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Archive for the ‘Personal Values’ Category

project-x

Project X building, lower Manhattan at 33 Thomas Street, NYC

This week, The Intercept ran a fascinating article– well, quite disturbing actually – describing the possible surveillance roles of building Project-X, an AT&T owned property in the middle of Manhattan, sitting on top of some major telephone and communication switches (and apparently many other buildings like this in the USA and most probably elsewhere).

It even becomes super scary if you read the article with the backdrop of the first names and background of some of the people appointed in the last couple of days in the Trump administration.

The building was designed by the architectural firm John Carl Warnecke & Associates, whose grand vision was to create a communication nerve center like a “20th century fortress, with spears and arrows replaced by protons and neutrons laying quiet siege to an army of machines within.”

Some of Warnecke’s original architectural drawings for 33 Thomas Street are labeled “Project X.” It was alternatively referred to as the Broadway Building. His plans describe the structure as “a skyscraper to be inhabited by machines” and say that it was “designed to house long lines telephone equipment and to protect it and its operating personnel in the event of atomic attack.”

I spotted the article just two days after I saw a short 7-minute documentary (hence Doc7) on Belgian television about artist Renato Nicolodi

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Renato Nicolodi – a young artist from Flanders – makes architectural models of buildings that are not intended to be built.

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Pulpitum II by Renato Nicolodi, 2012

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Long Island Building NYC, by John Carl Warnecke & Associates

That made me think about my time as student in Architecture in Ghent, were we were allowed – or should I say incentivised? – to design buildings that never had to be built (at least in the first two years of the study). Full creativity nirvana, quoi.

The work of Nicolodi resonated with me for another reason. They are actually mausoleums that have a place in the memories of his grandfather, who spent the Second World War in various prisoner of war camps, which he meticulously describes in the conversations Renato argued with him. The recordings of those calls still are daily source of inspiration for Renato.

It woke up old memories from my youth when – at the age of 6 or 10 – I was visiting my grandmother, who lived in a place called Ledegem, a little village 17km east of Ieper, a town that will be remembered forever for the first time use of poison gas in World War One.

It makes me wonder about the working and selectiveness of my memory. Since I started my sabbatical begin Nov 2016, I feel restless.

Being disconnected from work – “the job” – gives me plenty of space for reflection, experimentation, silence, being alone – I love the sound of silence of the morning-house before the rest of the family has woken up.

But this stillness also seems to bring back many old memories, going way back to my childhood, things that I never thought about anymore in the last 50 years. On the other hand, it seems my short-term memory is getting very selective – almost ignoring mode. Up to a point that my lovely wife sometimes wonders if I should not go and see a doctor, but I think I am doing fine.

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Ledegem WWI cemetery today in 2016

At the end of my grandmother’s garden was a cemetery holding 85 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. I remember playing on the walls and the crucifix of the cemetery. In my memory, the place was much bigger than in this recent picture. I also remember some of the bunkers that you still find here and there scattered throughout the landscape in this region. I remember playing in one at the seaside before they were closed off for general public. I remember the smell of wet sand.

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German WW1 Command Bunker, Ypres Salient

The memory also put me in contact with another aspect of my onlyness (I am currently reading the draft manuscript of Nilofer Merchant’s next book), where I am coming from. My father is from a family of 7 kids, that all needed to be to taken care of by my grandmother all alone, as her husband died in a tragic car accident (he was on a bike) just before the start of the second world war. So, it was surviving on a shoestring.

Deep in my (un)consciousness, there is the fear for this shoestring poverty. That we’ll have to hide again in the coldness and humidity of bunkers in the polders. A dystopian threat of dark secrecy, manipulation, corruption and a fundamental loss of trust.

That is what bunkers and secret buildings do to me. Even if they are just architectural models that are not intended to be build.

The new models don’t seem to be intended for humans, they are intended to host machines. How can we reclaim back our humanity?

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

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

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

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

What is driving these people to strive for unconditional excellence?

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

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Ozark Henry – cover of his album “Stay Gold”

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

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

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

Sam Dillemans

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

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Rembrandt – Self Portrait – 1659

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

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

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

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

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

I’d like to get as far as possible.”

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Eddy Merckx – most successful cyclist ever

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

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

“That’s what’s important.

We have to be able to be in awe.

Of something or someone”

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

“A lot of people are creative,

but not many are artists”

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

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

“Many people choose it freely. They compromise.

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

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

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

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

“Being trendy is dying a little.”

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

“They fuck it up.”

Michaël Borremans

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

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

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

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

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

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Prince Philippe Prosper by Diego Velasquez - 1659

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

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

“The accents being made, the structures,

almost like notes and chords in music,

a very sensual pleasure”

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

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

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

Embracing Rubens – Leaving Rubens – by Sam Dillemans

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

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

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“Like Anna Poplova – the great dancer – said:

Master technique

then forget about it

and be natural.

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Paul Cézanne – Still life with apples

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

“For me form is the most important.”

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

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

Then Ozark and Sam in a conversation on trends:

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

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

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

“Métier is the great luxury

to be a free human being.”

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

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

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

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

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Kruge Champagne cellars

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

“A grand cuvée is like a music score”

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

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

“But what makes you lonely,

makes you radical.”

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

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

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

What would happen then?

We would delight the customer with mastery and mystery.

Like great art can put a knife in the eye.

Building on the shoulders of giants,

With your own signature.

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At this year’s Innotribe Sibos, we have a session about digital ethics. Part of a full day on man-machine convergence.

Some of that conversation will be about the use and control of data. With this post, I would like to add my perspective to that conversation, based on some recent thinking on human agency.

At a recent MyData2016 event in Helsinki, i was surprised how little the thinking about personal data stores has evolved since 2012, when i was myself deeply in the trenches of the topic of distributed data sharing.

It was a really great conference, well organized, cool audience etc, but like many conferences, it was the tribe talking to tribe, believers talking to believers, all thinking that their lens to look at things was the right one, with little or no contrarian view.

I wanted to be that contrarian, and challenge a bit the assumptions.

At the event there was a lot of talk about “PIMS”: Personal Information Management Systems, or personal data stores, or personal data “clouds”. I don’t want to have a discussion about the subtle semantics here.

At one moment, Jamie Smith from Ctrl-Shift – who i respect a lot – said something along the lines of “PIMS are all about giving people agency”.

I think that is a big illusion, and that was what my talk was about. The illusion that the problem is about taking back ownership and control of your data. And that a PIMS is the solution. I believe we are discussing the wrong problem and the wrong solution when talking about managing our own personal data at our terms and conditions.

Owning your own agency is more important than owning your data. That in essence is what my talk was about.

My presentation at #MyData2016 conference

UPDATE: here the link to the Prezi of this presentation. Because there is so much video in this Prezi it takes 2-3 min to load. Be patient😉

The talk is part of a longer story of more than one hour, wandering through a whole bunch of philosophical, ethical and artistic considerations. At this event, i got only 20 minutes, and i told the moderator he could cut me off, which he did most elegantly (no pun intended) at the end of my presentation.

My agency vs. my data is a pretty big deal.

  • It is not about buying but creating
  • It is not about my data but my agency
  • It is not about privacy but about shelter
  • It is not about power asymmetries but relationship symmetries
  • It is not about MyData but about OurData

In that sense the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is shooting at the wrong problem. In that sense our politicians and leaders in general are again outperforming in solving the problems of the past.

I got some good reactions after this talk, from Doc Searls saying “you gave the talk that i always wanted to give”, to somebody else sending me a tweet and a mail saying “your presentation has changed my life, i decided to leave Facebook after more than 10 years”.

There is such a strong tension between our actual reality and the desired reality that we are currently moving in some form of virtual or surreality. But as Magritte said:

“Surrealism is the immediate knowledge of reality”

And we feel lost. We escape and try to reconnect nostalgically to what was, and are afraid of what going to be. People focus on the surreality of their phones instead of real life.

People believe what is on their phones and PIMS is the reality, and are able to represent us as human beings. But as Markus Sabadello said at this event: “Technology will not be able to represent the full complexity of human beings”

Our devices and apps make us believe we are in control, because we now can “manage” our data and lives. But we are focused on managing life, rather than living it. That is our big illusion.

To summarise, I believe our plan and ambition towards our desired reality must at least have following components:

  • This space needs to be regulated. Regulation means setting ethical and moral norms, AND policing them
  • These norms must be ethical and moral
  • We must decide who sets these norms, who polices them, and who penalises/rewards good behaviour.

For that we must bring “Society-in-the-loop”, and not let this be decided by governments, corporations, or god forbid, algorithms

 

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Society-in-the-loop by Iyad Rahwan

We must expand ourselves from a problem (efficiency) orientation to a creative (value creating) orientation, because the future is not about solving the past but knowing what you want and use mastery to make that happen.

Last but not least, we must be very much aware of the shallowness of the actual reality, and strive for high quality work with high quality attention and presence and meaning also called “Deep Work”

Maybe next year, they should call the conference #MyAgency2016;

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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”

snowflakes

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.

14th century

“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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From time to time, I am invited to give a keynote presentation. More and more i am adding multimedia elements to that: video, audio, even silence. This transmedia approach is also something that keeps inspiring me when doing my day job, where i am architect and content curator of “events”. I always say that i am not in the “events” business but in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences. That’s quite a different ballgame.

Some fans believe that what I do with our flagship Innotribe@Sibos is where i put the bar. It is not.

It is my starting point.

I really would like to go much further in touching my audience at another, additional level than purely the cognitive level. That’s why i believe a multi-sensory, more intimate, even business romantic experience is needed.

That’s why i love so much the work of Tim Leberecht, here in a recent talk at TEDxIstanbul:

I strongly recommend you watch this talk for the full 18 minutes. And read the book it is based on.

Tim Leberecht, author of the book The Business Romantic and chief marketing officer of global design firm NBBJ and, worries that big data, algorithms, and self-tracking technologies are engineering the romance out of our lives. He argues that we can find and create more meaning, and even magic, by designing experiences that connect us with something greater than ourselves. He contends that we all long for moments that are powerful precisely because they are inexplicable, such as acts of collective generosity, random digressions, and exuberant passions, and even the beauty of losing control.

He is referring to “Unexpected moments of beauty, awe and wonders, the detours and digressions, the cracks of imperfection, that make a heart speed faster, adrenaline rush, moments in which we loose control, and fall in love with everything.”

When was the last moment in your professional life when you had an experience like that?

It seems that only the measured life is a good life. Optimized by algorithms. I don’t believe in that anymore. There must be something better, more intimate, more unique, more transient, less about scaling and optimizing.

There is another great new book by Matthew Crawford, called “The World Beyond Your Head: How to Flourish in an Age of Distraction”

World beyond your head

It’s not an easy read, but Oliver Burkeman from The Guardian reviews: “Crawford has a point … adverts are everywhere, so much so you have to pay to escape. There are real benefits to silence. No great book, or idea comes without a degree of silence. Independent thinking is not possible without it. Perhaps this is why so many corporations and institutions demand our attention – and why we should protect it Scotsman Incisive. It’s philosophy as an intervention in issues of the day.”

And The Chronicle of Higher Education raves: “The most cogent and incisive book of social criticism I’ve read in a long time: accessible, demanding, and rewarding. Reading it is like putting on a pair of perfectly suited prescription glasses after a long period of squinting one’s way through life”

The book describes the big disconnect between our agency (or the illusion of it, by seemingly being in control by clicking some buttons on an app) and the result of our agency, the work, the piece of craftsmanship, that piece of art.

That’s why i deeply refuse to see my work “as a job”. Work should equal meaning should equal passion should equal Art. The artist’s way…

That’s why i subscribed again to Art School last year, and i just registered again for the 2015-2016 season. Last year was about drawing, next year will be about painting.

IMG_4936

Own artwork @petervan 2015 - pencil on paper and some water diluted black chinese ink

That’s why i carved out some quality time for myself on Fridays, when i experiment with art, sound and poetry. And i installed a small studio in my atelier at home, with a MIDI keyboard attached to my Mac, running Garageband and Ableton Software. I also got myself a “Push”, a special hardware device to play music and create sound landscapes in Ableton.

Puch

So i started thinking about what it would take to evolve my presentations into some sort of performance, where i only use my own artwork, my own self-composed sound landscapes and my self-written poetry. And do it LIVE! Standing in full vulnerability.

And what would a trailer for such a live performance look like? Here is a little experiment… The trailer is just an existing iMovie template tweaked with my own artwork.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/132009275″>The Spooky World of @Petervan</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user29570471″>Peter Vander Auwer</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I showed it to some friends, and i was surprised how much a little thingie like this can create emotional reactions. Somebody else wanted me to do some commissioned work to create an immersive learning performance for a marketing event in 2016. Yet somebody else wants me to completely re-invent their executive off-sites to move them away from the boring flipcharts, whiteboards, post-its, scribing, and gamification tricks. And move them into deep intimate and almost zen-like retreats with tailer made, unique and transient multi-sensory experiences to create high quality connections of human beings on a mission for genuine and positive impact.

All these formats create a new type of scarcity, experiences that we can’t fully posses, experiences that don’t last, experiences that we don’t fully comprehend. They restore friction and doubt in a world of certainty, knowledge, and seamlessness-ness.

Formats where it is not about rapid prototyping, nor about fast iteration tracks to find a solution for a problem. We have to get out of problem solving mode. We already do that the whole year long. I believe we are hungry for a higher quality of being truly present. What Tim Leberecht calls:

“Being Thickly Present”

Maybe i am onto something that may lead to another level of awareness and articulation of corporate narratives beyond the hollow mission statements. Entering a new age of enchantment, in search for something bigger and more valuable than all that what can be measured. The beauty of things that don’t scale. Beauty keeps on chasing me. I wrote about it in “Confused by Beauty” and “The Battle for Beauty” featuring once more The Business Romantic.

What do you think? Let’s have a conversation😉

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There is a fantastic talk on the 99u site by Mark Eckō titled “Embrace the mess”

Mark Ecko

Entrepreneur, media mogul, and designer Marc Eckō tell us that, if we’re not careful, we can let others label us and define our career, robbing us of our natural potential. The solution?

 

Stand up for yourself!

 

Mark Ecko book Un-Label

It’s a great talk, one of those that I listen to second by second, making lots of notes almost leading into a full transcript of the talk. Somewhere halfway the talk, it seems there is a book about this by Mark Eckō titled “Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out”. I bought it right away after this talk. I have no credits for any of the ideas in this blog post. It’s just a transcript. It’s just some re-ordering of somebody else’s great ideas.

Mark Eckō has 3 messages for you:

  • Embrace the mess
  • Create wealth that matters
  • Be an Un-Label

Embrace the mess

The talk starts with the famous quote by Thomas Edison “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”

Edison genius

99% perspiration as if

 

You manage the PAIN of the grind

You embrace the RIGOR

Your hard work is THE HEART of genius

 

1% inspiration as if

 

Inspiration needs to be dosed carefully

Inspiration is ROMANTIC and perhaps distracting

And IDEATION can be a rabbit hole

 

You are so busy

You are so busy grinding

You are so busy perspiring

 

That perhaps we have forgotten to imagine

 

Are you’re an entrepreneur, or a creator and an artist?

 

Sometimes we think being an artist/creator

Is indulgent

Self-indulgent

 

About self-philosophical people

That get dressed in all black

Lean back

 

And get moody,

And self-loathing

 

Sloppy and right brained

 

Or maybe this is just not for you?

Maybe you loose some of that swag or that freedom?

 

Where when you were in second grade

You would just raise your hand and say:

 

YES! I am an artist!

 

Some think that this notion of creator/artist is divine

And we struggle with that

We believe there are a holy war between creative and art and commerce

 

This inhibits us in our relationship with our art

 

So I challenge you folks who don’t necessarily fancy themselves as artists

That just because you can not manipulate paint, sculpture or music

Doesn’t mean you should not problem solve like an artists

 

Learn to embrace the messiness of creation

Give yourself more than the 1%, chill-on the dosing, ok?

Create wealth that matters

 

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the truth

 

We are obsessed with accounting,

Accounting for our money, our grades, our wins, losses, time, likes, followers, fucks, KPIs, the quarter, page views, etc

 

Count count count

 

Quit counting

 

Big data matters

But Being human even matters more

 

You can’t loose sight of the qualitative intent

 

Qualitative excellence cannot be hacked

 

Wealth that matters cannot be counted

 

Be an un-label

 

One used to say “perception is reality, you have to control the room”

 

But no,

 

Reality is reality

 

We try to give a taxonomy to everything

The perceived versions of ourselves

We focus on the outside only

Attempting to remain in fashion

Hopefully from value to the skin

Instead of skin to the world

 

Fash-ion: group of people acting together

Fas-cism: a way of organizing a society rules by dictatorial controls, a very harsh control or authority

 

The gospel of streetwear

 

All these gatekeepers in my office

 

A BLIV-IT

 

blivit

 

I was so busy to round off my edges

 

I was so busy assigning so much value to this 3rd party infrastructure, these gatekeepers,

 

Divergent ideas breed independence

 

I was looking for their approval

And letting me frustrate by this

 

When you ask for change

It is going to be with friction

It’s going to be work

Perhaps you going to ask for enemies

 

Apologising for your square edges does not make sense

 

Gatekeepers breed groupthink

 

How much energy in my life did/will I give to those gatekeepers?

 

Don’t loose sight of the GOAL-keepers

 

Who care more about what you are making

Even care about how you make them FEEL

 

When you refuse to be labeled

Suddenly you play by your own rules

Not theirs

 

When rules start to look like BLIV-IT s

Defy them

 

Measure yourself up to your own standards

 

Versus the gatekeepers’

Abstract and often irrelevant compliance metrics

 

Just saying:

There are some compliance standards

That are rather old

And not really relevant anymore

 

No one has a monopoly on validation

 

It’s about your body of work

 

The talk resonates strongly with me.

 

Because it resonates with who I am deep inside.

 

I feel like the artist/creator in his atelier below.

 

Fig_Sculpture_Fischl atelier

Thinking– Creating – Sensemaking.

 

The messy space of creators

Not the clean-desk policy of clerks

 

Away from the counting

The accounting

The efficiency

And making the numbers

 

And much closer to being human

Taking time

Let emerge

And creating uniqueness.

 

Without the GATE-keepers

But with the GOAL-keepers.

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