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Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category

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

red-pocket-leather-journal-the-book-of-dreams_1

 

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.

Tattooed Pig Jamie

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.

petervan-containers

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.

kelly

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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Way back in 2010, I wrote a post “Let me entertain you” inspired by one of Robbie Williams’ biggest hits. Some extract of the lyrics below:

Hell is gone and heaven’s here
There’s nothing left for you to fear
Shake your arse come over here
Now scream
I’m a burning effigy
Of everything I used to be
You’re my rock of empathy, my dear
So come on let me entertain you
Let me entertain you

Lyrics of "Let me entertain you" - Robbie Williams

I have evolved since then. The title of this post is inspired by a quote by Brian Eno in an interview in December 2015 with Steven Johnson about art, music, punch lines, and culture in general I would say.

 

“I don’t want to be entertained,

I want to be provoked.”

 

 

 

Here is the video on punch lines.

When I first read that interview, there was no transcript, so I transcribed it all myself (so I did not cut and paste from the site, and everything in this post is my own crunching through the story ;-). Now it’s all for grabs on Steven’s post.

I think Eno’s quote could be a great tagline for the way I think about “events”. I could do my Magritte trick here again and say “Ceci n’est pas un event”. As I have said so many times in the past:

“I am not in the events business. I am in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences”.

It’s about creating spaces and environments where people want to be provoked, not feeling comfortable, not being entertained. At the edge, but not beyond.

 

 

Exactly what architect Clive Wilkinson refers to in his talk “Designing The Theatre of Work”. There is indeed something (un)wise in this notion of “Theater of Work” or “Theatre of Change”. At min 11:30 of this video, he quotes:

“I don’t want people to feel comfortable, I want them to be provoked. I am not going to get great work out of people who are comfortable”

and also

“The architecture and the language of space is not something that is meant to make you go to sleep”

It’s only very recently that I realized the “creating high feedback loops and immersive learning thing” was only about the “how” and not about the “why” and “what” this is supposed to achieve.

I think I have a better hunch about that now: I believe it is about creating high quality change. Deep change. Not the Theatre of Change. Change that is in the first place based on high quality human alignment. Beyond the cognitive, and beyond the tactics of processes and governance. Beyond the illusion and entertainment of the innovation theatre.

I recently bumped into a colleague that is doing innovation work – or should I say theatre – for a big international automotive company. She was asked to give support in the design of a “disruption tour” that was organized for the members of the board in Silicon Valley.

I think we have all seen those disruption tours, where execs are flown into sunny California, get a week immersion, come back all excited as part of this elite club that got to see one or the other hotshot in the valley, and where the initial momentum ebbs away very quickly, usually already after two weeks, when we all go back to business as usual.

But the briefing for this tour was a bit different. She learned that the tour should not challenge any of the “what” and only focus on the “how”. So in other words: avoid in all circumstances that anything they will see and hear would challenge or disrupt their existing automotive strategy. What was asked for was “disruption without disrupting”. Or “Safe Innovation” as I read somewhere else this week.

In Hollywood this is called “entertainment”.

I kept delving in the Brian Eno’s story about entertainment vs. provocation, and found this audio ànd the transcript of the 27th Sep 2015 BBC John Peel Lectures with Brian Eno.

I am very much inspired by both Peel, who has this art of giving others “airplay” and Brian Eno, who really is a “curator d’excellence”, if you look back at what sort of magic mix of artists he brought together in his life, always remaining a “vanguard”, and his restless desire for discovering new places and more:

vanguard

“Vanguard” means forefront, advance guard, avant-garde. Has to do with seeing early signals, making sense of them. Not only seeing. Also building. Building something new. “World Building”.

World building, like the places children imagine. Like the emotional places where children imagine: who would not crave to be in that state all the time? In that sense, I believe my curation and events work is more and more about painting and architecting “states of mind”.

Happenstance that just this week @ribbonfarm had a fantastic post on this topic of “states of mind” titled “Productivity for precious snowflakes”

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Two identical snowflakes, via NYT

He is talking about multi-finality (and not multi-tasking) and about the interest in the quality of the experience (and not the mere outcome), and about the source of creative being in the past.

It’s encouraging to realize that many of the states of mind we seek are not “out there” somewhere, to be hunted down and consumed. They are states of mind belonging to our past selves — we wouldn’t crave it if we had never experienced it. We have to go backwards and remember what we once knew, not forwards to some perfected version of ourselves. What would you pay to experience child-like wonder for a day? To watch Star Wars Episode IV for the first time again? To have the ability to snap your fingers at any time and see your writing, your painting, your app with the fresh eyes of a novice?

“Flexing our mental muscles” by imagining new worlds, and “when people synchronize themselves together”, says Eno.

He also introduces the topic of “exhaustion”. I will come back to the theme of exhaustion in another post, as I think it is key to the kind of problems we try to tackle today.

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“We need ways to keep in synch, to keep coherent. That is what culture is doing for us.”

and

“Culture as a set of collective rituals to keep coherent, collective rituals that we are all engaged in”

book keeping together

Brian refers to the book “Keeping Together” by William Hardy. In that book, one of the most widely read and respected historians in America pursues the possibility that coordinated rhythmic movement – and the shared feelings it evokes – has been a powerful force in holding human groups together.

As an ex-DJ, I think my work is about creating rhythms. Architecting these “coordinated rhythmic movements and rituals” for “state of minds” and “states of intentions”.

Way beyond the entertainment. This is about “Creating scenius together”. Scenius is the talent of whole communities. Bringing them in contact with their talent, their potential.

“You simply can’t absorb this (change and exhaustion). You just have to do it collectively. Nobody’s going to be able to do it individually”.

These interviews with Brian Eno are from last year. Before Bowie sent us Lazarus and left us all alone on 10 Jan 2016.

 

 

My good friend Gary Thompson also leveraged Bowie’s death into an intimate and very inspiring blog post about “being provoked” and “being at a trailhead, at the start of a new year and being on a journey without a map”.

Tony Visconti, who produced several of Bowie’s albums, acclaimed Bowie’s visionary status.

“He always did what he wanted to do,” and “And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of art.”

Bowie and Eno are not entertainment. They are provoking art. Work becomes art. The essence of work is art.

“Art is everything

that you don’t have to do”

Brian Eno

At a reception earlier this week, I bumped into a friend who follows my blogs, tweets, and artwork.

She basically asked me “Quo Vadis, Peter?” and “What direction are you going with all this?” It’s a great question I am struggling with on an almost daily basis.

I will answer cryptically with the title of Otto Sharmer’s latest book “Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies”and with the last verse of Bowie’s Lazarus:

This way or no way
You know I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain’t that just like me?

Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?

Enjoy!

 

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This is my first post of the year, and I don’t believe I properly closed the previous year.

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Surreal traffic sign in Belgium

On the last day of 2015 I paid a visit to the Magritte Museum in Brussels. It was one of those surrealist days, when the Brussels mayor has just announced the cancellation of the new-year fireworks, and the city was still under terror alert level-3, meaning that a threat is “possible and likely.”

magritte logo

I was early – just before the opening of the museum – and the city had something unreal. The air was fresh, the light was bright, everything was peaceful, and mainly Japanese and American tourists were hanging around enjoying the square.

The entrance of the museum also was surreal: visitors now had to go through a x-ray scanner, like in airports. I am pretty sure the place must be full of CCTV cameras, whose output is possibly most of the time ignored by human or more advanced computer vision systems.

I think we are overreacting here, and that it will get worse. There is a big disconnect between the reality and the perceptions created. And it changes my behaviour. Already now, I notice how I change my behaviour when entering in surveyed territories like airports (and now also musea): I don’t try to look into the eyes of the guard, maybe I dress more conforming, become submissive, and become more careful in the wordings and subjects of my posts and tweets.

I have become submissive.

Luckily, the queue at the museum was not long yet, and I could shrug off the defeat and start enjoying the museum tour.

The Magritte museum is part of a the complex of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, located in the heart of Brussels at the Place Royale. It is housed in the neo-classical landmark Altenloh Hotel, superbly restored in 1984. I had visited the Royal Museums complex before, but never the wing where Magritte is hosted.

The main entrance of the museum is via a big elevator (the museum is spread over three floors, and the tour starts on the 3rd floor). I go quite frequently to an exhibition and one immediately notices when you are entering a league in its own right. This is an absolute world-class collection and museum, I recommend it to anybody who visits our city and has a couple of hours to spare.

“The museum’s multi-disciplinary collection is unrivalled. It contains more than 200 works consisting of oils on canvas, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects as well as advertising posters, musical scores, vintage photographs and films produced by the artist.”

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Headshot René Magritte

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fall under the umbrella of surrealism. His work is known for challenging observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality. (from Wikipedia).

I believe that the skill to “challenge observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality” – in other words curating, creating, and making sense – is becoming more and more important is this age of rapid change, where shortcuts and platitudes are rather the norm, in stead of depth in our reflections about cultural change.

Robert Fritz said: “Structure determines behaviour, and behaviour drives culture”.

book marvelous clouds

In that context, I highly recommend the book “The Marvelous Clouds” by John Durham Peters, who starts where Marshall McLuhan left it in 1964 (that is now more that 50 years ago), when he coined the phrase “The Medium is the message” in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

McLuhan proposed that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

When I start playing and mixing with Fritz and McLuhan, I get to something like:

“The medium informs the structure,

Structure informs behaviour,

Behaviour informs culture”

A significant part of the structure we operate in is made of media. Media as in plural of medium.

The air is medium, water is medium, the Internet is medium.

But like Magritte, we are unaware how easily the medium can be tricked. Is what we see real, unreal, surreal, or pure illusion?

Check out this great post about Adversarial Machines by Sanim on how easy our machines can get fooled by adversarial robots.

“At the heart of many modern computer vision systems are Convolutional Neural Networks. On some vision tasks, CNNs have surpassed human performance. Industries such as Web-Services, Research, Transport, Medical, Manufacturing, Defence and Intelligence rely on them every day.”

And

“Adversarial Examples are a fascinating area of ongoing research. They highlight limitations of current systems and raise a number of interesting questions. While industries are racing to include visual intelligence systems in mission-critical infrastructure, looking at edge-cases and exploring solutions is a productive path. 

The discussion in that post – and especially the part on generating adversarial images and “mangas” – is fascinating. And should us make think very carefully how all this can be used and misused in a medium of networks, CCTV cameras, and online and offline surveillance.

airport

trump

In other words, the image of the reality is not the reality.

The map is not the territory (Alfred Korzybski in 1931), meaning:

  • A map may have a structure similar or dissimilar to the structure of the territory…
  • A map is not the territory.

In The Medium Is the MassageMarshall McLuhan expanded this argument to electronic media. Media representations, especially on screens, are abstractions; are virtual “extensions” of what our sensory channels, bodies, thinking and feeling do for us in real life (Source: Wikipedia)

Which brings us full circle back to our friend Magritte who hits the nail – or should I say pipe – in many of his paintings, the most famous work entitled The Treachery of Images, which consists of a drawing of a pipe with the caption, Ceci n’est pas une pipe (“This is not a pipe“).

pipe

The spirit if Magritte is still very much alive. In true surreal traditions, Belgians started posting pictures of cats during threat level-4 in November 2015.

cats

These are deeply human and intended reactions to ever more chaotic environments and media.

I believe it is very important to nurture these human intentions, and the arts of humor, surrealism, and deeper languages than pure digital representations of reality.

Yes, we are talking here about the language of art.

Brian Eno recently defined art as:

“Everything that you don’t have to do

In that spirit, I leave you with some quotes from Magritte. They are displayed across the three floors of the museum in the same typography of “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” All quotations are consolidated in a nice PDF that you can find on the museum’s website, with the original French version, and translations in Dutch, English, German and Spanish.

quotes

Many of the quotes are very powerful. Here a selection of my personal favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

I wish for real love, the impossible and the utopian. I fear knowledge of my exact limits.

To be surrealist is to banish the notion of ‘déjà vu’ and seek out the not yet seen. By this I mean this moment of clarity that no method can reveal.

The real value of art is measured by its capacity for liberating revelation.

Nothing is as strong a defense as love, which allows lovers to enter into an enchanted world perfectly formed for them and where they are protected admirably by isolation.

Rebellion is a reflex of the living man.

Liberty is the possibility of being and not the obligation to be

All that I desire is to be enriched by intensely exciting new thoughts

Please do share with me your intensely exciting new thoughts. Onwards for a fantastic 2016. Happy new year !

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Many of my readers know I was trained as an architect. Some of the rhythms, insights and passions of that profession continue to weave into my work and my sense making.

Just over the weekend, I completely randomly bumped into a very well done interview with star-architect Rem Koolhaas in Flanders’ business newspaper “De Tijd”. It’s in Dutch, but I found it so inspiring that I translated the juiciest chunks of that interview, with some personal context around that.

Rem Koolhaas (70) founded the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in 1975. Besides its headquarters in Rotterdam, the agency has offices in New York, Beijing, Hong Kong, Doha and Dubai. He is also a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and wrote important publications on architecture, such as ‘Delirious New York’ (1978), “S, M, L, XL (1995) and ‘Content’ (2004). In 2000 he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Nobel Prize for architecture.

322_1rem_koolhaas_oma__portret_portrait__copy

Portrait Rem Koolhaas O.M.A. Office for Metropolitain Architecture shoot for Andy Warhols INTERVIEW, Russia © Ronald Tilleman all right reserved

The interview was made in the context of the opening of the Garage Museum in Gorki Park.

Garage Museum

It was Dasha Zhukova, the 34-jarige spouse of Russian multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich who approached Koolhaas to build “her” museum. Thanks to the deep pockets of her husband, she ensured herself this way of her own name and fame in the international jetset and art scene.

I really encourage you to watch this great promo-video of the museum. It is so inspiring when you start thinking about musea as educational spaces. Look at the wondering faces of the kids in that video. Think on how educational immersive experiences are becoming so key to our understanding and sense making. The Garage Museum is run by the Post-Soviet generation and that is so refreshing. And – surprise – it includes fragments by performance artist Marina Abramovic.

Her work explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. Active for over three decades, Abramović has been described as the “grandmother of performance art.” She pioneered a new notion of identity by bringing in the participation of observers, focusing on “confronting pain, blood, and physical limits of the body.” (from Wikipedia).

It is a coincidence – or probably not – that performance, improvisation and new notions of identity cross my path again, and makes me reflect again of my work as event-creator evolving gradually into experience, romanticism and mystery.

But back to the interview. The journalist kicks off with an observation about the label of “star-architect” and how that is associated with neoliberal money-grubber who designs antisocial icons for the private super rich.

Rem Koolhaas reacts:

“Since the beginning of the 21st century, there is increasing attention to an ever smaller group of architects, of whom one expected to produce ever more spectacular buildings. Especially in high-rise commercial noticeable increasing pressure to make extravagant, rare designs. “

“Since the triumph of the market economy, the relationship between the public and the architect is cut. The takeover of the market economy in the architecture was harmful. The architect can no longer identify as someone who serves the public interest. Previously our inventions benefited humanity. Now that’s gone, like a tablecloth is suddenly pulled away.”

“While architecture previously revolved around the creation of community, to live together, the emphasis on selfish icons wipes that away. Cities can no longer exert as much influence as before, when they had enough money to build projects.”

It makes me think about the work of Christopher Alexander – my all time favourite – who protests against efficiency in architecture and the loss of appreciation for patterns, beauty, and the “quality without a name – QWAN”. See elsewhere on my blog, like here on “The battle for beauty”Like Alexander, Rem Koolhaas is at least as famous as a thinker and writer on architecture.

I think an architect must be a change expert, because you have to shape change. Therefore, you must know what is happening in the world. Before I became an architect, I was a journalist. And actually I’m still investigative journalist. I observe. My life is one big string of anthropological and sociological explorations. I’ve always had a particular attention to what is neglected. So I wrote my book about New York in the late seventies, when everyone had written off the city.”

He also confirms some of the insights that digitization of architecture – but I would expand that to any form of making great work – creates some fundamental flaws in creativity.

“I think some architects have a very simplistic look at the digitisation. For instance, they believe that 3D printing will provide free creativity. That is a myth. Therein lies a fundamental fallacy about architecture. Architecture is not at all about letting your imagination go. You must confront your imagination again and again with the request and desire of your customer.”

And then on privacy, something that becomes most tangible when you are at home, in your house, in your bedroom.

nest

“It dawned on me last year when I was curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale. We have reconstructed the history of building elements, such as wall, floor, heating, and so on. We realized that all of them are on the verge of changing status. Take the thermostat. That used to be a thing that you checked. Now that gives your data to the energy supplier. Such a smart thermostat knows when you leave the house and when you come home again. Before you know it, sensors that follow you anywhere in your home surround you”

“We live in a world which is so addicted to comfort it as undermining our freedom. The dividing line between comfort and repression is thin. We submit ourselves to a huge monitoring system that records all of our movements in a building. We seem almost happy that we have no privacy anymore. For someone of my generation is that strange because we were still in the streets in the seventies to defend our privacy. “

lonely swimmer by Sterling67

Picture of Lone Swimmer by Sterling67

“I travel a lot, and I find that very inspiring. And above all gives me a great deal of privacy. Like swimming, though. I swim every day one kilometer, wherever in the world I am. “

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