create a unique experience in search for the secrets of life.

But “you can’t find secrets without looking or them” (quote by Peter Thiel in his book “From Zero to One”), so I am looking for your views on what you would expect from a sacred space.

I am looking for architects, space- and stage-designers to be part of our collective of leaders, visionaries, artists, craftsmen, designers and producers.

If you are interested to be part of that calling and dialogue, you can just leave a comment on this post.

Rebelliously yours,

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Artschool 2016. Study on Magnus Plessen. 
1) V4 of painting based on collage 2), 3) and 4) some details. 
Expect to finish next week. Acryl on cotton canvas 80x80cm, brush, spatula, kleenex. 
With thanks to my coach Ann Grillet

 

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As many of you know, since begin November I am trying to create my own thing called “Petervan Productions”.

The scaffolding is already in the works for many years, and I am still hesitating whether I will once publish the 100+ page reflections on the intentions of all this, what I think this enables, and then working down the tactics such as outcomes and deliverables.

Besides the artwork and the research bit of my activities, I spent quite some time in re-thinking what “events” could be like. And thinking of my customers as “guest”, not consumers. What I am trying to offer is a one-stop-shop for unique immersive learning expeditions in emotionally and physically right spaces for humans.

So anything that gets me back to my architectural roots of “right” spaces for human beings makes me a bit poetic. In this case this very nice article in Aeon about the French architect Jean Nouvel, all about light, geometry and symbolism to re-imagine culture.

The core of the article is a very nice video. As usual, I made the transcript of the video, and added some poetic highlights and typographic reflections by myself. I have stopped adding comments and trying to explain. My guests are smart enough to make up their own minds. Explaining would be an insult.

jean-nouvel1

 

Each project is an adventure, a passion

The biggest temptation

Is to jump into it

There are solutions that come to you

There are images that spontaneously appear

My method is rather to hold back as long as possible

To really imagine it spatially

So, to be sure that I have something to say

These moments where you understand somebody cared about something

That’s when you feel

 like “oh yes,

this is a human thing,

not some robot that

put something together”

Simply living there is a cultural act

Combine big bold shapes with intricacy and delicacy

The ability to be bold and delicate at the same time

jean-nouvel2

The relation between time and light

The sphere above,

the cupola

As spiritual space

“Perhaps we have to keep dust”

jean-nouvel3

Create a space, no inside, no outside…

jean-nouvel4

“We have principles, and these principles we have to nurture.

We nurture them.

We deepen them.

And with them,

we invent…

something else”

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Hello Tribe,

This is a post to share that I’m taking an extended sabbatical from Innotribe and Swift after some of the most amazing years of my career so far. It has been such an exciting journey working with many of you creating and enabling Innotribe to grow. Thank you for letting me being part of that journey.

jump

Quote by Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) in “A most violent year”. 

Poster copyright: Lessons Learned in Life

 

Now the time has come for my next phase as an independent thinker, creator and sense-maker, as from 1 November 2016.

I will concentrate my – limited – professional activities under “Petervan Productions”. In the first instance I will create art, performances, and invitation-only retreat expeditions.

pvp-web-banner

I believe there is room for a new kind of experiences that resonate with your and my guests at another level than the pure cognitive. Holding a space to connect thought leaders, experts, and artists of all kinds, and to bring out the very best in you and them. The art of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences and deep authentic change.

Mastery and excellence will be my guidance, but mystery is what I aim for.

Focus means deep work without distractions. Focus also means saying “no”. For the next couple of weeks/months, I will live under a rock. I will dramatically reduce my social media presence and activity. But will keep blogging and writing occasionally.

+++

“Creative work needs solitude.

It needs concentration, without interruptions.

It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching

until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to,

but does not necessarily have at once.

Privacy, then. A place apart

to pace, to chew pencils,

to scribble and erase and scribble again.”

 

Mary Oliver in “On Power and Time”

+++

It’s a jump into the unknown. It is a fork from the responsive/reactive orientation to solve problems to the creative orientation to architect, design, and produce what I really want. It is tapping into what Nilofer Merchant calls my “onlyness”, when my edge becomes the core.

I’d love to keep in touch with you all, so if you would like to connect please do so via my personal email or the usual social channels. You can also subscribe to the Petervan Productions Newsletter here.

See you on the other side. Onwards.

Rebelliously yours,

petervan-signature

Blogging and writing:

Mantra: “Imagine the kindest, most positive response to whatever comes your way” – Chade-Meng Tan

 

 

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“Métier” is usually defined as: profession, craft, craftsmanship, and workmanship. I already touched on this in my blog post on Craftmanship (Sep 2015).

Craftsmanship, Historical Coherence, Musicality, Authentic Observation, and Creating The Dance between host and guest are critical components of the Essence of Work.

Tradition is about building on the shoulders of giants, to “craft” deep into the meaning of tradition, to internalize tradition, and to pass it on in your work and onto next generations.

Tradition is not seen as non-authentic, but a source for energized work.

What is driving these people to strive for unconditional excellence?

I was reminded of this when discovering last week’s edition of the Belgian TV Art programme “Tout le Baz-Art” on the RTBF Channel that focused on evolution, tradition and art that is “academically right”. The programme was curated around Belgian super-star musician Ozark Henry.

ozark_henry_2013

Ozark Henry – cover of his album “Stay Gold”

One of Ozark’s guests was my good friend Peter Hinssen, as apparently Hinssen introduced Ozark Henry to 3D as an additional dimension to his superb musical expression. But the other guests included Sam Dillemans – one of the recent hypes (well, since 2010 or even before) on the Belgian art scene. Sam’s discourse also made me think about the essence of work of Michaël Borremans, the other big name in contemporary Belgian art.

All three have to say a lot about their “Métier” – their profession – and the intensity and clarity they have in creating extraordinary art-work. I found it highly inspiring: the way they stand in life and the mystical qualities they aim for.

Below some extracts/transcripts of what they shared in different videos:

Sam Dillemans

“I’ve always compared myself to the great artists. I’ve always done that. I am constantly healthily frustrated. That’s why I will always continue to work. Compared to modern artists… Victory is easy if you have an eye for it. You have to compete with the greats. That’s why I always work like crazy”

rembrandt

Rembrandt – Self Portrait – 1659

“If you show me Rembrandt, I panic because there’s still so much work. They say Rembrandt was before. He is tomorrow. That’s the difference. Rembrandt wasn’t before, he is tomorrow.

“A white canvas is the worst thing an artist can face. I did not say that. Picasso did. And if he says so… you can imagine what that means for us.”

“I have the ambition to continue painting till I’m 90. I still have so much work to do. If Picasso painted for 80 years, I’ll need 320 years. I don’t think I’ll succeed.”

“It’s my ambition to grow as old as possible. I don’t want to see others growing old and decaying with me.”

“But I’d like to realize my plastic dream as much as possible.

I’d like to get as far as possible.”

eddy_merckx_the_cannibal_3

Eddy Merckx – most successful cyclist ever

“The thing people lack nowadays in my opinion is veneration. People don’t often see others as gods anymore. They do like to idolize them. Merckx is a better cyclist than Sam Dillemans. I won’t point out the weak points of a god. To say he’s as small as I am because of his human side. The distance isn’t that great.

“Michelangelo also had to go to the bathroom. But put us in the Sistine Chapel and we don’t make it up the scaffolding.”

“That’s what’s important.

We have to be able to be in awe.

Of something or someone”

“Everything is fragmented. Everyone does everything, but nothing well. Everybody is an artist. If you ask someone on the street what he or she does in their spare time – apart from a lot of rubbish – one bakes pottery, another one paints, a third one plays guitar. We’re all wonderfully creative.”

“A lot of people are creative,

but not many are artists”

“I don’t mind. I support that democratic system. This is the problem: this 93-year-old crone, who baked two pots, wants twenty exhibits. That’s tiresome.”

“A part-time painter is the worst. People who are partly something are the worst. You have to try to be whole. That demands sacrifice. The worst sacrifice is being half.”

“Many people choose it freely. They compromise.

“Life is full of compromises, but art is not”

“You always have to question yourself during your ongoing studies. You don’t need to become self-centered, but you discover your inner self. Without psychedelics and philosophies.”

“We have lots of possibilities, but hardly anyone stops to look at a tree and to admire it and say “That tree is beautiful!” That is over. It happens but rarely, and even then only on Sunday, with the kids, and a giant buggy. “Today we will watch trees”.

“They go to Walibi (a sort of Belgian Disney Land), or to an exhibition of modern art, as modern as possible. Then they are hip and trendy. They don’t want to seem old fags. But of course they are. A young fag would look at the world like Jacques Brel, eyes wide open. They are obsolete. But they think they are trendy.”

“Being trendy is dying a little.”

“You don’t have to be hip, you have to know poetry or anything which is not influenced by time. Then you have a chance to approach godliness. In conclusion, what do people do with their free time?”

“They fuck it up.”

Michaël Borremans

Jan Hoet, who was the founder of the Museum of Modern Art in Ghent (SMAK) said about Borremans:

“Studious, pleasingly, nicely painted, it all looks so perfect. On the other side he is a bit unruly, recalcitrant, also a bit morbid, a little austere…” and Ann Demeester commented: “Michaël’s works is very subdued, mysterious, vs. bombastic.”

His paintings are cinematographic. He also launched himself into video and cinema. Using all senses to resonate with his audience at some many additional levels beyond the pure cognitive. Borremans continues:

“My work has no documentary value whatsoever. It is all imagination. That’s why I am painting. Cinema also has a lot of this. But a film is not my sole merit, you work with other people, who each have their own contribution”

Michaël is a difficult person, rigorous and strict for himself, with a greater technical maturity then many of the other contemporary painters.

prince_philippe_prosper_-_diego_velasquez

Prince Philippe Prosper by Diego Velasquez - 1659

You really have to listen to Michaël Borremans explanation of the above painting at minute 33 of the documentary.

“The resounding “éclatant” aspect of Velasquez’ work, it always remains fresh.

“The accents being made, the structures,

almost like notes and chords in music,

a very sensual pleasure”

“Painting with a long stick, to keep the spontaneity. Unrivalled technical virtuosity”

“I want to stay professionally focused, and remain faithful to what in want (in the artwork). A painting is a suggestive construction. Getting better, and more sophisticated in the painterly technique. Capacitate myself to make the best paintings. It is not pleasant to make so many paintings that are almost ok”

Back to the RTBF TV programme. Sam Dillemans continues here:

Embracing Rubens – Leaving Rubens – by Sam Dillemans

“That’s where I left Rubens. Most important is that you first embrace Rubens, you get deep under his skin, and you study him. That’s what I did when I was young: the thigh muscles, the calf muscles, the calf bones, the ankle joints, etc.”

“I was drawing like crazy on Rubens, and Holbein, and all old masters, to be able to leave them when I really knew them.”

anna-pavlova

“Like Anna Poplova – the great dancer – said:

Master technique

then forget about it

and be natural.

cezane-apples

Paul Cézanne – Still life with apples

“The most important is how you paint, not what you paint (Jesus or Maria, etc). You can do the same with apples or radishes. Cézanne changed the history of art with just some apples. “

“For me form is the most important.”

“I started very realistically, and ended in a very abstract way. I have the tendency to always start very faithfully to reality. Not goody-goody realistic, but very recognizable. But always with a certain “schwung”, my own “schwung”, my own signature.”

“And then I leave that realism. After five years that then ends in structured chaos. It ends in calculated arbitrariness, quite chaotic. And that happens in a very natural way. I never have to force myself. I just follow my nature.”

Then Ozark and Sam in a conversation on trends:

“These days, you don’t need to be able to read musical notes. You don’t need to know anything. You make music by intuition.”

“You have to be creative as from the age of seven. How can one be creative without “métier”? It is métier that makes you free. If you have a lot of métier, and you have suddenly an idea, then you don’t need to think “how do I make this?” or “What am I doing?”.

“Métier makes it possible to follow your impulse. Because your whole body is trained for it.”

“Métier is the great luxury

to be a free human being.”

“When Picasso draws seven lines at the age of 85, then those lines are building on 75 years of study and knowledge”. If we draw those lines, we risk missing the ball.”

“The three great artists are Dostojewski for literature, Van Gogh for painting, Mozart for music. But Mozart can again be considered as cliché, and that’s not considered alright anymore.”

“These days, you have to come up with a strange name from Georgia or whatever, somebody nobody ever heard about. You are not allowed anymore to be normal in your taste or preferences.”

The programme ends with a musical pairing with the famous Krug champagne.

caves_couleur-krug

Kruge Champagne cellars

“The creation of Krug is very musical. It is a house where the founder had a dream. He wanted to create every year the richest symphony of champagnes. The approach of the house is a musical approach. We listen to each little vineyard, like a musical director listens to the orchestra.”

“A grand cuvée is like a music score”

“The art is in the experience: you enter the ballroom, the orchestra is getting installed and starts to play, everything is there, and there it is, and you live the moment. Like Tsjaikowski’s 6th symphony in b-minor: the way the music score opens all the colors of the orchestra and you discover. Like a room that opens, and you discover all the colors, all the nuances, and a total experience.”

It made me think about a comment by Fabian about the last Innotribe Sibos edition: “Peter created his 9th Symphony, and day-1 was his Allegro”. But creating one’s 9th symphony is at time a lonely place.

“But what makes you lonely,

makes you radical.”

What if in our professions, in our “Métiers”, we would all adhere to these highest standards? And be radical in the quality and total experience we aim for?

What if we would always compare ourselves to the great artists, and get motivated through a constant healthily frustration?

Instead of putting the bar of mediocrity to the best common denominator, as illustrated in so many industry “benchmarks”.

What would happen then?

We would delight the customer with mastery and mystery.

Like great art can put a knife in the eye.

Building on the shoulders of giants,

With your own signature.

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