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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?”

Winy

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.

Boef

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.

monteverdi

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.

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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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vlinder

Vlinder

De vlinder rust uit op mijn hand

Kwetsbaar in de late zomer

Ik voel de sprieten die haar verkennen

De aarde ademt nu al mistig vocht

Kleumend strompelen we de herfst binnen

Humus en blaren kunnen niet verbergen

Dat het blad is omgeslaan

Mijn botten kreunen in protest

In heimwee naar zon, bijen en geroosterd vlees

Deze bocht zullen we ook weer nemen

En blij zijn er nog te zijn

Als de winter zich straks van haar witte vacht ontdoet

Zijde en rupsen in overvloed

 

Butterfly (rough translation)

The butterfly rests on my hand

Vulnerable in the late summer

I feel the feelers exploring her

The earth breathing fog and damp

Shivers stumble into autumn

Humus and leaves cannot gloss over

The page that has been turned

My bones moan in protest

Homesick longing for sun, bees, and roasted meat

We’ll take this turn too

Happy to be still around

When winter peels her white fur

Silk worms and caterpillars abound

 

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Bicycle ride Sep 2017 - South of Aalst - Flanders

Summer is over, autumn settles in, leaves are falling but here and there some late sunflowers reminding us of the bright sun and the fertile soils. I am now my last 3 months of my long-term sabbatical as Petervan Productions. If you are interested in my developing journey, my Jan 2017, March 2017 , May 2017 and Aug 2017 updates are still available.

The House project

Our house move is now done and we are fully settled. As planned, the art studio is complete now. The easel has landed:

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Spotless easel in Petervan Productions studio

The Artschool project

Initially the plan was to join the art academy of Aalst, only 2 miles away from where I live. But after the first session, it felt like a mismatch: very limited space to work, a quite older population than what I am used to, and I did not feel a click with the coach.

Upon recommendation of my coach of the last two years (Ann Grillet), I decided to do some better homework and I checked out about five other academies. In the end I decided to join the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, one of the oldest academies of the Low Countries (South Netherlands and Flanders). The academy was founded in 1741.

On my first day I felt a bit like a Flemish Primitive: I learned BTW that the term Flemish “Primitive” has nothing to do with “basic” or “archaic” but is related to “first” or “early”, because the Flemish Primitives were innovators in finding the right compounds for paint to use on panels and canvas. In other words: how to make innovation stick!

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Royal Academy Ghent painting studio and my blank personal corner

I restarted painting, and upon suggestion of Ioana Guiman from Allevo (thank you, Ioana!), I started experimenting with timelapses of some of my paintings. It is an interesting format: you can pause the video where you like it most and then make a sort of personal still and print-out.

Here is one of the painting “Girl Dancing in Flemish Fields”. I did a quick soundscape for it as well, so volume “on” is recommended.

The falling of the leaves and the autumn humidity of the soil inspired me for a poem:

Herfst

Vervaagd

Het beeld van zondag

Een boomgaard vol fruit

Warmte onderhuids

De zoete hap vergeet de kleur van zon

Vliegensvlugge paardebloemen

Verstrooien nog snel het land met hun laatste zaad

Te laat

We moeten zoeken nu

naar een warm nest

in die berm van oneindige mildheid

Apple trees with red apples

Trees with red apples in an orchard

 

Autumn

Blurred

The bust of Sunday

An orchard full of fruit

Warmth under my skin

The sweet mouthful forgets the color sun

Speedy dandelions

Spawn brisk the land with their last seeds

Too late

We have to find a warm nest now

In that soft shoulder of endless indulgence

 

And here is another new poem “Horse Riding without Bridles” . In essence, the poem is about personal freedom.

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Quote by Kurt Vonnegut - Found in Royal Academy studio on kitchen wall

The Performance project

As mentioned in my August update, I was invited for a gig at FinnoSummit in September in Mexico . Some sort of  keynote, including some elements of my performance “Tin Drum is Back”. The talk is about structural change and archetypes of change agents. It is very much related to my research about Good Change – Bad Change (more about that later).

FinnoSummit was scheduled as a two-day event on 19-20 Sep 2017, but at 13:14pm on day one, the 7,1 magnitude earthquake hit, and in the end the whole event was cancelled as the venue could not get clearance from the authorities to re-open before the appropriate stability checks of the meeting location.

Although experiencing a 7,1 quake is quite an experience in itself – I was sitting in the top of the 1000 PAX concert hall shaking at least 50cm from left to right –  I was most struck by the huge wave of solidarity throughout the city by all layers of the population, helping the rescuers and the victims with food, water, blankets, etc…

It made me think of “The Intensity to action of the Positive Archetype” in the nice post about systems thinking by @LeylaAcaroglu

This occurs when agents are motivated to take action for the collective benefits due to an intensely focused experience, as was the case in Mexico City after the earthquake last week. The focused intensity of the need to act and the physical actions of many agents create a reinforcing feedback loop of contribution, all dedicated to the collective whole.

The talk also went into the topic of patrimony and spaces of memory, and I will update the talk with the earthquake experience of damaged patrimony, the emergence of commons, self formed solidarity brigades, and “moles” (the name of the special rescue forces that start digging into the rubble of the quake.

The organisers of FinnoSummit have kindly re-invited me to do the premiere of this performance at their Miami event on 9 Oct 2017. The venue is again stunning: they selected a place called “The Sacred Space”.

Sacred space Miami

The Sacred Space in Miami

The Deep Change project

Patrimony is one of the components of a research I started some months ago on “deep” change. Check out the previous posts here, here and this one where I highlighted the importance of patrimony and its combination with contemporary. Or the respect of the memory of an organisation and its combination with the DNA of innovation.

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Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, by Thomas Heatherwick Studio

Although the term “deep” is a somewhat glorifying term – as glorifying as “meaningful” or “authentic” – it has some meaning as the change I am trying to describe probably has its source in the more deeply wired connections in our brains and being fully conscious.

The plan is to come up with a body of work, describing what is deep change, to articulate the levers to accelerate deep change, and a more tactical set of recommendations on how to get started and keep going. The format of that body of work is not decided yet, but it could go from anything like a publication up to a performance and/or experience expedition, as I believe learning happens best through experience and not through teaching.

For this project – funding permitted – I intend to do 10 “in residence” immersions, complemented with additional interviews with a collective of leaders, visionaries, artists, craftsmen, designers and producers.

In essence this is a sensemaking expedition on the what and the how of high quality connections and long lasting cross-generational structural change that goes beyond innovation tactics such as bootcamps, start-up competitions, accelerators, incubators or whatever these concepts are called these days.

I have by now a quite solid outline in place and feel ready to get this one going.

Sponsorships

There are different kinds of sponsorship available for the Deep Change project. Please contact me in private if interested.

techonomy 2017

On a separate note, I would love to combine my FinnoSummit Miami trip in November with one of the best conferences in the world: Techonomy. I believe many of the topics on this year’s agenda could be solid anchor points for the Deep Change project as well. It would be great if somebody would be willing to sponsor my attendance. Let’s discuss what sort of deliverable you’d like in return. Please contact me in private if interested.

What’s next?

During Oct – Dec 2017, the plan is to work on:

  • FinnoSummit Miami keynote/performance on 9 Nov 2017
  • Covering Techonomy (pending sponsorship)
  • Continue the research on deep change
  • Get some blogs and reflections published
  • More disciplined agenda again

Permeke - De Vespers - Cropped

Permeke – De Vespers – 1927 - Oil on Canvas – 128x149cm

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

As I have increased my social media activity, some folks think I am back at work. I am not. I enjoy the silence, and try to focus on my 4 priorities: Deep change research project, performance, artwork, and experience expeditions (events). If you have anything interesting or related to one of these domains, please contact me.

Warmest,

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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Belgian Pavilion Biennale Venice
Petervan Productions 2017 - Acryl on canvas - 90x60 cm

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Musikheim, main hall, Frankfurt:Oder, 1929 He befriended fellow modernist Walter Gropius, and helped draw up the curriculum for Gropius_s design school, the Bauhaus Photograph- © Ate

Musikheim, main hall, Frankfurt/Oder, 1929
The Bauhaus Photograph- © Atelier Leopold Haase & Co

A couple of months ago a started a research on “deep” change. Check out the previous posts here and also this one where I highlighted the importance of patrimony and its combination with contemporary. Or the combination of the core organisational DNA with the DNA of innovation.

Although the term “deep” is a somewhat glorifying term – as glorifying as “meaningful” or “authentic” – it has some meaning as the change I am trying to describe probably has its source in the more deeply wired connections in our brains and being fully conscious, as opposed to the western consciousness – starting more or less with Pythagoras – which is anchored in a two dimensional, linear either/or Boolean consciousness.

With my background training as an architect, I have probably developed a greater multi-dimensional sensitivity about spaces, and I stumbled by accident on the notion of space and/or structure as a store for memories, or wisdom if you want.

Lately, I am noticing plenty of videos that use connected particles moving around in some kind of grid, creating patterns of movement.

Here is one video by futurist Gerd Leonhard about the tension Technology vs. Humanity and the connectedness or over-connectedness of humans and things.

The moving grid/nodes representations made me think of some artwork I discovered lately by visual artist Simone Reuss on spacial relations. The original post and background is here, but I made my own little animation with it and added a self-composed soundtrack. I made it as part of a brand new presentation/performance on the topic of “deep” change.

 

Spacial relationships may be one of the aspects of being human that we are losing by using too augmented reality. Like you loose your physical orientation skills by driving/walking around all the time with Google Maps or GPS driving.

I like the idea of human movements creating invisible spaces of memory. Leaving traces of flows and movements.

In the second part of my short movie, you will see a drawing documenting human flows in an office building. How humans cut corners, how their movements are dictated by the structure/floor plan of the office. What I really like is how the artist made 3D prints in silicone of these patterns. It is as if the 3D print object is a store of memory of the movements and the structure.

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Movement Spaces - Silicone 3R print - Simone Reuss - 2012

One can of course question what came or should come first: the structure influencing the flow, or the flow influencing the structure? I remember some Californian University experimenting with spaces with no walls, and let the users define “as-they-flow” where the separations should be.

Fluidity seems to always find its best structure

Flow happens first, it influences the structure and determines the capacity of the structure to further enable connections.

But that structure in its own terms then also becomes patrimony. A memory space. A tool to memorise and remember the patrimony memory of a talk, a plot, a corporate narrative, or a corporate DNA.

memory spaces

lukasa memory board. Courtesy Brooklyn Museum/Wikimedia

I learned that “Memory Palaces” are indeed an old mnemonic technique to build places of memory. Check out this great post about “Memory Palaces”.

Cultures without writing are referred to as ‘non-literate’, but their identity should not be associated with what they don’t do, but rather with what they do from necessity when there is no writing to record their knowledge. Cultures without writing employ the most intriguing range of memory technologies often linked under the academic term ‘primary orality’, including song, dance, rhyme and rhythm, and story and mythology. Physical memory devices, though, are less often included in this list. The most universal of these is the landscape itself.

It is about recording knowledge, or even better know-how, through experience, and not because being told/teached to do so.

Culture is recorded know-how.

Is there a way to “design” the such spaces of memory? Joe Brewer has done some solid work with his Culture Design Labs, laying the groundwork for a design science of intentional social change to rapidly evolve our systems of government, the practices and structures of market economies, pathways through educational institutions, and journalism models in the media. 

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Not as some loose theory of change, but by creating a rigorous scientific model. That’s interesting and refreshing: looking at change as a science, not as a theory.

Every story, every organisation has structure. How did that structure come into being? How do we change structure? How do we change flows influencing that structure? Or as Jean Russell says: how do we cultivate flows?

Hope it sparks something 😉 Cheers!

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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I have a file on my computer called “Open Threads”. It’s a collection of reflections, thoughts, interesting articles, links etc. A sort of inspiration scratch book indeed, where many of my blog posts are emerging.

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Petervan Productions – Build up of art studio – Sep 2017

I am in the process of organizing my art studio (it still feels aseptic clean, as the floor, walls, pots, tables and canvasses still need to feel their first drop of paint). Now that I am more or less settled into our new home, I started opening up the different piles of notes, sketches, and also this Open Treads file. I  puts me in a state of fear and boredom, hungry for silence and serenity.

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Crete Senesi Festival Collegium Vocale - 2017 Edition

Browsing the inspiration scratch-book – listening to some heavenly polyphonic music by Collegium Vocale and dreaming away on their Crete Senesi Festival – I found back this interview of artist Philippe Vandenberg, interview by Hans Theys, a well known art critic and curator here in Belgium and beyond. I had the pleasure meeting Hans during his fireside chat with artist Hilde Overbergh in The White House Gallery some months ago, where we had a chat about bringing together art and business as part of Petervan Productions. I still have to followup on that conversation.

The interview is in Dutch, but is subtitled in English. I started to write the transcript of this interview, but then thought Hans may already have the full transcript. I asked, and indeed he has, and made it kindly available to me in both Dutch and English.

From the video description:

In this video we meet the artist Philippe Vandenberg in his studio in January 2009, a few months before his unexpected death. For 40 minutes the camera swerves through his studio, filming drawings, paintings, books, photographs and other objects scattered about while the artist is talking about his work.The central thought holds that Philippe Vandenberg considers himself to be a ‘witness for the prosecution’, which is described as ‘témoin à charge’ or ‘getuige ten laste’ in French and Dutch, implying a kind of ‘burden’. At the end of the film Vandenberg returns to this term and concept to characterise the artist Vincent Van Gogh.

I suggest to sit down and relax to view and listen to this interview. Some extracts that resonated with me:

  • I don’t call myself an artist. I consider myself more as a “Témoin à charge”
  • It is not about a theme. It is about an attempt.
  • Ultimately you can’t make anything without pleasure
  • I think boredom can function as a stimulating force. It’s a kind of latent masochism
  • A healthy dose of fear brings us into motion
  • Fear and boredom are surely twins
  • God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
  • What fascinates me is that the noise of an image is inaudible. Images are silent. I am very fond of silence. Of the absolute silence. The noise an image produces is an inner sound. It’s less exhausting… than a symphony.
  • When I hear one of Wagner’s symphonies on the public radio, those very long symphonies of 1-2 hours, I always wonder what he must have felt when he composed them.
  • I’m am fond of swiftness (“schichten”). I love rapidity. I also paint very fast, in swift phases. I am not a painter who tortures himself for hours.
  • If the painting doesn’t cooperate, I will say: “OK”… I will put it aside and finish it later.
  • “Delay of execution” is a wonderful tradition.
  • I think we need to be alert. To survive.
  • The restless eye. “L’oeil intranquil”
  • Everything can be useful
  • What is inspires us more than television? You have to watch the BBC of course. For otherwise you could start believing you live in the center of the world. Above all the atrocity of the media resides in the mixture of comic and inhumane aspects.

I love the idea of a different type of attention. Being alert. L’oeil intranquil. An attention and attitude to “try to rid of the ‘noise’ that inevitably arises in the transfer from one generation to the next, with utmost care and precision.”

This is the idea of “Prudent Radicalness”, so well articulated by Belgian writer Stefan Hertmans as part of his intro (PDF) to the 2017 season of Collegium Vocale and the 70th birthday of their Artistic Director Philippe Herreweghe.

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Philippe Herreweghe - Artistic Director and Conductor Collegium Vocale

“What is authentic is the attention to detail in the score, to understanding what is on the page – not so much all the vague idealistic notions about what the intention can be, but what is concretely expected of the performer from measure to measure. Of course this 
also assumes context – cultural context, historical context, an understanding of the framework in which a given musical idea developed – but its core remains an ascetic interest in the concrete, or even more so: an interest that refuses to appropriate the historicising intentions of the music…. It assumes subservience and sovereignty in one.’

Subservience and sovereignty, and the restless eye to stay alert, being a “Témoin à charge”, get rid of the noise, and let others see what we see. These are some good principles to take with me on the rest of my journey.

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/

Acknowledgements:

Hans Theys (Brussels, °1963) is a Belgian art critic and curator. He has written some thirty books on contemporary art and has published numerous essays, interviews and reviews in books, catalogues and magazines. He has curated 35 exhibitions. He teaches at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and Ghent.

Transcript made possible and available thanks to the Vandenberg family and the Vandenberg Estate http://www.philippevandenberg.be/

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