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Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category

still life Song Han

Still life by Song Han

The trigger for this post was an article on the nexxworks site about right & wrong in corporate innovation. The first paragraph focuses on the need to obsess on solving a customer problem. My friend and ex-colleague Kevin commented via LinkedIn:

“Fantastic article! I’ve been banging on for years about starting with the problem, that people care about but this is so much more articulate than me.”

We started a quick exchange on LinkedIn:

linkedin with kevin

The nexxworks article is about much more than problem solving, but problem-solving is what I will be focusing on in this pamphlet/manifesto for creating what you want. As that is where I am coming from.

Not being problem focused seems almost a blasphemy these days. But we don’t realise we have been mis-framed for decades to be problem solvers and solutionists (“there is an app for that”).

It already happens in start-up pitches to start with. Start-ups are coached to pitch in a standard way. It goes back to Guy Kawasaki’s 10 slides to pitch: start with the problem, what is the solution, the team, the business model, etc, etc.

There are the Maddlibs to perfect your one-sentence-pitch. There even are Maddlibs to generate your strategy statement, based on a collection of blah-words (Thx to @swardley).

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Everything is “modelled” and vocabulary is standardised: we need MVP’s, lean start-ups, scale-ups, etc. It’s cool, but you then have to explain this new vocabulary to the rest of your troops.

Everything is “role-modelled”. And we get inspired by always the same use cases: Haier, Semco, Apple, Amazon, Uber, etc. We don’t seem to realise that these are exceptions. Only exceptions make the news. The exceptional is normalised, check out hyper-normalisation of Adam Curtis, albeit in another context.

“In the film, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up on the complex “real world” and built a simple “fake world” that is run by corporations and kept stable by politicians.”

Everything is based on a Silicon Valley solutionist style, a reactive/responsive orientation, something our MBA’s and entre/intra-preneurs and leaders/managers have been trained for at nauseum: define the problem, articulate the solution, make a plan to execute, execute the plan with rigor, and be effective and efficient in doing so.

It may be a style semantic. Ex-Trump-PR-guy Sarramuci said: “you may dislike his (Trump’s) style, but he is very effective.” But one can be very effective at doing the wrong thing. One can be very effective at being a problem solver.

I think it’s more than about style. We have become so politically correct. To please everybody, we say things like “It’s probably a bit of both”. That way, confusion about the real intention creeps in. I say we must be opinionated, and we must be judgemental, we must choose sides.

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We say those politically correct things because we don’t have skin in the game. Read Nicholas Taleb’s latest on that subject. For that reason Taleb hates consultants, professors at high schools, some managers and executives, and by extension heads/consultants of innovation. They can say whatever they want, it has no consequences, at least not for their existence or that of the organisation they represent.

I recently heard Nektarios Liolios from Startupbootcamp venting his frustrations on stage, as all the innovation efforts of the last decade have apparently not changed much, or at least not shipped anything substantial. They even start bypassing heads of innovation and innovation teams in general, as they are more and more seen as barriers between customers and the business units. They want to solve real business problems.

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Innovation Powerhouse Philips Eindhoven – Architect Janne van Berlo
A renovation respecting the building's patrimonial structure.

But I am afraid that a focus on real business problems won’t help. The only way to enable real change and lasting innovation is changing the structure of an organisation.

Structure is about more than reporting lines and P&L units. Structure is about the coherence of narrative, motives, and governance.

  • The narrative is about purpose, about patrimony (tacit knowledge), “just-do-it” kind of mantra, action oriented. A narrative is rallying the troops to play the game in a certain way, in a certain context. In war, the game is to win. In business, I would hope it’s about more than winning a finite game, and there is some sense of moral, aesthetical and spiritual advancement, an infinite game across generations.
  • Motives are about why we are doing this. There are primary/primal motives like prestige, promotion, reciprocity and tic-for-tac rewards/punishments. Once you add moral, aesthetical, and spiritual advancement, you are driven by second level motivations that have to do with care, tradition, craftsmanship, beauty, proportion, etc. In that sense, I believe that problem solving is a primal motivation. A more advanced intention of creating something great is a second level motivation. So the question should not be “what problem are you trying to solve?” but “what do you truly want to create?” If not, “solving problems” becomes a doctrine, just like “customer first” is a doctrine, or “FNAO”, or “Lean” or “Agile”. Applied across the board without thinking whether it makes sense. Being effective at doing the wrong thing.
  • Governance is about how you organise and coordinate high quality flows to play the game in context. This is what real leadership is about. In that sense, innovation is a discipline. And there is nothing wrong with discipline. All great things/products/artworks have been a result of discipline. It is about “getting things done”. Jan Chipchase has an awesome fieldbook and practice for revealing – usually in plain sight – real customer needs. He articulates these needs as “desires on getting things done”. “Getting things done” is something quite different than “solving a problem”.

Artists don’t solve problems. Neither do real innovators. Did the iPhone start with solving a problem? Did Amazon ? Did Facebook? I don’t think so. They started with what they wanted to be, and what they wanted to create. They started with structure, if anywhere at all. But not with the problem.

A customer is IMO not looking for a problem to be solved. A customer is looking for a superior experience.

With that perspective, one could ask “Can organisations change?” to make that happen?  Or “Can people change?” and the more critical question, “Why would people change?”

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Sheep in boxes - drone photograph by Dean Lewins

The answer again is structure. Change the structure, and change will not be hard, it will be natural.

That’s why the whole idea of the dual approach (separation castle/sandbox, or core/innovation) is flawed. It is the wrong structure.

The preferred structure would probably more resemble a Khasbah or Souks, an open city plan with many innovation cells/areas with maximum transparency for all, so that everybody is inspired and motivated to join those projects too. And “brutal force” (see below).

It’s a paradox of course. Already in 2002, Storey & Salaman said in their Theories about Process of Innovation:

“paradox is at the heart of innovation. The pressing need for survival in the short term requires efficient exploration of current competencies and requires ‘coherence, coordination and stability’; whereas exploration / innovation requires the discovery and development of new competencies and this requires the loosening and replacement of these erstwhile virtues”

Problem-solving is like design thinking: it is fundamentally conservative and preserving the status quo.

“Rational-experimental problem solving begins with a presumption that the search for a solution starts by relying on existing data about the problem. Design thinking, in a slight divergence from the original model, suggests instead that the designer herself should generate information about the problem, by drawing on her experience of the people who will be affected by the design through the empathetic connection that she forges with them”

Remains the question: can it be done in a big or conservative organisation? Yes, of course. And it is done through what I would call the “brutal force attack”. It is the only thing I have seen working in a bigger organisation to actually SHIP innovation into the market and seeing it picked-up by a substantial part of the target customer base.

The brutal force attack requires two things:

  • A visionary that is able to articulate in a compelling way what he/she wants to create (and it does NOT start with the problem to be solved). Often this person is somewhat hidden in the fabric/structure of the organisation
  • A CxO, usually a CEO with metaphorical balls who will do whatever it takes to make the vision happen. With skin-in-the-game. Even against some part of his/her executive team and/or against part of the Board. His/her position may be at risk. He/she is committed like a pig. (For an omelet with bacon, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed)

You then build a team to make this happen. A squad of the best of best in your company. And the project lead has a direct red telephone line to the CEO to call in case somebody puts barriers or antibodies to make the vision happen. Usually, it suffices just to threaten to pick up the red phone…

It can be as simple as that: just do it. Just build and ship what you want to create.

If you want to have some romanticised innovation story to go with it, sure, go ahead and organise start-up competitions, create innovation labs, bootcamps, accelerate, incubate, and make a lot of noise and corporate communication about it. Just be aware they are a lot of fun, give a lot of exposure, prestige, and status, but are not needed.

That’s why my mantra is “To inspire other people to dream”. To dream and imagine what they truly want to create.

Like in this Nike promo:

Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.

Don’t buy the tyranny of the problem solver. Don’t settle to be a problem solver.

Create what you really want.

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Here is my Sep 2018 update. On what happened the last couple of months, some new insights, some updated plans.

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© Petervan Performance “Get out of your prison cell” – Sep 2018
Picture by Eduardo Morales

Many people ask me what I am doing, and I usually answer “nothing”. But if you look at the overview below, there is not yet something close to “nothing”.

The luxury of time and silence has given me the possibility to let emerge and mature some concepts that were brewing inside me for quite some time.

My ambition has not changed: to inspire other people to dream. Not “realise” their dreams, or realise their potential, but just “dream”. It’s a mantra, like Guy Kawasaki’s two-words mantra “Empower others”. Mine is a five-words.

And I think I have found a way – a tactic – to articulate that ambition. The tactic of a “job”. In that sense, I think my job is to create “Time Capsules”. These are interventions, interruptions and provocations that lead to higher states of alertness and aliveness. Formats can be artwork, installations, performances, immersive learning experiences, writings, soundscapes, recordings, documentaries, arrangements, compositions, or just casual conversations that resonate at another level than the pure cognitive.

It seems it took me two years to peel the old corporate skin and re-invent myself into something more artistic and closer to my real self.

Family

Life is rippling slowly onwards with some small and some bigger family events.

Astrid is back at school, 2nd year secondary school. She went on summer camp at Lago Trasimeno in Italy. She struggled over summer and still now with an ingrown toenail, and like the other toe, it will probably require surgery. She started horse riding lessons, as well as trampoline and tumbling courses at the local athletic club. In addition she stays very creative, alert and energetic with a good sense for aesthetics.

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Astrid horse riding and appreciating contemporary art - summer 2018

Mieke turned 50 in May, but she doesn’t seem to age (I will score some points with this one). She keeps being super-patient with this unpredictable guy, and makes sure I don’t get out of the house like a vagabond. She keeps us tidy 😉

Our father in law made a nasty fall from the stairs in his house and broke his wrist. Out for the next 4 months or so.

And we lost our dear uncle Toon, who was also my godfather. He’d grown old, the body was used up, but his mind was still alert when he passed away quietly in the presence of his wife and children. Farewell, my dear uncle…

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Uncle Toon passed away
The old Marian pilgrimage church of Ver-Assebroek near Bruges

The Artschool Project

The 2018-2019 season of the Ghent Art Academy restarted in September, entering my 4th year painting. I initially tried to get a cross-over year combining painting with digital media, but that did not work out for the academy. So, no cross-over, and it’s probably better for me to keep it simple, and to focus on doing one thing right.

Despite the ambitious plans for summer, I have not done any painting/sketching during summer, but improved a bit my video editing and soundscape creation skills in preparation for the performance.

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My new spotless spot at the start of the 2018-2019 Art Academy year

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©Petervan Artwork 2018 – Landscape #1 – Acryl on canvas – 100x120cm

Prison cell performance

Finnovista invited me to do a performance at the Finnovista Summit in Mexico-City on 12-13 Sep 2018. I was invited last year, but the event needed to be cancelled halfway due to the 7,4 magnitude earthquake on 19 Sep 2017. So the organizers were so kind to invite me again.

The working title of the performance was “Get out of the prison cell! – An artistic reflection on listening, learning, and leading”

Petervan Performance moving walls

@Petervan Performance 2018 – Peter moving prison walls

I already documented the overall narrative in my “Get out of your prison cell!” post.

This time – in addition of the multi-media approach – I included props on stage, a life camera feed, even some vestimentary attributes like suite, hats and masks, and a lightning script for the light technician.

Here is a link to the slide-deck I used during the performance

As soon as the video and (professional) pictures of the performance will be available, I will post them here.

PLACEHOLDER OFFICIAL VIDEO/PICS

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It was a fantastic experience preparing, executing, and getting feedback on something I wanted to do for the last two years. I felt at home on stage in this new vulnerability, an encouragement to continue on this new journey.

Many thanks to Andres Fontao and Fermin Bueno and their Finnovista team for taking the risk of letting me do this.

Time Capsules Project

There is something new brewing: a sort of documentary starting with a navigator and a spark. It is an evolution of the Studio Oxygen idea, and working title is “Petervan’s Time Capsules”. This project is also somehow a natural continuation/evolution of the performance project.

Time Capsules are encounters with an interesting person. Open ended expeditions, with no agenda. The purpose is to scratch beyond the surface, to go under the skin of the guest, to appeal to his/her unconscious beyond the cognitive. The spark – the start of the journey – for each Time Capsule is a tangible artistic object (painting, sculpture, clothing, music, poem, dance,…). The spark sparks a high quality conversation – where information can flow freely. This conversation is guided and facilitated by an expert and/or a professional facilitator and leads to a found learning (vs. searched learning). This learning is recorded, edited, produced, and externalised in a new tangible artistic object (painting, visualisation, sculpture, clothing, music, poem, dance, video, ) and thereby made shareable for internalisation by an audience.

A more in-depth blog post is cooking in the kitchen on that one.

The first Time Capsule will be an art-historical dissection/critique/buildup of Beyoncé’s latest APESH*T video. One could call it “Beyond Beyoncé’s Apeshit”.

The aesthetics in the video are great, and the background of the Louvre museum gives it some extra credibility, but from an art historical point of view, it is all plain wrong and misleading. S**t sold as culture.

My cousin Joost will be our navigator for this first Time-Capsule. Joost is Senior Curator at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels. He is also the Co-Founder and Project Leader of the international multidisciplinary Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project (JVDPPP) and the Project Leader for the establishment of the visitors centre at the Brueghel House, Brussels.

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My cousin Joost and JVDPPP team in Lazienki Krolewskie Museum in Warsaw

The second Time Capsule is planned on the immense property of a count and countess in Austria. It’s a documentary of two very wealthy people who still live in a very traditional way in the Austrian Alps. A real time machine expedition resulting into another time capsule. Also here, Joost will be our navigator.

We have some cool ideas for our next guests and navigators. But by no means, if you have an idea for a subject, guest, or navigator, please contact me via email.

Little Drops

The Silence-is-Broken Project (see previous update) resulted in some more silence-scapes.

@Petervan Silence-Scape 2018 - The sound of grazing cows

I am also experimenting with an alternative calendar: A year would start on 27 April, a week would be 11 days, the 11th day is a rest day, a month has 7 weeks, and we have 17 months.

How would a year look/feel like? How would you plan for it? How does that change your priorities? How more/less stressed would you be? How much stress/pressure would you get from normal-calendar-people?

Exhibitions

There are not so many art exhibitions during summer. The season really restarts mid September.

I went to one very small exhibition, titled “Gemeubelde Kamers/Furnished Rooms”, in Ressegem (Herzele) of all places, truly Flanders centre for the arts. It had works from Pirò Pallaghy and Luc Degryse.

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Combined artwork by Pirò Pallaghy and Luc Degryse in Herzele, Sep 2018

Chickens and Pigs Project

With such an exceptionally warm and sunny summer, our garden was a real treat.

We enjoyed our first organic harvest of salads, tomatoes, carrots, spices and herbs. The fruit trees just did fantastic. One of our apple trees gave us more than 1,000 apples. We gave away a lot for free to our neighbours and family.

Unfortunately, the hot weather also had its consequences for the chickens. They were plagued with blood lice, and we tried to battle those terrible insects in natural and not so natural ways. The battle will continue till deep in autumn, when temperatures will get consistently below 10°C.

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One of our apple trees gave us more than 1,000 red apples – Summer 2018

Finding interesting work

All the above is non-paid work (more play than work to be honest), and something needs to pay the bills at the end of the month. Maybe one day a company or institution wants to be a patron of my work.

But I am standing two feet on the ground, and finding a job is probably a more realistic option.

So, I am looking for “job(s)”, more along the lines of what I did before in events (immersive learning experiences) and/or what I am doing now (using art in support of content) or other interesting work.

So, if you know of somebody who can use my talents, please contact me via email.

Eternal gratitude will be your reward.

What’s next?

The plan for Sep – Nov 2018 is to work on:

  • Finding interesting paid work
  • V1 of “Time Capsules”
  • Paint, Paint, Paint
  • Publish my first fairytale – surprise !

So, that’s it for this edition. If there is something worth reporting, next update is for Nov-Dec 2018.

Warmest,

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This is an essay (longer read) about maps. There is no big message, no purpose, no call for action, none of that. Just recording and documenting of some reflections about maps. I don’t know where it came from. Suddenly I had enough notes to try to make something coherent out of it. Hope you enjoy the trip.

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Modern Biking App Map – Notice point #27 – Denderbelle Lock

The theme of maps maybe emerged from my biking tours. Or from my recent tendency to do recordings: soundscapes – of probably better “silence-scapes” – of broken silence in nature. A sort of witnessing and documenting what was at that moment.

Maybe it emerged in preparing my upcoming performance for Finnovista in September: one of the themes is “learning” and I found that quality of observing says more about learning than teaching. So I used maps as a metaphor.

Maybe I am still intrigued by Simon Wardley’s situational awareness maps, which are all about observing, and mapping out position and movement.

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Simon Wardley - example of situational awareness map

Position on a map is often about geographical location and relations. But there is also the position in time: what was, what is, what can be. And like there is position of location, there is also position in time.

The time element hit me when I was bicycling along the river “Dender” and made a pit stop at the lock of Denderbelle. It’s a relatively small lock, and you can still walk over the doors of the lock to the other side of the river.

There I found this map on a tourism panel:

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Old map of the area Aalst-Dendermonde – before 1769

Before 1769, the Dender was a meandering river that was very difficult to manoeuvre for ships. It was Charles de Lorraine – at that time Duchy of Brabant, Austrian Netherlands – who gave the order to straighten the meanders and build two new locks. Today, the river feels more like a canal that goes almost straight from Aalst to Dendermonde. It has a very well maintained towpath along silent borders, which makes it a nice bike trip.

Close to the lock, there is still the old ferry house, now inhabited by an artist. There was a chain pulling the ferry from one side to the other. Even today you can still see the stairs on the shore where people boarded.

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Denderbelle ferryhouse – Anno 1915

Maps as documents of past ways of living. Thanks to Richard Martin and Mark Storm, I discovered the Maps of Days by Grayson Perry.

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Map of Days by Grayson Perry – 2013 – Etching 111.8 × 149.9 cm

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Video with the artist Grayson Perry

‘A self-portrait as a fortified town, the wall perhaps my skin. Each day I worked on it I finished by marking the point with the date to highlight the passage of time in the production of art to reflect the forming and reforming of one’s identity. The ‘self’ I think is not a single fixed thing but a lifelong shifting performance. My sense of self is a tiny man kicking a can down the road.’

Grayson Perry

The map is an awesome alternative way to document one’s life. Richard Martin arguments that the question “what is your map” probably gives better answers on who you are than asking “What do you do?” or asking for your linear CV or portfolio:

In the Map, Perry presents his complex personality and plural identity in the form of a walled city. Streets, buildings and other locales represent personal traits and behaviours, indicating a self-exploration that embraces both the positive and the negative, that poses questions, as well as providing answers, binding together truth and fiction. At the centre of Perry’s map is a labyrinthine garden, in which a figure walks, off-centre, pursuing ‘a sense of self’. Each time I look at the Map, either in a gallery or online, I question how my own version would differ from Perry’s. What words would I choose? What images?”

The same applies with the question “where do you come from?”. Should one say “a Chinese artist” or “an artist from China”? If you say “a Chinese artist” then you place the work of the artist in an ethnographic bubble, a cultural bubble. But when you talk about an artist coming from somewhere, you just connect the artist with a geographical starting point. I prefer the latter.

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Map of Total Art by Qiu Zhijie – Ink on Paper – c. 5m length!

The work of Qiu Zhijie is fascinating. Check out this video interview with him and curator Davide Quadrio about the exposition ‘Qiu Zhijie: Journeys without Arrivals’ that was shown from 1 april – 24 september 2017 in the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.

One year later, this video still resonates with me, so I made a full transcript of it, some extracts below:

Qiu Zhije is an artist, and he is producer, teacher, student, curator. He is a Master with capital “M” in Calligraphy. He is one of the most respected calligraphers in China.

As from 2010, I started drawing maps. If somebody asks me who I am, I answer I am a cartographer. Drawing maps is close to art, organizing exhibitions, teaching and researching. It is also writing. I feel it is a very multi-faceted way to show my talents as calligrapher.

qiu map and child

For me, maps are a source of knowledge at arms’ length distance, knowledge you do not acquire on the field, but from the sky, like a bird’s eye perspective. Then you can move that knowledge on a flat surface, to understand the correlations between what belongs together. Things should not be understood individually, but in the context of their relation to each other. So maps have a lot of influence. Making maps is a way to re-establish the integrity of the world because they illustrate the correlations on how everything relates to each other.

Teaching has always been an important part of my life. By teaching I keep learning. I continue to actualize and renew myself. Although teaching takes a lot of time, it is never a loss of time. On the contrary, it allows me to learn. That’s why I define teachers as those who organize the process of learning”. I like to teach about things I don’t know much about. I like subjects that I am highly interested in, so we can dig deep to know more.

His work is extremely free of themes, but also so encyclopedic. And so easy to connect with the idea of museum as a collection of objects and things. At the same time, his work is also able to crush this idea of objects and really enter into a world of fantasy.

Maps are models. Maps mark the land, they are landmarks. They document the “land-scape”, as a sound-scape documents the sounds.

Artist Andrew Pekler even created a sonic map of phantom islands.

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Phantom Islands – By Andrew Pekler – online experience, turn sound “on”

Andrew Pekler explains:

“The sweet spot for me is when a piece I have made can be simultaneously heard as both a field recording and as a completely composed, synthetic construct,”

Making maps is a sort of learning, a form of in-the-field-research and observation. Sharing with others what I am seeing, give context, some sense of coherence of position and direction/movement, and with some suggestions for maneuvering.

But in my case it is making pictures, writing and composing and creating a body of work from each trip. Field recordings, sound- and image-scapes like maps, at times creating a bizarre alienating, almost David Lynch kind of atmosphere, trying to resonate at another and additional level than the pure cognitive.

In that sense, I feel my current (art)work is getting closer to my real self, helps me to untether my soul, act as a witness, getting closer to alertness. With crispness, organic textures, precise rhythms,…

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Natures Heartbeat – Online animation of earth’s heartbeat

In that sense, I am still doing the same as during my time as event curator. But the work is becoming more a documentary, a map, a set of interventions, interruptions and provocations that hopefully lead to higher states of alertness and aliveness.

Some kind of heartbeat that maps your open mind, heart, and will into a broader context.

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PS: Mark Storm suggested I add the Buckminster Füller Dymaxion Map. He is right! How could I – as a true Bucky fan – have missed this one? 😉

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Also an interesting link via Mark Storm on this Bucky topic.

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Alea iacta est

My sabbatical has come to an end, and I left SWIFT on amicable terms mid Jan 2018.

I also decided to drop the whole idea of Petervan “Productions” and killed the related website. It just simplifies a lot. The “Productions” branding of my work confused people more than anything. I am not in the event business; my work is more about artistic experiences. I am not running a company. Just a guy on his own, cranking out some stuff that sometimes people find interesting (or not).

I will continue my journey now as a free agent to do “interesting” stuff. Here is an open invitation: let’s talk about what “interesting” means and surprise each other!

“What I want to do is make situations where we’re all slightly at sea because people make their best work when they are alert. I’m now 68, so I might have another 15 to 20 years left – talking about my history. So, given the little time I’ve got left on this planet, I would really love to focus on some of the new things I’m doing.” (Brian Eno)

I am not 68 yet, but I feel the same desire not to talk about the past but to focus on the new things I discovered during my sabbatical, and to help you make your best work.

"Celui qui tombe" by Yoann Bourgeois
Dance performance with music “My Way” by Frank Sinatra

 

The Artschool project

I am really enjoying my time at the Art Academy in Ghent (KASK), and love the freedom and feedback from my mentors Chris, Koen, Inge, Marie-Ange, and Annique.

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Prison Window – Art installation by Robert Gober - 1992

 

I also found a theme to work on for the rest of the academy year. The theme is labeled “Hot dogs tonight” and the inspiration was an art installation “Prison Window” by Robert Gober.

I will work on a series of very abstract artworks and installations based on a minimalistic geometrical interpretation of that window. Here is my basic shape to start from, and a first painting exploring this meme:

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Petervan concept interpretation of Prison Window – 2018

 

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Petervan artwork – Hot Dogs Tonight #1 – 2018 – Acryl on canvas – 120x40cm

 

I did an impromptu Skype presentation about this project to a friend in San-Francisco, and I was amazed how the work seems to be an open invitation to have a conversation about what it means to be a full person and not only a reputation or influence. Ping me if you’d also like a run-through of the plans for “Hot Dogs Tonight”.

This project can keep me busy for quite some time, and to make sure the thing does not become an obsession or pain in the neck, something that I have to do, I will still produce in parallel some more figurative work.

The Poem project

Several poems written over the last couple of months, but for this edition of Petervan’s update, here is a really a short one, just two lines:

I dreamt I was reading a book of dreams,

and forgot where and why I was

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Five trends for humanistic advancement

I found it a good moment to condense my sabbatical thinking into a couple of levers that could enable high quality advancement for a humanist future.

To drill down, click the appropriate link. There is also a self-contained version on the site of Humanworks Design. Thanks to Rudy for having me.

Any of the trends described could evolve in a good or bad direction, but as an optimist, I chose for the path of “advancement” vs. the path of decline and degradation.

The Performance project

The organisers of FinnoSummit kindly invited to do the premiere of my performance as the closing keynote for their Miami event on 9 Oct 2017.

To give you an idea of the storyline and subject covered, here is a link to the slides:

 

The keynote performance also includes self-composed and performed live music, poetry, soundscapes and other artwork. To have an idea about some of the soundscapes, here is a snippet of a very long self-composed ambient that I use while the audience walks into the room, purposefully called “Opening Walkin”: http://soundcloud.com/peter-vander-auwera/opening-walkin The snippet is about 40 seconds long, the real thing lasts for 29 minutes.

Thank you Andres and Fermin for letting me do this.

The Pigs & Chickens Project

This is just a moniker for my garden project. I know of a friend who years ago left corporate life to start a pig farming business. True story 😉 But my wife said no to pigs, so we’ll have chickens instead.

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Tatooed Pig Jamie by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye - 2005

 

Besides spending more time in my kitchen garden and orchard, I plan to be more in nature in general. So expect some more pictures of my bike rides in the country of the Flemish Primitives.

The Studio Oxygen project

Being in nature is also about taking in more oxygen. I am running a small on-line collective that (un)regularly comes together online to discuss a seed that I have planted. Sometimes we’re ten people in the call, sometimes nobody shows up. The conversations are very unstructured and open-ended, like with no agenda, but they generate all sorts of inspiring thoughts and ideas, and people seem to like these sparks of inspiration and refer to them as “oxygen for the mind”.

Oygen Bar

So I plan to experiment with some formats to create a platform letting people share the interesting stuff and ideas they are up to.

What’s next?

During Jan – Mar 2018, the plan is to work on:

  • Pigs & Chickens Project
  • Hot Dogs Tonight
  • Studio Oxygen
  • More artwork
  • Whatever feels interesting and comes naturally into my flow

 

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Petervan artwork – Early pre-study for concert hall – Jan 2017 – Acryl on sketch paper – format A4

 

That’s it for this edition. If there is something worth reporting, next update is for Apr 2018. Looking forward to hearing from your latest adventures as well.

And if you have an idea to do something interesting together, please contact me.

Warmest,

petervan-signature

 

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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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The White House Gallery in Lovenjoel - Belgium

Last friday was the last official school day of this season’s art school. On this wonderful summer afternoon, we went for an excursion to the exhibition of the work of Greet Van Autgaerden, in the White House Gallery.

The white villa used to be part of the complex “Groot Park”, initially a holiday property of the family de Spoelberch , one of the richest families of Belgium, and currently main shareholder of the InBev brewery imperium.

Maximiliaan de Spoelberch had a passion for dendrology (the scientific study of trees) – everybody needs a hobby – and create on the site one of the most unique collections of exotic trees in Europe.

In 1915, the land and property was gifted to KUL (University of Leuven), who rented it to the “Sisters of Love” in 1926, who set up a psychiatric hospital for women “Salve Mater”.

End of the 90’ies most hospital units were integrated into the University Hospital of Leuven. These days, real estate developers are transforming the main buildings into luxury apartments.

The white villa, was the residence of the Sisters of Love, and it was sold together with 11 hectacres of land to the current owners of the White House, who completely restored it and created a fantastic art gallery (RSVP only).

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Point of View #10 - Greet Van Autgaerden - Oil/Canvas - 200*130cm - 2016

I was not only baffled by the great artwork of Greet Van Autgaerden – exposed over four different floors – but also by the stillness of the building, the great care of the restoration, and the hospitality of the owners Bert & Elly.

The title of the expo was “Point of View” as most of the works from Greet Van Autgaerden are landscapes. There was a great welcome-text by Hans Martens describing her work (abstract below):

Greet Van Autgaerden knows that a good painting is always kind of an ambush, and she enjoys luring us, as viewers, into her trap. I cannot shake off the impression that she too perceives the canvas as a “battlefield”, an arena in which she wrestles with the demons of painting – not in a romantic, tormented way, but in one that is analytical and acute, and which takes careful account of the various possibilities of an image. It reminds me more of the British approach, as exemplified by Constable, than the Germanic Sturm und Drang.

The visit made me reflect about what i want, in the true artistic creative-orientation sense, not in the BAU daily reactive/responsive tactics on how to solve a particular problem, which more and more drives us collectively into a solutionalist society, with superficial contacts and interventions, never even coming close to deep and inspired work.

In the middle of these first world reflections, I bumped into this wonderful object:

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Christoph Fink, The Montreal Walks (12 254,94 km, 195 h 30’51"), 
space and time disc, 2008. Ceramics, diameter 47cm.

 

+++ text by Joëlle Tuerlinckx – artist +++

While journeying by foot, bike and aeroplane, Christoph Fink gathers and transforms precise data through a unique notation system, and his clay and ceramic discs spring from this process. This study is sustained by research into the different periods of earth’s evolution, its ecosystem and geography as shaped by the political. It leads to a representation of the globe, or, more precisely, a representation of the globe’s space-time (the central void embodies space-time to come). The clay ball is fashioned according to detailed calculations, and engraved with ‘moments of knowledge’. I’m amazed by the way Fink manages to convey his vast research and his exceptionally rich understanding of the world with such minimal means. Like me, he’s fascinated by the complexity of reality, in which he finds beauty and rebellion.

Fink’s works defy categorisation, they stand somewhere between cartography, music, sculpture, drawing, and evoke a time where painter and geographer were one and the same person (the geographer’s job was still be invented). The amount of work that forms the basis of his practice is truly admirable, because so rare today. His numerous studies, sketches, researches and notations demonstrate a total commitment, every day renewed, and miles away from the art world system, with its fairs, galleries, museums … Fink builds his own vision of the world, one which is radically ethical, political, poetical, and directed only towards more freedom. This artist was for me an obvious choice because of his ethics, so urgently needed. May they inspire many others to find and further their own artistic journeys.

+++ text by Joëlle Tuerlinckx – artist +++

I found many more images of Christoph Fink’s work by a simple google search. If you do so as well, you will find many field notations like the one below.

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Christoph Fink notations of a field trip

I love the concept of “field notations”, and never realised you could push the concept so far and in so much detail. And it is not about the destination, but the journey itself. Also labelled “trajectories” by Kevin Kelly in his latest book “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future”, when describing “Protopia”, the mild process and progress, as opposed to Utopia and Dystopia.

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It also made me think of a quote by Kristien van Looveren from 2009 (seen at the expo about architect Christian Kieckens, i just got in the last day last week in De Singel in Antwerp):

“Beauty comes from precision”

The works of Greet Van Autgaerden, Christoph Flink, Kevin Kelly, and my teacher Ann Grillet are ongoing inspirations in my quest for purpose and what i will do next.

Compared to those masters, I am such a newbie. Which also gives me the right and freedom to not knowing the norms, and therefor not even knowing how to respect them. That’s of course a false excuse for having a year-end academy scratch book, that not even gets close to any of the beauty I could witness this week-end.

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My scratch-book with "extensions" 
at the end of the first year art-academy painting

 

 

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End February, i had the opportunity to attend the “Socratic Design Workshop” in Cadaqués, 1 hour drive north of Barcelona, Spain.

From the Socrates website:

Socratic Design is a new learning method, incubating the generation of the best human future narratives by realising collective wisdom through the art of dialogue.

The exponential technological revolution cannot be incorporated in the old narratives build on coal and steel ideas. Centrality, hierarchy, ownership, secret information and monopolies are no longer guarded in this new tech culture.

The exponential technology era challenges our human creativity in an unseen way. We can only approach this huge potential of power with next level humanity awareness.

We need to reflect profoundly on our values, on our strong and weak points and above all on our implicit and hidden dreams of a human good life; safeguarded in hundreds years of literature, philosophy, human experiences, religions and other narratives.

We can only perform this if we leave behind our old school atomic thinking, using the strength of intense socratic dialogue, using personal experiences, reaching collective intelligence to jump into new frontier of thinking: exponential humanity.

One of the first exercises was to describe your “perfect day” ten years from now. That exercise was more confronting than i thought at first sight. Here is what i came up with. I deleted the detailed daily hour-by-hour agenda of the perfect day, in order not to bother you with too much tactical detail.

 

In 10 years time…

I will almost be 70

My wife almost 60

My daughter almost 20

Our parents will be gone

 

I have become a full time artist – creator – sensemaker

I sell my art, creations, sense-makings, and curations

I curate, selectively, choose my clients/guests

I only select/accept commissions that meet my quality standards of intention and intensity and ethics

 

I am connecting with the experts, the musicians, and artists of all kinds, to bring out the very best in them. I love to work & live with them, to show personal intent and integrity, so that others want to join my projects too.

 

My work has given room to a Foundation for better work (essence of work and deep change)

My work leads to delight, enjoyment, joy, pleasance, elegance, and maybe epicurism.

 

Enjoying the silence of the house and the morning

Writing, researching, and sense-making

Creating, scripting, painting, making sound- and word-scapes

Performing, Architecting rythms and connections

Good food and wine

Family time

Reading and sleeping

 

I am completely disconnected

Only take mails if announced by phone

My mobile can only take calls and sms

I have stopped tweeting, FB-ing,

Enjoying the physical and emotional silence

 

What I do does not scale

I focus on uniqueness, excellence

The beauty is in the perfection

 

I live in another house, with plenty of space, and annex atelier, maybe art gallery

On the country side, the humid heavy earth of Flanders,

Or in Spain, Toledo, Sevilla, in the middle of the heat of the plain fields

The crack in me, Dries van Noten, the tones of a Spanish Guitar, the dry hot summer heat and the shadow and olive trees

 

I have become a hermit

Nothing should or must

There is no time pressure whatsoever

I am in flow

Nothing needs to be proven

 

I am freed from desire

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