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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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I have a file on my computer called “Open Threads”. It’s a collection of reflections, thoughts, interesting articles, links etc. A sort of inspiration scratch book indeed, where many of my blog posts are emerging.

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Petervan Productions – Build up of art studio – Sep 2017

I am in the process of organizing my art studio (it still feels aseptic clean, as the floor, walls, pots, tables and canvasses still need to feel their first drop of paint). Now that I am more or less settled into our new home, I started opening up the different piles of notes, sketches, and also this Open Treads file. I  puts me in a state of fear and boredom, hungry for silence and serenity.

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Crete Senesi Festival Collegium Vocale - 2017 Edition

Browsing the inspiration scratch-book – listening to some heavenly polyphonic music by Collegium Vocale and dreaming away on their Crete Senesi Festival – I found back this interview of artist Philippe Vandenberg, interview by Hans Theys, a well known art critic and curator here in Belgium and beyond. I had the pleasure meeting Hans during his fireside chat with artist Hilde Overbergh in The White House Gallery some months ago, where we had a chat about bringing together art and business as part of Petervan Productions. I still have to followup on that conversation.

The interview is in Dutch, but is subtitled in English. I started to write the transcript of this interview, but then thought Hans may already have the full transcript. I asked, and indeed he has, and made it kindly available to me in both Dutch and English.

From the video description:

In this video we meet the artist Philippe Vandenberg in his studio in January 2009, a few months before his unexpected death. For 40 minutes the camera swerves through his studio, filming drawings, paintings, books, photographs and other objects scattered about while the artist is talking about his work.The central thought holds that Philippe Vandenberg considers himself to be a ‘witness for the prosecution’, which is described as ‘témoin à charge’ or ‘getuige ten laste’ in French and Dutch, implying a kind of ‘burden’. At the end of the film Vandenberg returns to this term and concept to characterise the artist Vincent Van Gogh.

I suggest to sit down and relax to view and listen to this interview. Some extracts that resonated with me:

  • I don’t call myself an artist. I consider myself more as a “Témoin à charge”
  • It is not about a theme. It is about an attempt.
  • Ultimately you can’t make anything without pleasure
  • I think boredom can function as a stimulating force. It’s a kind of latent masochism
  • A healthy dose of fear brings us into motion
  • Fear and boredom are surely twins
  • God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
  • What fascinates me is that the noise of an image is inaudible. Images are silent. I am very fond of silence. Of the absolute silence. The noise an image produces is an inner sound. It’s less exhausting… than a symphony.
  • When I hear one of Wagner’s symphonies on the public radio, those very long symphonies of 1-2 hours, I always wonder what he must have felt when he composed them.
  • I’m am fond of swiftness (“schichten”). I love rapidity. I also paint very fast, in swift phases. I am not a painter who tortures himself for hours.
  • If the painting doesn’t cooperate, I will say: “OK”… I will put it aside and finish it later.
  • “Delay of execution” is a wonderful tradition.
  • I think we need to be alert. To survive.
  • The restless eye. “L’oeil intranquil”
  • Everything can be useful
  • What is inspires us more than television? You have to watch the BBC of course. For otherwise you could start believing you live in the center of the world. Above all the atrocity of the media resides in the mixture of comic and inhumane aspects.

I love the idea of a different type of attention. Being alert. L’oeil intranquil. An attention and attitude to “try to rid of the ‘noise’ that inevitably arises in the transfer from one generation to the next, with utmost care and precision.”

This is the idea of “Prudent Radicalness”, so well articulated by Belgian writer Stefan Hertmans as part of his intro (PDF) to the 2017 season of Collegium Vocale and the 70th birthday of their Artistic Director Philippe Herreweghe.

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Philippe Herreweghe - Artistic Director and Conductor Collegium Vocale

“What is authentic is the attention to detail in the score, to understanding what is on the page – not so much all the vague idealistic notions about what the intention can be, but what is concretely expected of the performer from measure to measure. Of course this 
also assumes context – cultural context, historical context, an understanding of the framework in which a given musical idea developed – but its core remains an ascetic interest in the concrete, or even more so: an interest that refuses to appropriate the historicising intentions of the music…. It assumes subservience and sovereignty in one.’

Subservience and sovereignty, and the restless eye to stay alert, being a “Témoin à charge”, get rid of the noise, and let others see what we see. These are some good principles to take with me on the rest of my journey.

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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/

Acknowledgements:

Hans Theys (Brussels, °1963) is a Belgian art critic and curator. He has written some thirty books on contemporary art and has published numerous essays, interviews and reviews in books, catalogues and magazines. He has curated 35 exhibitions. He teaches at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and Ghent.

Transcript made possible and available thanks to the Vandenberg family and the Vandenberg Estate http://www.philippevandenberg.be/

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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.

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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

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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

 

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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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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.”

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.

petervan-signature_transparent_black_version2

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