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Archive for the ‘Personal Values’ Category

During my visit to SFMOMA on 15 Nov 2019, I was standing on the terrace of the 7th Floor looking North-East into Natoma Street, and wondering what the curved-walled building on the left was about.

SFMOMA

I did not pay much attention until I was reminded of this view in this article about floating utopias in The New-Yorker of 11 Dec 2019. Below is a view from the other side, probably taken from the Providian Financial rooftop on Beale Street, looking South-West. At the far end, you may recognize the SFMOMA building. The building in the front is Salesforce Park, a lush rooftop arcadia of rolling meadows.

Salesforce Park

Salesforce Park.Photograph by Karl Mondon / The Mercury News / Getty

The article in The New-Yorker is about the utopian, surveilled and orchestrated architecture in the middle of the astonishing inequality of homeless people in all the other streets of San Francisco:

Taxpayer-funded, corporately branded, suspended above the homeless, the park is an irresistible metaphor for the city’s socioeconomic tensions. It also feels like a bid, or a prayer, for a certain vision of its future.

Salesforce Park as a model for the rest of San Francisco—vertical, expansive, ecologically minded, expensive, sponsored, and surveilled.

“I feel totally orchestrated,” Cranz said, placing her hand on the railing separating us from the plant life. “I’m acutely aware of how managed everything is.”

Shuttle Constant

Two days later, I bumped on-line into the magical world of the Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuis and especially his Magnus opus “New Babylon”, another utopia, a city designed to respond to Homo Ludens’ need for playing, for adventure, and for mobility.

 

In New Babylon there are no single houses

The whole city is one immense covered collective house

A house with countless rooms, halls and corridors,

In which one can roam for days or weeks,

But where one can also find

Small spaces for privacy

New Babylon is a labyrinth

Inexhaustible in its variations

A palace with a thousand rooms

timeline art

Constant was one of the founders of Cobra, an avant-garde art movement established on 8 Nov 1948. The movement only existed for three years, but forever changed the landscape of postwar European art. Cobra was perhaps the last avant-garde movement of the twentieth century. Constant was the author and co-signee of the initial COBRA Manifesto “La Cause était entendue” – “The Case was Settled”.

Les représentants belges, danois et hollandais à la conférence du Centre Internatiopnal de Documentation sur l’Art d’Avant-Garde à Paris jugent que celle-ci n’a mené à rien.

La résolution qui a été votée à la séance de cloture ne fait qu’exprimer le manque total d’un accord suffisant pour justifier le fait même de la réunion.

Nous voyons comme le seul chemin pour continuer l’activité internationale une collaboration organique expérimentale qui évite toute théorie stérile et dogmatique.

Aussi décidons-nous de ne plus assister aux conférences dont le programme et l’atmosphère ne sont pas favorable à un développement de notre travail.

Nous avons pu constater, nous, que nos façons de vivre, de travailler, de sentir étaient communes ; nous nous entendons sur le plan pratique et nous refusons de nous embrigader dans une unité théorique artificielle. Nous travaillons ensemble, nous travaillerons ensemble.

C’est dans un esprit d’efficacité que nous ajoutons à nos expériences nationales une expérience dialectique entre nos groupes. Si, actuellement, nous ne voyons pas ailleurs qu’entre nous d’activité internationale, nous faisons appel cependant aux artistes de n’importe quel pays qui puissent travailler – qui puissent travailler dans notre sens.

Paris, le 8 novembre 48.

Cobra Manifesto page-1

Cobra Manifesto - Image from Beinecke Digital Collections

After reading “Homo Ludens – A Study of the Play-Element in Culture” by Johan Huizinga, Constant develops the idea for a futuristic city. He develops this idea by drawing maps, writing texts, building constructions, and models.

Homo Ludens

Constant worked for almost 20 years on New Babylon (1959-1974). Today, there is a foundation to preserve and promote the art collection and intellectual legacy of the artist.

From Wikipedia:

The goal was the creating of alternative life experiences, called ‘situations’

Perched above ground, Constant’s megastructures would literally leave the bourgeois metropolis below and would be populated by homo ludens–man at play.

In the New Babylon, the bourgeois shackles of work, family life, and civic responsibility would be discarded. The post-revolutionary individual would wander from one leisure environment to another in search of new sensations. Beholden to no one, he would sleep, eat, recreate, and procreate where and when he wanted. Self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction were Constant’s social goals. Deductive reasoning, goal-oriented production, the construction and betterment of a political community–all these were eschewed.

It is obvious that a person free to use his time for the whole of his life, free to go where he wants, when he wants, cannot make the greatest use of his freedom in a world ruled by the clock and the imperative of a fixed abode. As a way of life Homo Ludens will demand, firstly, that he responds to his need for playing, for adventure, for mobility, as well as all the conditions that facilitate the free creation of his own life.

Some of the constructs in Constant’s vision reminded me of the sketches and models of Buckminster Fuller’s Dimaxyon House of 30 years earlier).

Dymaxion House

Buckminster Fuller, Dimaxyon House, Chicago, USA, 1927

Constant passes away in Utrecht on August 1st, 2005, at home with his wife Trudy van der Horst. He is buried at Zorgvlied in Amstelveen on August 6th. On his grave:

In art freedom manifests itself in its highest form.
The creative imagination.
Art creates an image of the world that didn’t exist before.
No. More than that.
An image that was unthinkable before.

I’d love to see a 21st-century version of Cobra, a collective of artists, thinkers, creators, tinkerers, and experimentalists, leading into a movement of fresh thinking. Not necessarily and exclusively an art-movement, but an all-encompassing societal-movement, with more time and air and oxygen for our children to play, where they naturally can grow into what they are best at, with a renewed freshness and renaissance, a new corporate and societal spring, celebrating the power of imagination and creativity, as a response to our dull political landscape of non-zero games.

A new New Babylon, a new city to play, a new avant-garde propelling us into the highest forms of freedom.

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Ambiguity is often related to “uncertainty”. Uncertainty is the “U” and Ambiguity is the “A” of the VUCA world (Velocity, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). VUCA is a term that dates from 1987, and almost 30 years old.

jamais Cascio

Jamais Cascio

Already end 2018, Jamais Cascio (Institute For The Future) coined a new acronym that in my opinion better captures today’s “ambiguity”: “BANI”. The term kept on simmering in my brain. My summary:

BANI stands for:

  • B = BRITTLE = strong systems breaking down, hard but likable to break easily
  • A = ANXIOUS = feeling there are no good options
  • N = NON-LINEARITY = strong differential cause-effect
  • I = INCOMPREHENSIBLE = too complex for the human to understand, at least at the present or without augmentation

“Being geared for ambiguity” is about being able to develop “hints and responses”, “pathways” for dealing with the new environment. Pathways, not necessarily firm answers/solutions to specific problems.

Moving beyond problem-solving and developing these “responses” is what it is all about in reaching more mature levels of leadership. See also my post on “The Tyranny of the Problem Solver”

What are those responses?

  • BRITTLENESS is dealt with by RESILIENCE
  • ANXIETY is dealt with by  EMPATHY/AGENCY
  • NON-LINEARITY is dealt with by FLEXIBILITY
  • INCOMPREHENSIBILITY is dealt with by INTUITION

We need to create another narrative to make ourselves comfortable with the new reality of BANI worlds. The Kayaker in white water is a good metaphor for how one feels in ambiguous environments.

kayaker

The BANI environment (the white water) is what it is. It “is” like the weather. One can complain and lament about it (ruminate), but that won’t change anything. It is difficult or impossible to change.

Brittleness and Non-linearity are characteristics of the humans and the organizations, of the general conditions and situations of the individuals and the environment. Anxiety and Incomprehensibility are “feelings”, human traits of understanding and are NOT qualities of the general conditions and situations.

The stability of the kayaker (her response to instability) comes from her body sensory experiences.

The more experience (practice), the better the body reacts automatically and sensory to instability.

Great kayaking is based on a lot of immersive experiences.

In an abstract environment, the “body” is a metaphor for authenticity, integrity and personal agency. 

Agency is our ability to act with effect in the world.

The artistic interventions, interruptions, and provocations that I try to create lead to higher states of alertness and aliveness of our personal agency in ambiguous worlds.

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I am super excited to let you know I have joined Gerd Leonhard‘s The Futures Agency as a speaker and as a part-time researcher and curator.

Gerd is Futurist and Humanist, Keynote Speaker, Author, Film Maker. His latest book “Technology vs. Humanity” – published in 2016 – is a best-seller and has been translated in ten different languages.

I first met Gerd when curating the program for Innotribe@Sibos 2016 in Geneva, where we experimented with a new format for his keynotes, labelled “The Future Show Live”. After lots of rehearsals this resulted into a stunning presentation using the full real estate of a huge HD wall.

Gerd Leonhard speaking at Innotribe@Sibos 2016 in Geneva

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A relatively short essay on what may capture your identity: about titles, maps, codes and signatures.

What’s your title ?

Your title is what is on your business card. It is what you put in the about us section of your website, or in the profile information of your social media. But how much of that is made up?

Darth Vader business card

That title is more a promotional thing. The good side of things. In that sense somewhat related to fakeness, or to rationality as defined by Nicholas Taleb in his latest book “Skin in the Game”.

Crafting your title is a form of ego design optimisation. In many cases that optimisation only makes sense in context of the organisation you work for. Titles also somewhat assume you do work, you do have a job. No job, no title.

Those titles are also ephemeral. You change titles as you change jobs.

But they are fairly meaningless. You will learn that people are only interested in what you can give them access to (money, investment, contacts, brain picking, etc). You risk becoming nobody without your corporate title and business card.

What is your map?

A better way to think about your identity – or “onlyness” as coined by Nilofer Merchant – is to think about your identity map.

Richard Martin already did the homework on this topic, especially when highlighting the Map of Days (HD PDF) by Grayson Perry.

map perry

Fragment from A Map of Days by Grayson Perry

 

“In the Map, Perry presents his complex personality and plural identity in the form of a walled city. Streets, buildings and other locales represent personal traits and behaviours, indicating a self-exploration that embraces both the positive and the negative, that poses questions, as well as providing answers, binding together truth and fiction.

 At the centre of Perry’s map is a labyrinthine garden, in which a figure walks, off-centre, pursuing ‘a sense of self’.  

I am getting somewhat obsessed by labyrinths and mazes these days. Some fans also refer to my labyrinths as brains or intestines 😉 If I could fabric 3D labyrinths that fit into a skull, that would be a good metaphor for the complexity of identity as well.

Labyrinth on landscape cropped

Petervan Artwork 2018 - Digital composition - Labyrinth on landscape

What’s your code ?

Some people refer to “code”.

Code is very similar to patrimony, very close to narrative, very close to structure.

Some refer to code as to formula. Others – like Christopher Alexander in the Timeless Way of Building – talk about “pattern languages”. The code of a house, of a building so to speak.

There is also “code” in fashion.

BTW: the Balenciaga show has a fantastic soundtrack. You can fine it here.

But the danger is around the corner: that the code becomes a gimmick, nothing more than a formula, getting formulaic, turning into meaningless clichés, and ultimately loosing spontaneity and becoming irrelevant.

What’s your signature?

I believe “signature” is a richer concept. There is no face anymore, no title, but there is a signature, your unique way of creating, executing and communicating.

There is a recognition that you are part of, influenced by a bigger set of interactions and community. Like Celine Schillinger did on her latest website. She labeled that page “Together”, a list of partners in crime.

In painting, artists and critics refer to somebody’s “signature”. They don’t talk about the handwritten signature on the bottom of the painting.

In the past, painters put their signature on the painting when done. These days this is not-done. That handwritten signature becomes a disturbance, distorts the coherence of the image. The signature distorts the signature of the image.

No, they talk about “touch”, “writing style”, and “symbolic script”. In dance one refers to the “choreographer’s writing”,…

What is the signature of your work? When you architect something, will your audience immediately recognise it as yours? Not because it resembles like a copy-cat of previous work, previous collections, but because it carries your unique signature?

And how does your signature reflect your sense for ethical, aesthetical, and spiritual advancement?

robert motherwell the voyage

Robert Motherwell – The Voyage – 1949

New American Painting Calalogue2

In the beautiful 1959 “The New American Painting” catalogue (PDF) of MOMA, Robert Motherwell said on page 56:

“I believe that painters’ judgments of painting are first ethical, then aesthetic, the aesthetic judgments flowing from an ethical context …

Without ethical consciousness, a painter is only a decorator.

Without ethical consciousness, the audience is only sensual, one of aesthetes.

When are you more than a decorator? When do you touch your audience beyond the cognitive, sensual and aesthetical? When do you resonate at an ethical and almost non-conscious level? What is your signature?

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This is a short (and bit weird) morsel on not understanding a clue anymore, to have the feeling to encounter a completely foreign world.

I happened to me several times last months, that I read or meet something/somebody and I really don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

  • A friend shares with me her business plan for a new app, and I have no clue what it is about, even not after having (tried to) read the associated white paper
  • The book “What Algorithms Want” by Ed Finn
  • The “God is in the Machine” post by Carl Miller
  • The 1000 dimensions of algorithms in James Bridle’s “New Dark Age
  • Eddie Harran’s (aka Dr.Time) Temporal Labs, Research lab investigating time’s impact on humanity

From the “God in the machine” post:

We sat there, looking at the computer, his creation laid out in multi-coloured type. “This is all to do with complexity,” he said contemplatively. “Complexity of input. Complexity of analysis. Complexity of how outputs are combined, structured and used.” 

 “Truth is dead,” he sighed. “There is only output.”

 After some 1-1 conversations with some of the authors, it looks like I missed a whole generation of aesthetic language that is only found in apps, games, and Netflix-ish series like Black Mirror, Mr. Robot, Tangerine, Ratter, and Skam.

black mirror

Black Mirror – Season 4 – 2017

It feels like digital incest. Trying to hide from your virtual self. A virtual loop of digital identities and personalities. Not knowing what is real and what is fake or sliced/looped faith.

It also makes me think of this extract from Bill Gates’ review of Capitalism without Capital:

It took time for the investment world to embrace companies built on intangible assets. When we were preparing to take Microsoft public in 1986, I felt like I was explaining something completely foreign to people. Our pitch involved a different way of looking at assets than our option holders were used to. They couldn’t imagine what returns we would generate over the long term.

It feels like I cannot imagine what these new aesthetics can mean on the long term, and how they are already influencing now Generations X, Y, and Z.

I am missing the @swardley’s situational awareness map, about movement and position. Where is the anchor? What is edge and what is commodity?

Visit Roger Raveel museum 28 Sep 2018

If you are still in for it, here are two soundscapes of my visit to the Roger Raveel Museum;

Still with me? Where am I? What’s next? Where is this going? How fast? How? When? With whom? Who is cheating? Who’s not?

Are we entering a digital matrix? Where real and surreal blur into an new perception?

Tell me if your understand.

Are we all lost?

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The 2018 Music Festival season is almost over, and the pattern of “experience” is all over the place. To be honest, I can’t hear the word “experience” anymore. Because most of them are fake, or fantasy at best.

Tomorrowland 2018 Aftermovie

Whether you look at videos from the Dimitri Vegas World Madness Tour, the Alcatraz Hard Rock & Metal Festival, or the Tomorrowland 2018 aftermovie (with almost 3 Million views!), it is all the same: the Disneyland-for-adults-landscape-escapes, the rude language, the circus artists, the booze, the drugs, and the illusion of beautiful people only (except Alcatraz) horrify me. And now there is bigger than big, the Sziget Festival in Hungary. Check-out the photo tab on their site. And then there is lower than low: the Belgian Camping Kitch Festival with this year’s them “Your Marginal Alter-Ego” (parental advice). All of the same decadence at scale.

And it starts dripping over into the corporate event scene. Have a look at the Event Manager Blog: plenty of ideas to make a great event.

7.-Eccentric-Entertainment-550x365

Dimitri Vegas may be born in Willebroek (Antwerp, Belgium) but he could as well be originating from Las Vegas. This Las Vegas style/experience was also showing into this year’s Money2020Europe event (they started their event-as-a-business in Las Vegas anyway 😉

M2020EU18-Big-Top-e1528128533356

And it’s all about scale: 5,000 people, 10,000 people, 100,000 people, … labelled as event-as-experience but deep inside as event-as-a-money-business. We have lost all sense of intimacy.

Besides the enormous challenge and expense of crowd control, these are super expensive productions, just to create fake, to escape from reality into fake nature, fake fountains, with rosy girls with flower in their hairs, hands forming loving hearts, glitter, fake smoke, huge fireworks, confetti machines, heat, sweat, groping, etc.

It feels like the New-Orleans Bourbon Street vulgarity becomes the new norm. You know the norms when somebody calls you a dog.

bestival

Picture from Bestival (sic) 2018 – via The Guardian

Fake-ness has of course for long already permeated news and corporate communications talk, and has now also invaded fake scientific reports, fake reviews, fake attention, many of them algorithmically organised by robots.We are now all part of the New Dark Age that is so well described in James Bridles highly recommended latest book.

new dark age

And it feels the fantasies become bigger and more fantastic the more reality fails at fulfilling the needs. Fantasy compromises on real fulfilment of real needs. The more the audience’s reality is distorted, the more they find comfort in fantasy experiences.

Fake trumps reality.

Nobody seems interested anymore in authentic décor, grace, purity of mind and body, with an intention to create wonder for their guests. Or are there still folks out there, who look for being dipped in a silver cleaner, and rediscover their bright shininess, the newness under the accretions of time, habit and fantasy?

My cousin recently reported from his vacation in the Austrian forests and nailed it:

“What people are looking for artificially is always present there naturally”.

BTW, how was your holiday ? 😉

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“But that is not logic!” she cried out about my latest creation. “I don’t care in logic!” I responded. “I am in the business of the irrational…”

IMG_0743 (1)

Horses by Berlinde De Bruyckere in Mukha
Part of Sanguine/Bloedrood exhibition on Baroque

I have something with – or better against – logic, facts, being normal. I am not really interested in doing things that are logic. They feel dry, life-less, un-emotional, un-spiritual, un-aesthetic, and too-efficient.

With the focus on facts (real or alternative), metrics and logic we witness the loss of the subjective.

I was looking back into my “open threads” file – a collection of reflections, thoughts, interesting articles, links etc. – and found back this great quote from T Bone Burnett’s speech at the 2016 AmericanaFest.

T Bone Burnett by Anna Webber for Americana Music Association

T Bone Burnett by Anna Webber for Americana Music Association

“Technology does only one thing- it tends toward efficiency. It has no aesthetics. It has no ethics. Its code is binary. But everything interesting in life- everything that makes life worth living- happens between the binary. Mercy is not binary. Love is not binary. Music and art are not binary. You and I are not binary.”

In other words, technology, and by extension facts, logic, and AI, miss the notion of heart, mind, and spirit.

Apparently Japanese have a word for this unity: “kohoro”. This Quartz article points to the real difference between man and machine.

“The human heart is rich in intuition; it possesses attributes such as illogicality, hunger for novelty, creativity, infinity and openness. Computer simulation is deterministic (closed); it lacks diversity and is an embodiment of dryness. I believe that this is the decisive difference between computers and human beings.”

IMG_0733.jpg

Sculpture by Thea Gvetadze in MUKHA, Antwerp

There is also a much darker side to the illusion of facts. Or when the devil manages at convincing people that only his facts are the real facts. Joe Edelman wrote a great post “Five days with the devil” about that about a year ago. With hindsight, this is such an important insight: how the devil of facts kills how humans interact:

By offering the to-do list, he reduced all values to logistical goals.

By replacing flirting and discovery with an enhanced coordination, he re-cast collaboration as a trade for goals, rather than a mutual exploration of values.

By offering us acute perception, the devil stole our ability to discover value in our environment. He convinced us only facts were real.

By offering us empathy and understanding, he removed our capacity to protect each other, which depends on recognising values.

By preventing us from sharing reasons, he cut us off from us certain social processes: from deliberation about values, from co-discovery of values. It’s exactly these social processes, which make our choices meaningful.

“He convinced us only facts were real.” Read that sink in for a moment. It’s like someone says, “Don’t believe what you hear or see, only believe my facts are real”.

Facts ignore that what cannot be measured, what is at level of meaning, beyond sense-making. It would be better to capture information, knowledge and insight at a more condensed level. Like in an artefact: an eternal repository of high quality information captured before its entropic death.

In his excellent book (Amazon link) “Strange Tools. Art and Human Nature”, Alva Noë confirms:

“What is at stake is not the facts. What is at stake is how we assimilate, make sense of and finally evaluate the facts”

In other words, the future is not about facts. The future is in the victory of the subjective, the nuance and the romance.

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