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Archive for the ‘beauty’ Category

stael-apples

Nicolas de Staël – Five Apples – 1952

I am now one month into detailed scripting of my upcoming performance “Tin Drum is Back”. As mentioned in my last post, the narrative arc seems to be about evolving archetypes and levels of maturity.

In 2015, I was struck by lightning, by the work of fashion designer Dries Van Nooten. I wrote extensively about that experience here. It was the start of a more intense journey to let myself get touched by beauty, and to start experimenting with the creative orientation myself (Art academy, etc.)

Two years later, this 2015 expo is still resonating with me, and every time I tell the story of that experience, I get emotional, emotional like in tears of happiness and beauty. Happiness and bliss like a warm jelly feeling down your spine. I started paying attention to this emotion, opening myself to it, and wondering and exploring how it cracked me open (and very closed at other moments…)

Obviously, first thing that goes through mind, is the famous Leonard Cohen song “Anthem”, with the famous phrase:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering 

There is a crack, a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in.

How the light gets in…. But I started wondering how the light gets OUT… Like my skin would be lattice. Like the skin of this musallah.

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King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC)
Riyadh / Saudi Arabia. Architect’s rendering of the musallah. 
Image Credit: Zaha Hadid Architects

What is needed for somebody to crack open like this? To get rid of all the ballast, and to stand in full onlyness ànd vulnerability ànd feeling happy with the way that is?

Another more recent moment when the lightning stroke was on a Saturday morning, where by full coincidence I hit the video of “Wild is the Wind” by David Bowie as part of the “David Bowie last 5 years” BBC documentary:

 

Wild is the Wind” is the first song of this amazing concert that is worth watching every of its 60 minutes. However, when he sings and smiles “you’re life itself” (at 2:40 and 4:10) that’s when shivers go down my spine and tears start rolling. Every time again.

Why is this? What is happening to me? Is Tin Drum about finally daring to stand in fire and vulnerability? Of letting my “onlyness” coming OUT through the crack(s)? Instead of hiding in a Hannibal-like shadow of complexity and impenetrability?

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Film posters and book covers of Günther Grass' The Tin Drum

Cracking open seems to be about daring to stand in the fire, allowing the truth to come in and out, and allowing to loose myself and letting myself getting overwhelmed. It is about letting go of my masks, my defences.

Khurshed Dehnugara recently (my highlights) wrote about being overwhelmed in “cracking open”:

Being overwhelmed is something we are fearful of and at the same time can be helpful as we transition from one age to the next.

If our defenses are always solid, never breached, then the possibility of anything novel emerging is reduced. It often takes a moment of being overwhelmed before that part of us that we are defending can be seen. In the moment of being hurt, overloaded, caught out, tripped up or humiliated – we get a chance in those moments to see and work with the part of ourselves we spend the rest of our time enclosing in a protective shell.

As we spend time at the edges of what we know and can cope with, the container is strengthened.  When we can’t cope, the cracks can allow us to integrate an experience that has been shielded for a lifetime; but refuses to go away or stop causing problems in the rest of our lives. 

During my sabbatical, I am indeed spending time at the edges of what I don’t know and what I don’t know to cope with. At the edges of my existing communities, at the edges of new – more artistic – communities.

Also, the painting lets me re-discover the true meaning of being in the flow. But I have to get more clarity. Tell the story with fewer words, less images, less brush strokes, less gimmicks. I am trying to say too much. I am still trying too much to impress, not express.

“The more easy gimmicks, the more solid the content needs to be”, says my paint-coach Ann.

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Extract of Petervan painting “The Containers” in process – Feb 2017

So many metaphors between paint and real life. The longing for clarity of touch, pitch, colours, harmonies, and chords. But for now, still too much noise, both physically and mentally.

The sweet spot is where the crack is

where frequencies and overtones create the mystic.

What are your cracks? When was the last time you built defences against standing in the fire? When was the last time you put up a wall and defences against it? When was the last time you allowed the crack to put a spell on you to get in touch with your true self?

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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)

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“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.

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“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”.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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”

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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,

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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.

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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”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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“Like Anna Poplova – the great dancer – said:

Master technique

then forget about it

and be natural.

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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.

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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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Collection of artworks from my fellow students of the 2016 Art class

My good friend Alan Moore (@alansmlxl) from the flatlands of Cambridge recently published a great book on “Why beauty is key to everything” (Amazon Affiliates link).

Alan Moore book

It’s a great book, and as a teaser, here are some of my highlights out of the book:

Harmony, symmetry and maths all point to this atomic elegance.

A job well done is not based upon watching the clock or fighting time – but in giving oneself to the task

Their work transformed common objects into works of uncommon grace

I believe great work comes from a place of stillness where one’s focus is total on the action in hand, directed fully by the heart.

We need to open our senses to all that surrounds us

To be and to remain deeply intensely curious about our world is vital to original thinking, whereas the incurious face a rather dim future. To have a hungry heart and mind determines what it is we create

The interface with design is humanity

I don’t need to draw conclusions, I am happy for the thoughts to be half-formed but present

Do not work with people who don’t want beautiful, who wish to cut corners to increase profitability. Who, more dangerously, bring neither elegance nor grace to their work and their working environment, but the opposite.

The danger for the leader comes if you cannot truly love yourself. If you are at war with yourself then you will be unable to lead others with empathy and compassion. You may pretend – but you will always be found out

If you want more of this, Alan is organising on 27 Sep 2016 a workshop in London around the idea of, what would your business look like were it to be more beautiful?

Why should you come? You might be stuck in working out what direction to go in. Or seeking a more inspiring vision. Or trying to find new ways to make money. Or working out what your new technology can truly give to the world. You might be launching a precious new business, or working to rebuild an old one. Or a thousand other things besides. We will help you to:

  • See your work through a new lens
  • Get to grips with beautiful ways of making your business work better
  • Understand the value of beauty in designing experiences
  • See how beauty and utility can work together for success
  • Understand how great design is about the quality of your thinking, not the size of your wallet.

The gathering in a beautiful old church in Bishopsgate, London.  A remarkable space in the centre of skyscrapers.

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I read the book, and if the workshop is as good as the book, I strongly recommend it. More info about the event here. Enjoy

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