Archive for the ‘Petervan Productions’ Category

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?



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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



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.




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

Structure Kanaal Axel Vervoordt

Kanaal Site – Axel Vervoordt – Wijnegem, Antwerp

Deeply influenced by the work of Robert Fritz on structural conflict and structural tension, and that structure drives everything, I have become dissatisfied by the responsive reaction in many organisations that can be summarised as “what problem are you trying to solve?” It is too solutionist, reductionist to my tasting, and I prefer Robert’s suggestion of the creative orientation of the artist/creator who is not solving a problem but develops mastery to create what she really wants.

Combining Robert’s insight with that of many others like Leandro Herrero and Niels Phlaeging, I have come to the following condensation:

“Structure drives flow drives behaviour drives culture drives change”

Like changing/influencing the structure of a building or a riverbed, we can influence the high quality information flows in organisations. These changed flows lead to different behaviours that on their term drive culture. In the end culture drives change and advancement.

It would be great if we could create a baseline for humanistic advancement and track its progress over generations, driven by structural interventions. A new sort of humanistic index based high quality connections, respect for the collective unconscious, a coherence between narrative, motives and governance, all powered with a desire for aesthetical, moral and spiritual advancement. In other words: growing better, not necessarily bigger.

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

During my sabbatical, I had the luxury of visiting many art related expositions and retrospectives. I have been particularly struck by the beauty ànd the intensity of work from artists like Dries Van Noten (celebrated Belgian fashion designer), Rem Koolhaas, Winy Maas and Ricardo Bofill (renowned architects), and the urban (packaging) projects of Christo and Jean Claude.


Prep sketch Christo and Jean Claude retrospective Nov 2017 
Picture by Petervan

Why are they heroes? For one because of the high quality work they produced, the intensity of their work, and the high level of preparation in everything they do. Advancement in aesthetics has a lot to do with it. But there is always a dimension of moral and spiritual advancement as well.

For a better humanistic future, everything important will have a dimension of aesthetic, moral and spiritual advancement.



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Humanity 3.0 cropped

Petervan Production 2017 - Acryl on canvas - 60x60cm

2017 was a special year for me. I decided to disconnect from corporate life for a yearlong sabbatical focusing on art creation, and reflecting on the possible role of artists to enable structural change in organisations.

Over the last 10 years or so, I experimented creating immersive learning expeditions, but I wanted my work to progress and resonate at a level beyond the conscious. I started a research on high quality change, ill-named “deep” change, and I subscribed as a painting student at the Royal Art Academy of Ghent.

Begin December my good friend Rudy De Waele (@mtrends) – he recently launched Human Works Design with Canay Atalay (@canayatalay) – invited me to write down my five Humanistic Future Trends 2020.

It 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.

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.




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Calm Work cropped

Petervan Productions 2017:  "Calm Work" 
Acryl on canvas - 120 x 100 cm


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“Pop is not the same as populistic”, says Winy Maas from MVRDV Architects at minute 14:19 in this wonderful talk about innovating in the future of architecture. This sentence got me thinking about roles, styles, and staging. This post is a follow-up on “Is being normal boring?”


The talk is about design and architecture, but you will notice it’s really about a different way of living, of reflecting about our world. Also check out The Why Factory: a global think-tank and research institute led by the same professor Winy Maas. You can also find some awesome research publications there.

Winy talks about things such as:

  • Porosity and air
  • Transparency, mirrors and infinity
  • Individualism: Is it about staging, making a statement?
  • The stair and activating our roofs
  • Activating new circuits
  • Block attacks (around min 32 – 33)
  • Infrastructure follows your composition
  • From Small to Big
  • From Individualism to Collectivism
  • From Egoism to Wegoism (W)EGO
  • And about pop and populism

Pop is about the (style of) the performer. Pop is about belonging to a tribe. The tribe of the style of the performer. Pop is about selfies. Pop at its worst or most extreme is probably like Netherland’s rap “artist” Boef performances who films himself on stage, and his fans filming himself filming film.


Rap "artist" Boef performing live

A strange loop of pop. A strange kind of loop. Like an endless mirror.

Instead of that endless empty mirror of pop, I prefer the mirror of Claudio Monteverdi, not only for the magic polyphonic music by the Huelgas Ensemble on this record, but for the way Monteverdi was staging as an artist.


The Guardian described his work as “the extra chronological disjunct here is enjoyably disorienting”

“Enjoyable Disorienting” ! Wow !

It has to do with self-image or self-picture. Picture as in Alva Noë’s Strange Tools. Picture of a role. It has to do with role. Being somebody or nobody. With or without role. Anonymity.

The anonymity I am thinking about is one of role-lessness. The anonymity of being normal. The anonymity of Buzz Aldrin, who was the second man walking on the moon. Being in the front, or blending in the background, like the fashion designer who just says hello at the end of the show and then disappears. Who is the composer and who is being staged? Without the composer, all the rest does not happen.

strange tools

Art and philosophy are strange tools (of staging), says Alva Noë in his excellent book (Amazon link): he explains the difference between choreography and dance:

  • “Choreography, as we have seen, is not dancing, it is an engagement with dancing as a phenomenon”
  • “Choreography, and all the arts, are organizational, or rather, as we shall see, reorganizational practices”
  • “Choreography makes manifest something about ourselves that is hidden from view because it is the spontaneous structure of our engaged activity”

Roles and titles. Role-ness or title-less. Is the focus of our energy the work itself or the attention for our confabulated stories – crafted after the facts – to make/fake sense of why we do what we do? Titles are usually confabulations. That’s why it is probably better to drop them altogether from our bios, business cards and alike. They are an explanation after-the-fact. To make/fake sense for and about ourself. The attention is on self, not the other, not the audience, not those who come to listen.

Too many labels. No Brand. “No Logo (Naomi Klein): taking aim at the brand bullies”

Painting the role. Painting the knight, the farmer, the father, etc and not the man. Filming the filming rapper or not. Rembrandt and Cranach are not in the same kind of business. They made different kind of pictures.


Cranach on the left - Rembrandt on the right

Painting the man (as a mask – or the physical container) and painting the person is a different kind of business. Staging the speaker and staging the person is a different kind of business. Staging content is not about letting see what others already see. It is about letting see what you see and others do not see yet.

Like Monteverdi, who was already looking back from some distance at the previous century – already inventing a kind of neo-Renaissance gloss that simultaneous confirmed him as a master of the old polyphony and blazed into new baroque sounds and styles

Whether it is in painting, or making poetry, or architecting an experience, I believe we have to approach all of them like artists. By practicing and getting better at the art of staging, staging like in choreography. This goes beyond pop, roles, and style. A different kind of business: the business of stagecrafting. Or is this yet another strange loop of labeling when I just want to get rid of labels, roles, and titles?




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