Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Personal Values’ Category

Some days ago, a Google video “The Selfish Ledger” leaked: a futuristic thought experiment on how total data collection could reshape society. I believe it is a very interesting perspective on data collection that can lead to as many utopian as dystopian scenarios as you want.

There was an excellent coverage in The Verge, well done, so read that one first maybe. The same Verge article also includes a good context video here.

What I would like to offer here is a somewhat broader perspective on the whole issue.

The use of the word “Ledger” reminds me of course of the 2012 Digital Asset Grid project – in essence a collection of distributed ledgers of all sorts of data (not only personal data), a blockchain without blocks and without chains – that was already incorporating concepts like the intention economy of Doc Searls. With some goodwill one could interpret the “Resolution” concept in the Google video as some sort of intention.

In 2012 there was maybe a time window where Personal Data Stores could offer an alternative to the almighty GAFAS of this world, but that time has long been gone. The Google video also shows how outdated the GDPR legislation is. Today is not anymore about users giving consent, but about data having its own life and will. I could paraphrase Kevin Kelly’s “What does technology want?” into “What do my data want?”. Not that I believe that my data wants anything at all, but it gives you a zest of Google’s thought experiment.

google ledger

The key snippet from the video is where the human becomes the custodian – not the owner – of the data ledger, and can pass it on to next generations. The video suggests that data has it’s own intention, an intention to survive and pass on information to next generations. Like the Selfish Gene of Richard Dawkins (a book from 1976 ! that is also referred in the Google video). The Selfish Gene was published more than 40 ago, and since then the ideas of Dawkins have been quite critized.

The Google film also has a bit of the same alienating atmosphere, uncanny valley feel of Andy Curtis documentaries. Of course the documentary “The Century of Self” is the most relevant in this context.

It’s a series of 4 videos, together more than 3 hours of footage, but I strongly encourage you the watch it with the Google video as reference point.

Curtis depicts “how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.” and refers a lot to the PR techniques developed at the time by Edward Bernays, who was using the corporate PR techniques, but now for governments wishing to influence the behaviour of their citizens.

Curtis also cites the words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in 1927:

“We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. […] Man’s desires must overshadow his needs”

The Google video seems inspired by that desire to train people to desire, whether that is buying stuff or realising resolutions. Still very much looking at the user as a consumer, which is an insult IMO. It also starts feeling very much like the Sesame Credit score, the Chinese government social rating system, a private credit scoring system developed by Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of the Chinese Alibaba Group, where in essence behaviour in line with the party line is rewarded, and behaviour not in line with that norm is punished. The critical question is of course who sets the norms and what are the intentions of those issuing these norms.

Also, what many discussions about personal data seem to omit, is that the data that are intentionally or unintentionally shared by users are only a very small snapshot of somebody’s data “ledger”. A lot is not shared at all: I would refer to these data as “The Unspoken”. The ideas, thoughts, concepts, models, desires, fears, etc that are unspoken, because they embarrass you, or because they have not yet been integrated in your personal narrative of who you are.

The Unspoken data are related to unspoken dreams, frustrations, fantasies, weird thoughts, shadows, memories, etc. In many cases personal secrets that you are too afraid to share as they expose your vulnerabilities. I have started making a list of The Unspoken that you can find here, and I kindly invite you to complement this list if you feel so. Who said again that “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”?

On another dimension, I have been reading quite recently a couple of books that at first sight may seem unrelated to the subject at heart here.

  • Nora Bateson’s “Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing through other patterns”. A book about how thoughts, ideas, concepts and patterns are inter-relational and are passed from one generation to another.
  • Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul”: about the timeless philosophical question “Who am I?” and more importantly, which “I” are we talking about here. The “I” of our thoughts and emotions, or the “I” that is witnessing them?
  • Keith Johnstone’s “Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre”: highlighting how people try much too hard not being obvious, and how many people think they are only interesting of they have something different to show, share, say.
  • Venkatesh Rao’s “Tempo: Timing, Tactics and Strategy in narrative-driven decision making”, describing virtuoso how “tempo” is an always present but less outspoken aspect of our relationships between people, corporations, etc
  • Han Kang’s “The White Book”, with an essay about swaddling white bands around a newborn baby: “The womb will have been such a snug fit, so the nurse binds the body tight, to mitigate the shock of its abrupt projection into limitlessness. Person who begins only now to breathe, a first filling-up of the lungs. Person who does not know who they are, where they are, what has just begun. The most helpless of all young animals, more defenceless even than a newborn chick.”

The Google video is also inherent of Silicon Valley’s solutionism delusion; that if there is a problem to be solved, there is an app or an algorithm for it. This is finite game thinking as compared to infinite game thinking, as well described by James Carse.

I like Nora Bateson’s quote here:

The problem with problem-solving is the idea that a solution is an endpoint.

 And further in her book:

I see a great deal of misunderstanding—a great deal of information floating around, and even more being generated in the form of big data, little data, medium data. But not much in the forms of the warm data of interrelationality.

“Warm Data” is information about the interrelationships that integrate elements of a complex system. Information without interrelationality is likely to lead us toward actions that are misinformed, thereby creating further destructive patterns.

“Warm data”, I like that. I prefer that way more than selfish data.

 

petervan-signature

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My tempo has become so slow and peaceful that it starts to be incompatible and dysfunctional with the rat race of so called “normal” life of deadlines, busyness, and fragmentation of everything, especially time.

So it’s about time I write something about time.

Baby swaddling

Baby Swaddling photo series © Sharon Ann Burnston 2005

“Swaddling bands white as snow are wound around the newborn baby. The womb will have been such a snug fit, so the nurse binds the body tight, to mitigate the shock of its abrupt projection into limitlessness. Person who begins only now to breathe, a first filling-up of the lungs. Person who does not know who they are, where they are, what has just begun. The most helpless of all young animals, more defenceless even than a newborn chick.”

 From Han Kang’s “The White Book”

the white book

About a year ago, I visited an exhibition about Chronos/Kairos and synchronicity in the 13th century castle of Gaasbeek, in the heart of the “Pajottenland” – sometimes also referred as Breughel-land, because Breughel painted a lot of his paintings here – a region west of Brussels, where I spent the first 25 years of my life.

breughel

Pieter Breughel the Elder
The parable of the Blind Leading the Blind – 1568

The little chapel at the horizon still exists and it is the chapel of Sint-Anna-Pede, a hamlet of the little village Itterbeek, west of Brussels. During my early twenties, I literally lived 100 meters away from this chapel.

In the instruction for the book about the aforementioned exhibition “Kairos Castle”, Luc Vanackere, the director of the castle, writes (my rough free translation):

“Some time ago, I read a an interesting text by Joke Hermsen about “waiting”. She mentioned Heidegger, who said that “asking means being prepared to wait”. Waiting is not easy in an era where everything has to move fast. We suffer from a collective shortage of time and seem to be chased by Chronos, the god of the measurable, linear time. TicTac, busy busy. Mandatory deadlines, continuously buzzing smartphones, traffic jams and too slow computers. Everyday frustrations, all well recognisable.

Much longer ago, I was in primary school. When the big holiday period started in July, it looked so endless. A sea of time, immense literately. A broad intermezzo, a “time-in-between” when nothing should or must, but where everything could, where boredom settled in as a not so unpleasant feeling. A listlessness creating space for sharp observations. A slow motion where the tumult of time quieted everything down and small things got enlarged….

“Time-in-between”, the time of the right moment when new insights are born and epiphanies are possible. The “Kairotic intermezzo” breaks radically through the dictatorship of Chronos, and stands for transformation, inspiration, passion, and creativity.

This is about that mysterious moment when our soul is unguarded and spreads out its wings. Kairos manoeuvres virtuoso between two worlds: the measurable and the immeasurable, the known and the un-known, backing out of our knowledge, covertly showing us a glimpse of the possible”

moulin de l oubli

Le moulin de l'oubli – art photography by Gilbert Garcin - 1999

In the trailer of last year’s film https://www.driesfilm.com/ the Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten  says:

“The word fashion I don’t like, because “fashion” means something which is over after 6 months. I would like to find a word which is more time-less”.

And during the film there was a sequence about the difference between art and the fashion industry, basically suggesting that (the art) industry has finality, in the sense that if your product/collection does not sell you can close shop.  It is a subtle balance in such a time-full context to create artistic tensions that sell.

And then, last week, I finally got to read the book “Tempo: Timing, Tactics and Strategy in Narrative-Driven Decision-Making” by Venkatesh Rao

tempo cover

A deep read – quite sure I only grasped half or less of it – adding the dimension of “Tempo” that Rao defines as:

“the set of characteristic rhythms of decision-making in the subjective life of an individual or organisation, coloured by associated patterns of emotion and energy”

He talks about calculative rationality vs. narratives rationality, about archetypes and doctrines, situational awareness, and much more.

In my opinion, he is looking at a Kairotic dimension of patrimony (about which I wrote already several times on this blog) and in that sense the book helped me to better articulate the concept of patrimony to include:

  • Models of archetypes
  • Models of tempo
  • Models of doctrine
  • Models of stories, narratives
  • Externalization of narratives
  • The legibility of the patrimony as an externalisation

All this is about narrative-driven decision-making, and the sentence that brings it all home is:

“All our choices are among life stories that end with our individual deaths.”

Many different life stories, often constructed confabulated after the facts to make sense of our own life, cascading one after the other, in hopefully an upwards learning spiral, but with 100% certainly always ending in the ultimate entropy of death.

Rao makes reference to the Double Freytag Triangle and the Freytag Staircase:

double freytag triangle

Freytag staircase

That’s why – 60 years into my staircase – I believe it is important to externalise some of these learning, stories, narrative, insights, interruptions, provocations, and interventions in physical artefacts, and store this information beyond death for future generations.

For sure, the new-born baby at the start of this post did not know she was at the bottom left of the Freytag Staircase, and indeed did not know who she was, where she was, and what had just begun, and that in the end she needed to create artefacts.

 

petervan-signature

Read Full Post »

In my Mid-Jan 2018 swan song post, I invited my readers to start a conversation on “Let’s do something interesting”.

Tourists stroll on a pier in the Black Sea town of Balchik, Bulgaria, on August 25, 2017. # Dimitar Dilkoff : AFP : Getty

Tourists stroll on a pier in the Black Sea town of Balchik, Bulgaria
August 2017, Picture by Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP / Getty

 

A couple of Skype calls later, I stumbled upon a number of criteria that I would use to assess whether proposed work is interesting of not. The five criteria fit into a handy acronym A.F.E.A.R. that of course has nothing to do with fear but all with continuous learning opportunities.

A.F.E.A.R. stands for: Advancing, Fun, Edgy, Alertness, and Risky

  • Advancing: the work has to have a good level of humanistic advancement. End 2017, I condensed my sabbatical thinking into five trends for humanistic advancement.
  • Fun: not much to add here, other than that it is not about entertainment. Fun is about meeting interesting people and novel insights, lots of laughs, a good meal, a good drink. Joyful would equally qualify.
  • Edgy: the work has to be edgy. Like “at the edge” of comfort and trends. In Dutch there is an expression “Er moet een hoek af zijn”, meaning a bit “dotty”. Many synonyms here, I particularly like: absurd, odd, unconventional, weird.
  • Alertness: The work must include the creation of situations and interventions where people feel slightly at sea, because that’s the place of highest alertness.
  • Risky: as in not yet done before, an experiment. I never do something twice. I have no templates, starting from scratch for every new project. There are no best practices of the past. I live in the present.

I could have added another “A”, the “A” of Art. Because I have a deep belief that only by using art as support to content – aka not art as entertainment – we can resonate with our guests at a level beyond the cognitive.

In a recent intro letter for a gig, I wrote:

“I am not in the event-production or entertainment business. I am in the business of creating immersive learning experiences. I am an experience architect, and work with professional production companies and facilitators. My work is edgy and risky. I believe that the arts are a limitless and untapped resource that can bring experiences and content to new levels.”

So, my work is “Edgy and risky”: do you still want to play?

petervan-signature

Read Full Post »

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.

prison window Gober

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:

prison cell basic shape

Petervan concept interpretation of Prison Window – 2018

 

prison V1 9 Jan 2018

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

 

IMG_2735 (1)

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

 

Read Full Post »

This trend is part of my five trends for human advancement. For an overview and background, check here:

A lot of change initiatives only scratch the surface of the systems they try to change. They are tactical, short term and full of platitudes. I would like to suggest an almost Jungian analysis of organisations and ecosystems.

rusty port antwerp

Rusty port next to Museum Modern Art Antwerp – Petervan Nov 2017

Trained as an architect, I have been (and still am) seduced by the term “Patrimony” and the respect of patrimony and the ability to combine patrimony with contemporary. Early feedback suggests that the term patrimony may not be the best. It contains the Latin “Pater” and makes people think of something “paternalistic”.

In an earlier post, I already suggested that the Dutch word “Erfgoed” maybe captures it better. “Erf” means inheritance, value that can be transmitted across generations. “Goed” stand for “good”, both as 1) something tangible, an art-i-fact and 2) something good, of value, of worth, wealth and culture to be carried forward.

Patrimony is structural memory carried forward from previous generations. Like Jungian humans, also organisations may have an ego, a conscious, a personal unconscious and a collective unconscious. Patrimony is about the collective unconscious.

To have fully humanistic organisations, we must be prepared to interrogate and influence at the level of patrimony. And combine patrimony with contemporary. Not as a shock or provocation, but more like adding milk to coffee (with thanks to Niels Pflaeging)

IMG_5290

Petervan Productions 2017 - Live model - charcoal and acryl on paper

The same applies to straight and curved lines. As a non-practicing architect from the seventies, I was trained in straight lines. That’s what my hand had internalised. When later in art academy I was doing live model drawing, I could sense how unnatural natural curved lines were to my hand, and probably also to my brain. It reminds me of an intro of an art exhibition by art curator and critic Hans Theys, who described the straight lines in coffee bars along a high street in Borgerhout, an area mainly populated by Muslim immigrants: tables, chairs, lights: all were straight, hard, and women de-facto not allowed. What a nightmare it was/would be to live in a world that was only designed by men, without (internalised) curved lines.

Humanistic advancement will flourish only if we develop our ability to see, sense and share the patrimony and curved lines of our organizations, institutions, and ecosystems. It’s Jungian in the sense that the maturation happens when we are able to internalize, accept and incorporate the organizational collective unconscious of cross-generational heritage, symbols, memories and narratives. Including the suppressed shadows, memories, and femininity of our organizational patrimony.

Read Full Post »

Pol Kurucz hr1

Normal-hr-1 From the Normals-series by Pol Kurucz

A couple of days ago, I was standing in line in the supermarket. In just five minutes time, the mother in front of me was instructing her two lively kids: “be normal”, “be silent”, “behave”. She probably said it 2-3 times in that short period.

I smiled, but also felt some push-back at the same time: why limiting these kids in their normal expression so early in their life?

My wife also invites me from time to time to “be normal”. That invitation provokes protest in me. I think that is because I associate normal with boring, not exciting, not special.

Do we want to be special because we want attention? Normal does not get attention. Being normal – not special – seems to be an insult/attack for my identity. Maybe it is my shadow. My shadow as in “what I do not want to be”, or “what I do not want to be labeled as”. Like not wanting to be labeled as “stupid”, or “manipulator”, or “dishonest”, etc.

The older I get, the more I become aware how distracted I get by putting energy in ignoring my shadow, in proving that I am not stupid etc. A similar energy loss btw when trying to prove the validity of my non-shadow label, role or title. But that is another post.

How can I integrate normality in my identity? Should I? Should I integrate that normality? Should I even try to focus on my identity? In an interesting podcast with Raf Stevens (in Dutch), André Pelgrims says that:

“Ego is the urge to build up identity”.

Have we spent the majority of our lives in building identity? Have we never matured? Have we not integrated what needs to be integrated? What/why is there to be proven?

Mind you, in all this, the focus is still on ourselves trying to “build identity” (with our without shadow) rather than the motivation to accomplish on the outcomes we wish to create.

The identity builder is a noise generator.

Do we humans create, design, make, blog, tweet, facebook, etc because we are hungry for attention, we want to prove something, or because we have something new to say, a new insight to share, a novel hypothesis to be tested? Or do we just inject noise into the stream to get our part of the attention?

I recently met somebody who planned to hire a cheap student to create and post her regular noise. Her “Professional Noise Creator”. Addicted to attention. Addicted to taking space from others. It’s a power game. As articulated so clearly by André Platteel of Your Lab in this great blog post (in Dutch):

“Often when we try to find space we look for it outside ourselves. Then we are busy creating space outside of ourselves. To check out whether we can create freedom of movement. Whether we can get more space/freedom from others. Whether we can dominate another in a strategic game and lock them in them so we can get more freedom of movement. That whole game is based on the idea that we are independent of others and the world. Where we are fearful all the time that our space is being suffocated or taken. That’s why we tend to take as much space from the other. And have a feeling of freedom and power.

IMG_4571

Stairway space in Gaasbeek Castle - June 2017

“I know that game very well” continues Platteel.  “Played it so long when I was a marketing advisor. Using smart marketing tricks to make your own commercial space as big as possible at the cost of your competitor’s space, using smart marketing tricks. When all the time you try to be smarter than the others. I started to notice that in the consulting, it is not only about taking as much space as possible, but also to assert power. When it is not about listening to one another, but about being (perceived) smarter, more concise, faster, fitter, stronger. In fact taking more and more space at the cost of others.”

IMG_4649

Petervan Productions 2017 – Blue Sky, Parasol, and Flight – June 2017

I believe the desire to be special (and thus not-normal) has to do with the desire to be visible. A lack of visibility seems to give me less power.

Banksy

If invisibility is a superpower, than maybe also anonymity. I have these moments where I want to disappear in complete anonymity, like a monk in a monastery, detached from any social contact. The antonym of anonymous is “named”, “known”, “identified”. A desire to be un-named, un-known, un-identified. Without identity. And do-my-thing. Without the need for attention and visibility. But even that is a make-up, a mask.

Just the act of saying “I want to disappear in complete anonymity” is the superego acting in the background. Because it assumes I am special, famous, non-anonymous. And I have to escape it. It’s an “evolved” form of narcissism: feeling superior rather than feeling special.

Narcissicm was well described in a post by Umair Hague about why America can’t learn from the world (be aware I take the sentence out of its original context, which is a bit of manipulating or content-mixing of course):

“Narcissism. The belief not just that one is special — for we all are unique, different, remarkable. The belief that one is superior, above, beyond. Better in fundamental ways. That is never true. Not a single one of us is better in any fundamental way. The genius is poor at loving. The lover is poor at creating. The creator is poor at managing. And so on. We all have flaws. But the greatest flaw of all is to be blind to the grace and beauty of the idea that we all have flaws — and so to believe there is nothing to be learned from anyone else. Trump is a narcissist, sure — but he is only a reflection of American narcissism in this way.”

The first job of a leader is to learn. Only then can a leader do their second and third jobs — care and love. Leadership is nothing more — and nothing less — than realizing human potential. You can do it as a parent, boss, friend, partner. You probably do. That is what care and love are in concrete human terms. The difference between them is that care brings a person towards their potential, and love expands that potential.”

art academy

Art Academy 12 year old kids playing with tissues – June 2017

Feeling special, feeling superior. Being part of the ego-tribe. Even worse is the word contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.

In that sense I am also a reflection, a feedback loop of society. It’s the only thing that is great about Trump: he makes you more aware of your own shadows of narcissism, contempt and bullying. The ways you definitely do not want to stay in life. Being aware of these shadows, and finding a way to accept them, to integrate them I your whole being, and focusing on that other – different, better – palette of songs to sing. Breaking out of that rigidity of defence and taking others’ spaces.

To quote André Platteel again:

“Then there is no rigidity anymore of values that we can hang on to. Then there is nothing to be defended anymore causing us to exploit our power in a false way. To make another smaller and feel more free ourselves. Then it is not needed anymore to hide and feel our more expanded selves. Or to blow yourself up to make yourself bigger than you are. But just be, who you are in this moment.”

Maybe that’s when being normal becomes exciting and a source for internal happiness and stillness? When identity is not a burden anymore?

Also surprised what thoughts a simple invite to be normal can provoke? Share your surprises and insights. Please.

petervan-signature

I am in the business of cultivating high quality connections and flows to create immersive learning experiences and structural change. Check out: https://petervanproductions.com/

Read Full Post »

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

renato1

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

renato2

Pulpitum II by Renato Nicolodi, 2012

long-lines-building-nyc

 

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.

ledeghemmc

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.

german-ww1-command-bunker-ypres-salient

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?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: