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art room

3D Art room by 12 years old at BKO Academy – Feb 2017

I recently realised that it’s almost seven months since I saw an airplane from the inside. That’s indeed the time I am into my long-term sabbatical as Petervan Productions. It also means I am about halfway: another seven months indeed between now and end 2017. If you are interested in my developing story, my Jan 2017 and March 2017 updates are still available.

A quick update:

March-April felt like a period of soul-searching and reflection. I constantly had the impression I was not doing much and progressing very little, but writing this update gave me some comfort: there still is some advancement towards my goal and that of Petervan Productions.

I feel less restless than in the first couple of months, and can accept that a day goes by without any concrete deliverable. I also made some minor changes to my daily schedule, which is now more in synch with nature. For example, when the weather is great, I go outside for a bike ride or some gardening, and that’s why I already got a nice pre-summer tan 😉 And when it rains, it’s time for desk work. As there is enough rain in Belgium, there is enough time for desk work.

Artschool

Artschool continued at +/- 9 hours per week practice in the art studio of the art academy. Got a challenging color-study from my coach, which also led into a remake of “The Drama”. I also started liking the use of many very transparent layers.

the-drama-2-cropped

petervan-astract-nr-364

Two completely different works
Both acryl on cotton canvas stitched on wooden board
122 x 82 cm

Performance

  • I had many 1-1 conversations with friends and relatives to collect feedback on the performance “Tin Drum Is Back”. Thank you so much for the very valuable feedback!
  • Did some site visits to find the ideal location for the performance. Nothing came really close for the final show: some spaces were great, but the acoustics awful. And for some good news I got commitment from two sponsors to use their space for the dry run and Avant-premiere.
  • I also received some first proposals for the visual identity of the show there is much more, but this would be the main theme:

tin drum visual

First mood board for “Tin Drum” performance

Events

Nothing special here. As you know from previous updates, I am not in active prospection mode, and every request is measured against my existing priorities:

  • There are 1-2 interesting speaking engagements that allow me to test some of the performance and/or structural change concepts.
  • One promising lead for an immersive learning expedition with artistic performances.
  • Little progress on the retreat-style event.

Other

I visited some great art exhibitions and had some very pleasant conversations with art curators.

Inspiring also were the visits to the new site of Axel Vervoordt along the canal in Wijnegem (Antwerp) and the visit to ceramist Piet Stockmans in Genk, and the premiere of the film about Dries Van Noten in Bozar.

Piet Stockmans blue

Piet Stockmans – Blue plate

dries film

Extract from film Dries Van Noten

And I also started experimenting with some poems, some out of the blue, others in relation to some of my artwork. A first collection via this link.

So, what’s next?

During May – June 2017, the plan is to work on:

  • My daughter’s communion is on 14 May 2017. We plan to keep things simple, invite some close family in our garden with a back-up tent in case of rain, and some quality food and drinks brought in by a local caterer.
  • Creating an installation for the June 2017 year end exposition of my art school; the installation will be called “TOKOMA”
  • A visit to a research facility in Germany that integrates artists in industrial research project work
  • The production aspects of the performance
  • Continue the research on structural Deep change – Good Change – Bad Change with some excellent feedback from my social media community.

This year’s summer promises to be different as well. We decided to move houses to be closer to the Flemish Primitives. Emptying the old house, refurbishing the new one, boxing and un-boxing will keep us busy most of the summer. The new house was previously a doctor’s practice, and the plan is to organise one space as an artist’s atelier/production studio where I plan to study, paint, write poems, compose music, and produce experiences.

Michael Landy atelier

Detail from Atelier Michael Landy

That’s about it for this edition. If there is something worth reporting, next update is for July 2017. Looking forward to hearing from your latest adventures as well.

Rebelliously yours,

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/

 

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Petervan Astract Nr 364

Artschool 2017 > "Overlap" 
Acryl on canvas stitched on wooden panel 125 x 85 cm

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tokoma

Snijden zoals Fontana
Berekend, bere-sterk, een-malig
De kommer van het zwaard
Vervelt haar tot een paardekop
Geslagen en verslagen, moe
Moe ligt ze daar te verwezen
Wringend haar haar in nat
Mat
Patstelling van verwijten en verlangen
Toka haar platform
Ma haar ledigheid, lenigheid
Leeg-heid, licht-heid, of volledig
Haar canvas draait in eeuwigheid

Tokoma (rough translation)

Carving like Fontana
Calculated, bear-strong, one-time
Wistful sword
Molting hair to horse-head
Beaten, defeaten, dead
Lingering, languishing
Wringing her hair wet
Weary
Stalemate between blame and desire
Toka her platform
Ma her empty-ness, lithe-ness
Lite-ness, Light-ness, Full-less
Her canvas spins into infinity

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I ask myself often whether organisations can change – really change – at all. I recently spoke to an HR person of a big worldwide corporation, and her answer was a strong “yes”. I am not so sure. Or maybe I am confused.

As organisations are made of people (humans), would you have the change the people in order to change the organisation? Is there another way? Some people say “you can’t change people, but you can change their behaviour”. Are we fooling ourselves with such statements?

I am seduced by the Robert Fritz’ premise that structure drives behaviour. Or Leandro Herrero‘s thesis that behaviour drives culture. And Jean Russell’s “Cultivating Flows“.

Robert Fritz for managers

There are plenty of metaphors to illustrate the relationship between structure and behaviour. From race cars, the team and the driver, to heroes hacking their way through forests (My friend Leda Glyptis wrote this excellent piece on the oscillating patterns – “Acts” in her post – that innovation heroes have to go through).

I am starting to think about a metaphor based on architecture, and the notion of “patrimony” of a building, which has to do a lot with knowledge stored as inheritance material in physical objects (Thanks, Tom Laforge for the insight).

kanaal solos

Kanaal Site – Axel Vervoordt – Old malt factory - Wijnegem, Belgium

Ricardo_Bofill_Taller_de_Arquitectura_La_Catedral_Barcelona_Spain_1-1440x592

Ricardo Bofill – The Cathedral – Old cement factory – Barcelona, Spain

 

“Patrimony” is an interesting term. 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/worth/wealth/culture/DNA to be carried forward.

Both sites above are a good illustration: Ricardo Bofill’s “La Fabrica” and Axel Vervoordt’s “Kanaal”.

The architects decided to respect the patrimony, strip it to its essence – its skeleton – and create new perspectives and flows. They did not decide for “disruption”, aka breaking down the building and creating something completely new. They combine old and new, they combine tradition/patrimony/erfgoed with new flows, new structures.

The structure is not only the brick and mortar building itself, but includes the whole site, the landscape, the empty spaces, the social contracts, the tacit and non-tacit agreements of flow.

The structure comes alive when people live in it, add furniture, decoration, color, organise their areas for work, for creativity, for reflection.

What is the skeleton structure of the building, what do we need to keep, where do we need to create new perspectives to cultivate new flows of water, traffic, connections?

The metaphor building/organisation – like any metaphor – works only to a certain extent.

Haidt happiness

What’s missing is what makes us human and our motivations. I am reading Jonathan Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom”, and am struck by all the noise humans put on the system. Some salient wisdom:

  • “We are all hypocrites”
  • “The rider (ratio) is not in charge”
  • “The elephant (the unconscious) is not motivated by happiness but by prestige.
  • “Most stories/narratives are confabulated after the facts”

So back to my initial question: can organisations change? Maybe the better question is: what quality of change are we aiming for? Or the more critical question may be: why would people change?”

Fritz’ suggestion is that if you have the right structure, people will naturally change their behaviour and the flows of information.

What are your thoughts?

petervan-signature_transparent_black_version2

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/

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The Drama 2 cropped

Re-interpretation of The Drama. Acryl on cotton canvas stitched on wooden panel 120x80cm.

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stael-apples

Nicolas de Staël – Five Apples – 1952

I am now one month into detailed scripting of my upcoming performance “Tin Drum is Back”. As mentioned in my last post, the narrative arc seems to be about evolving archetypes and levels of maturity.

In 2015, I was struck by lightning, by the work of fashion designer Dries Van Nooten. I wrote extensively about that experience here. It was the start of a more intense journey to let myself get touched by beauty, and to start experimenting with the creative orientation myself (Art academy, etc.)

Two years later, this 2015 expo is still resonating with me, and every time I tell the story of that experience, I get emotional, emotional like in tears of happiness and beauty. Happiness and bliss like a warm jelly feeling down your spine. I started paying attention to this emotion, opening myself to it, and wondering and exploring how it cracked me open (and very closed at other moments…)

Obviously, first thing that goes through mind, is the famous Leonard Cohen song “Anthem”, with the famous phrase:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering 

There is a crack, a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in.

How the light gets in…. But I started wondering how the light gets OUT… Like my skin would be lattice. Like the skin of this musallah.

th_65d1300db123ce22f6e2569fb36764f8_1551_aramc_rend_06

King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC)
Riyadh / Saudi Arabia. Architect’s rendering of the musallah. 
Image Credit: Zaha Hadid Architects

What is needed for somebody to crack open like this? To get rid of all the ballast, and to stand in full onlyness ànd vulnerability ànd feeling happy with the way that is?

Another more recent moment when the lightning stroke was on a Saturday morning, where by full coincidence I hit the video of “Wild is the Wind” by David Bowie as part of the “David Bowie last 5 years” BBC documentary:

 

Wild is the Wind” is the first song of this amazing concert that is worth watching every of its 60 minutes. However, when he sings and smiles “you’re life itself” (at 2:40 and 4:10) that’s when shivers go down my spine and tears start rolling. Every time again.

Why is this? What is happening to me? Is Tin Drum about finally daring to stand in fire and vulnerability? Of letting my “onlyness” coming OUT through the crack(s)? Instead of hiding in a Hannibal-like shadow of complexity and impenetrability?

tin-drum-posters-gunter-grass

Film posters and book covers of Günther Grass' The Tin Drum

Cracking open seems to be about daring to stand in the fire, allowing the truth to come in and out, and allowing to loose myself and letting myself getting overwhelmed. It is about letting go of my masks, my defences.

Khurshed Dehnugara recently (my highlights) wrote about being overwhelmed in “cracking open”:

Being overwhelmed is something we are fearful of and at the same time can be helpful as we transition from one age to the next.

If our defenses are always solid, never breached, then the possibility of anything novel emerging is reduced. It often takes a moment of being overwhelmed before that part of us that we are defending can be seen. In the moment of being hurt, overloaded, caught out, tripped up or humiliated – we get a chance in those moments to see and work with the part of ourselves we spend the rest of our time enclosing in a protective shell.

As we spend time at the edges of what we know and can cope with, the container is strengthened.  When we can’t cope, the cracks can allow us to integrate an experience that has been shielded for a lifetime; but refuses to go away or stop causing problems in the rest of our lives. 

During my sabbatical, I am indeed spending time at the edges of what I don’t know and what I don’t know to cope with. At the edges of my existing communities, at the edges of new – more artistic – communities.

Also, the painting lets me re-discover the true meaning of being in the flow. But I have to get more clarity. Tell the story with fewer words, less images, less brush strokes, less gimmicks. I am trying to say too much. I am still trying too much to impress, not express.

“The more easy gimmicks, the more solid the content needs to be”, says my paint-coach Ann.

petervan-containers

Extract of Petervan painting “The Containers” in process – Feb 2017

So many metaphors between paint and real life. The longing for clarity of touch, pitch, colours, harmonies, and chords. But for now, still too much noise, both physically and mentally.

The sweet spot is where the crack is

where frequencies and overtones create the mystic.

What are your cracks? When was the last time you built defences against standing in the fire? When was the last time you put up a wall and defences against it? When was the last time you allowed the crack to put a spell on you to get in touch with your true self?

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Yesterday, there was a news item on Flemish Television on the upcoming opera performance of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”, that will be performed at the Brussels Federal Opera House De Munt / La Monnaie (31 Jan – 14 Feb 2017).

What touched me was that Madame Butterfly was played by a puppet, directed by three puppet players (visible in black). The effect is mystical. Check out the end of this video (comments in Dutch, but that should not spoil the experience).

puccini-madame-butterfly

Opera Madame Butterfly - De Munt - As from 31 Jan 2017

It made me think about a passage in David Byrne’s wonderful book “How music works” (Amazon Affiliates link). I am reading it in the context of my performance for Petervan Productions.

how-music-works

At a certain moment, David Byrne describes how his thinking about a show – a performance – was influenced by traditional Japanese theater forms such as Kabuki, Noh, and Bunraku.

Example of Japanese Kabuki theatre

 

“The tour eventually took us to Japan, where I went to see their traditional theater forms: Kabuki, Noh, and Bunraku. These were, compared to Western theater, highly stylized; presentational is the word that is sometimes used, as opposed to the pseudo-naturalistic theater we in the west are more used to.” 

“The character had in effect been so fragmented that the words they spoke didn’t come from close to or even behind that puppet. You had to reassemble the character in your head.

As in Japanese theater, the performers often wore masks and extreme makeup; their movements, too, were stylized and “unnatural.” It began to sink in that this kind of “presentational” theater had more in common with certain kinds of pop-music performance than traditional Western theater.”

“There was no attempt to formally separate the ritual and the show from the audience. I quickly absorbed that it was all right to make a show that didn’t pretend to be “natural.” To further complicate matters, I decided to make the show completely transparent. I would show how everything was done and how it had been put together.”

Check out the video footage of the resulting “Stop making sense” Tour. The show starts with a heavenly version of the song “Heaven” on an empty stage. At minute 2:30 you will see the first elements of the stage being rolled in.

The whole show is super enjoyable, and if you want to know what “playing tight” means, check this awesome version of “Breaking down the house”, which does exactly what you would expect.

 

Sometimes I think I have to stop trying to “make sense”. Better would be to “make meaning”.

All these reflections are related to my upcoming performance “Tin Drum is Back” (subtitle: “what is/what could be”): the performance design is evolving well, with detailed script being written as we speak.

Part of the story is looking back into ones youth (5-10 years old), look at what was forbidden then: for some people that is an area of talent they have neglected to develop. In my case, it was a tin drum I got when I was 6 years old, and the story of rhythms in my life and in my work. As the script develops, the narrative arc seems to be about evolving archetypes and levels of maturity.

Scripting is not “only” the storyline, but also the staging, transition, props, lighting, etc… And all visuals, sounds, and word are self-composed, self-created. Should be ready around March, although I may pick up some delay.

It starts feeling like theatre by an amateur 😉 So, performing “tight”, in some theatrical form, with costumes, masks, props, and stage being build-up as the show moves along, is certainly inspirational.

I see “Tin Drum…” as a teaser for a bigger story on multi-media corporate narratives, where – who knows – I create commissioned performances on less tangible topics (less tangible than “what problem are you trying to solve?”). I indeed think that a lot of the work I am preparing is steering away from the problem-solving orientation, and give more room to the creative orientation of “what do I want?”

What do you think? BS? Did I smoke too much ? 😉 Please don’t hesitate to share resources and serendipities that this post may generate.

More general Jan 2017 update here:  https://petervan.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/petervan-productions-jan-2017-update/

Rebelliously yours,

 

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