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Archive for the ‘Petervan’s Artwork’ Category

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:

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Petervan concept interpretation of Prison Window – 2018

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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.

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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)

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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.

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Calm Work cropped

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

 

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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.

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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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storyclub petervan

 

In June of this year, Raf Stevens (RS) invited me for an interview as part of his StoryClub Podcast series. The interview was in Dutch but i made this English transcript out if it. For those interested, it’s a good summary of my thinking and mood halfway my sabbatical. The different rhythm of the sabbatical has also softened my voice. And I like how Raf kept the silences in the interview. Emptiness is sometimes the platform for resonating content… Enjoy or start crying ;-).

Part of these reflections will be integrated in my mid-Sep keynote/performance at the Finnovate FinnoSummit in Mexico City.

PV: If there is any form of consistency in my story, that would be in the word “rhythm”.

RS: I spoke with Peter Vander Auwera (PV)

PV: I have to be very careful that I am not creating a story – which also would be ok – but I just want to indicate that I have the sensitivity not to invent a story just to make the whole thing make sense. In English there is a term for this: confabulating a story. To make – with hindsight – sense of and for myself and others.

RS: Peter Vander Auwera is a thinker. He has been thinking a lot about innovation and change. But he is also a creative doer. He makes paintings and writes poems. At first sight a strange combination. But then you don’t know Peter.

PV: I am in a sabbatical right now. Before this, I was enjoying lots, lots of freedom to create – together with others – a community. We called it a “tribe”. An “Innotribe”. A tribe of innovators in the financial industry. And throughout that journey my focus has become more and more on the creation of a sort of events where people come together in a coherent setting around some content themes. In fact, that has become my main expertise. I rolled into it, and it has become the place where I was meant to be.

RS: Peter works with SWIFT. An international financial services organisation. Within this company, Peter co-founded a very inspiring initiative: Innotribe. A community where financial leaders and big thinkers of today gather to explore how they can create a better world. With Innotribe, Peter brought together these people in what he calls “high quality meeting platforms”. To learn from each other, to start conversations, to dare dreaming again.

(Music)

RS: Peter lives and works on the intersection of business transformation and art. Since begin 2017, he is on sabbatical, a period to disconnect, and to take distance from his day-job at Swift and Innotribe.

RS: Welcome at the Story Club Podcast, with Peter Vander Auwera.

PV: Sometimes I think I pushed the bar quite a lot with the work I am doing so far, but in reality I just scratched the surface. I got a lot of freedom, I mean a LOT of freedom at SWIFT. I can say for sure that I got 95% freedom to do what I thought should be done, what content to bring, how the production should feel like etc, etc… But still, I felt I was hitting some cultural ceiling within the organisation. That is not a criticism, it is what it is.

I want a much bigger contribution of artists, of art in the creation of this sort of rhythms, this sort of experiences. What I want, I want to resonate with the audience and the guests at a level “beyond the cognitive”. Not only leave a message between the ears, but also touch the heart, the soul, and the human. I want that what we make that it enter your unconscious. I want to create magic and put a spell on you.

In the events, especially the bigger ones, I use artists in support of the content, so not as entertainment, but as underpinning for the content. In the smaller events, these feel more like a retreat and therefore only target small highly curated groups of twelve people, I use artists not so much in support of the content, but to let them inspire the guests by sharing the intensity of their work.

(Music)

I was trained as an architect. At Saint-Lucas in Brussels and Ghent. So not the engineering architecture, but more the artistic side of it. I usually say with a prank: “We were permissioned to draw buildings that never needed to be built”. And that is an enormous freedom of expression. That started itching again. Three years ago, I went back to art academy. The first year was drawing, especially drawing of life models… with my architecture background of straight lines – in that era – it was a real stretch for me to deal with the organic shapes of the human body. I even felt that in my hands: they never had internalised the drawing of a curved line, it was not natural for me.

But I also learned to observe. So not drawing what you think but drawing what you see. Same for painting: painting the colour you see not the colours you think you see.

After the first year of drawing, I did two years of painting. And now and then I post some work on my Facebook page, and to my surprise there are a number of people asking me if I sell my work. Selling my work? Hmmm… never thought about that.

(Music)

And just like you, I got the chance and opportunity to talk in front of audiences. I do my best to illustrate my “talks” or “stories” with good visual material, and I also already use some soundscapes and even silence….

RS: Yes, I saw your nice TED talk of 2-3 years ago.

PV: Yes, Thank you… I now start playing with the idea to evolve those talks in some sort of “performance”, almost “conférencier” style of keynote.

RS: An “experience” ?

PV: Yes, an experience indeed. I want to tell a narrative – at another occasion we can discuss the difference between a story and a narrative – a narrative about maturity levels of change agents in organisations. I defined 3 phases, and each phase is documented by four archetypes of change agents. And for each archetype there is a narrative, a visual, a soundscape, a scene setting, a prop on stage. I have not decided yet whether I will deliver this as one big performance of 12 archetypes, of maybe an episode per phase, or maybe an episode per archetype.

I believe there are a couple of interesting findings in there. Phase 1 for example is about “The Forbidden”, that what was suppressed, the forbidden fruit. And Phase 2 is about protest and rebellion. And Phase 3 about daring to stand fully in your own creativity. And I illustrate all that exclusively with my own artwork, my self-composed soundscapes, my self-written poetry and “bring it live” on stage. And only once.

RS: Heh… only once?

PV: Only once.

RS: Why only once?

PV: Because I am attracted by ephemeral experiences. A good metaphor is drawing or writing on a sandy beach. The waves come and it’s all gone. You were there to witness it, or not. One can of course make a video testimonial of that, but that’s not the same experience as when you were there live. The idea emerged – maybe a strange connection here – when I looked and watched over and over again the reunion concert of Led Zeppelin in the London O2 arena a couple of years ago. That concert only happened once. You can’t repeat that sort of concert ten times in a row. Not possible.

(Music)

Then you encounter yourself. In your own emptiness, your own… the aspects of yourself that you don’t want others to know about. The so-called shadow side. A good way to pinpoint your shadow is to ask yourself what you absolutely would HATE that people say about yourself. What would hurt you badly? That could for example be: you are stupid, or you are a liar, or you are a manipulator, or you are a psychopath.

RS: An interesting word in that list is “manipulator”

PV: Yes. I got in contact with Leading By Being via Andre, Andre Pelgrims who was in one of your previous StoryClub stories. I know Andre already from my Microsoft period (2001-2005): Andre was offering a couple of workshops about people coaching. To make a long story short, one of the workshops was a role-play, and in the play Andre was my counterparty, the guy that needed to be coached by me. After the game, when Andre was back in his role of facilitator, he told me: “My feedback to you Peter is that I never would want to work for you. You are the biggest manipulator I ever met!” BANG! That is something Andre is really good at: he only needs 5 minutes to scan you, laser-sharp, make the diagnose, you are dissected…

RS: Do you think that was part of the game?

PV: I don’t believe Andre is a manipulator at all. That this is part of his game. On the contrary. I really think he is laser-sharp, in the sense of a scalpel, tjack – and be ultra precise in “this is your problem, man. “

I have tried to take that feedback with me very consciously in the rest of my career: make sure that I am not manipulating when I do something. And that is also part of the design and the delivery of the sort of events I am trying to create. You told me before this interview that you were planning to follow a workshop on “the art of facilitating”? I will send you a link – and please remind me when I forget – of a book by Dan Newman “From the front of the room” (Amazon Link), a sort of the Art of Facilitating for advanced etc etc … Dan is founder/director I believe of an organisation called The Value Web http://thevalueweb.org/ and amongst many other engagements they do the facilitation for the WEF in Davos. With big whiteboards, and live scribing, and – it is much more than scribing, it is based on the MG Taylor methodology – with a lot of preparation, a lot of solid framing, very very professional.

But when I was reading Dan’s book, at some moments I felt the facilitator became a manipulator. Using tricks that I would not feel good with and who make me think of what you read and hear about Trump. It was in that election debate with Hillary: at a certain moment Trump stands right behind Hillary, where he basically manipulates with his body energy how she feels. Not that I am worried that Hillary has not yet developed a thick skin against these tricks but anyway… In his book, Dan describes a couple of other subtle and not so subtle ways to facilitate groups and use your physical presence/position to deal with for example saboteurs in the group, by standing very close to them, or by ignoring them, or… The art of facilitating is a fine art. At what moment does it become manipulation and when is it authentic?

Another example: when we – I always say “we” because I never could make these events happen without other professionals, you need a production team for this – when we you work all the time in co-creation mode, I am basically the composer, the architect, like you ask your architect “I need a home”, I try as an architect to get a clue – or rather a pretty sharp understanding – of what you really want of a home.

RS: Also the storyline of an event

PV: And thus, what we do with our facilitators: we cut the content of the “speaker” in chunks, and after each chunk we give an exercise to internalise the content just given. Starters, main course, dessert. Whatever the number of servings you need… And the invitation process to move the audience into active assignment mode can be quite diverse. I will make a caricature of it now, but one way would be by announcing “Guys, we now have some work for you!” I can guarantee that 25% of your audience chickens out, especially an audience of people from the financial industry feeling already uncomfortable as they come into an experience space that does not exactly mimic their bank branch. Another way of moving your guests in action mode is to day “We have a present for you” and the assignment is wrapped in an envelope of a present box, or something they discover themselves, but there the line is very thin…

RS: Yes, is it manipulation or facilitation?

PV: Exactly. To come back to the beginning of this interview, I am very sensitive to this; it has to be “right”.

(Music)

RS: When I hear you talking, Peter, you know what I am thinking about? Maybe it is linked to your sabbatical, but maybe you went deeper then ever, not only in theory but also in art, in poetry – thinking about deep change some moments ago – but has all this created a deep change in yourself, that will maybe enrich you if you ever go back to a corporate world? Or will it rather be an obstruction; because of lot of what you do is a mile away of what happens in most companies? Will it be enrichment or rather a frustration?

PV: Yes, but it also has to do – and I come back to the aspect of maturity, the maturity of a change agent – with moments of powerlessness. The realisation that I have reached an age where I will never be capable anymore to become fully what I could become, and will not be able to realise my dreams to the fullest.

RS: Not anymore? That is quite fatalistic…

PV: Not anymore, or for sure not anymore in a corporate environment because I believe it is – and that is not a matter of laziness of fatalism – I believe it is a big stretch for a corporation to get inspired by these sort of ideas, let alone to do something with them. And it is very easy for me to shout something about architectural metaphors and blah blah blah, but in all these models – and they are just models – what is always missing is the noise inherent to the system. The noise of the human being. The noise of the human as manipulator, the noise of trying to take space from the other, the noise of not willing to make the other win, the career noise of wanting to be the next CEO, etc… all this is noise in the system that makes you live in a big illusion that you have a new skeleton, a new perspective, etc – in that sense most change programs are bullshit. As long as you don’t bring together people together in high quality connections, you have to get on with the old crocodiles that are polluted anyway.

(Music)

RS: May I ask you two things to end? One is a citation, from the editor of WIRED Magazine Kevin Kelly, also found on your blog. And the second thing… that is still a secret, won’t tell you now…. The citation goes: “Your job in life is to discover your job, and it usually takes you a whole life to figure this out”. How far are you with that?

PV: If zero is nowhere and 10 is everything…. I feel I am somewhere around 3

RS: Ouch! That’s sharp!

PV: Yes, but on the other hand, what you get from Leading by Being, at least in my case – it’s different per person – in my case – and I still don’t succeed in doing that – it is to build in mildness for yourself.

RS: So it is ok it is a 3?

PV: You say, “That is sharp”… What I realise more and more the last months – not sure you call this mid-life or late-life or whatever-life – a year or so ago I started realising that if I would like to stay active professionally till the age of 70, I only have 10 years left to do what I want to do. So the clock is ticking. And that is also the main reason for my sabbatical. If I don’t do it now, I will never.

(Music)

RS: Do you need appreciation? – everybody needs appreciation, let’s put that down as a certainty. With your blog posts and a quite different rhythm of life and the things you share with the world, it must be pleasing to get reactions/feedback, or does that not keep you awake?

PV: In honesty, yes, it is very pleasant to get these reactions, but it does not keep me awake.

RS: And not only reactions to your paintings and poetry, but also on your vision of the world?

PV: The really good question is – all your questions are ok – the really critical question is “what’s your intention in doing that?”. Is the intention to get reaction and attention, or is the intention “I have a reflection I want to share, I really want to know how you think about this”. I want reaction. To complement that idea, to challenge it, etc.?

RS: Is that something you question? Do you know the answer?

PV: Well, no. I don’t know the answer yet. But I hope that with my current writings about “being normal, being special” I will find some answers to that, I am asking myself… Sometimes I would like to disappear in anonymity, almost like a monk, without all this twittering, facebooking, blogging: phew … gone. And being normal again.

RS: Is there not some pressure like “I can’t do that because I have to earn a living for the next 10 years”?

PV: No, I don’t feel that pressure

RS: I have to throw my vision into the world, I must share it, I must continue building reputation so I can get back in corporate life late this year?

PV: No. Reputation is not something I worry about. I am in fact sharing and publishing less than before. I only want to publish if I really have to say something. And not when I am looking for attention. When I have a new insight – and that is not that often, but maybe… something of a higher quality? QWAN (the quality without a name)?

RS: But my spouse would say: “But how are you then going to make a living, Raf?”

PV: I am not worried about that. Because I really believe that there is a need for this sort of high quality meeting platforms, and if I keep focussing on what I am focussing on right now, some day something will emerge. I do have confidence in that. I have now somebody from the FinTech network asking me whether I would be willing to do the opening keynote at an event in September in Mexico City… Yes, by all means, but only in the way, in the direction I have set out for myself right now.

RS: One more. What are “Strillingen” ?

PV: Hah! I wrote a poem about that, a play of words…

RS: Can I read it out?

PV: Yeah, of course

RS: Or do you want to read it out? I will let you do that. I found it very beautiful.

 

PV: Thank you.

PV: Strillingen https://petervan.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/strillingen-poem/ (poorly translated by myself into English as “Hidrations”

Hidrations

Still vibrations

Cold and chilling

Perditions

Explorations of dangerous awareness, beyond the shame

A dog inspects her dung, rattle, and drivel

Nothing is worth what it seems

The silencing humming of tires on asphalt

Only the heat of tarmac is left

Air vibrations and fata morganas

Warm shivers of pleasance

A hideaway too far

Buried masks and hidden cuddles

Hidrations

RS: What does this mean for you?

PV: All sorts of things of course. This sort of poems emerge – I will give you an answer on what it means – this sort of things emerge, suddenly there is a piece of inspiration, and I start writing, just writing what comes, without thinking what the next sentence is going to be, an then scratching a bit here and there, just a little bit… It means, it stands for… euh… observation? In the following sense: I wrote this very early in the morning, at sunrise, when the house is still silent, and when you hear – just like now – when you hear far away cars on the highway, and you consciously hear it. Like right now, I hear the wind, I also feel the wind, and am willing to pause for a fraction of a second and realise that.

On the other hand this is of course also a reflection of the eternal fight, the eternal search for who I am, and what and when I am hiding and when I dare to stand fully in the fire, and when I will start doing, instead of telling stories of what I am doing or what I am planning to do. All that is buried in “perditions”, and in “buried masks and hidden cuddles”. Hidrations is about by soft side, my suppressed side, and the side I was not allowed to show. There is a post somewhere in the queue – more a poem than a post – that I have titled “The Touch”. Maybe I publish it some day, if I have the courage. So if I would go back to a corporate environment with this state of mind, mind-set, mind-state, I don’t believe I will survive. Of course I will survive physically, but not mentally. I am at a point that when I get into a corporate building, I almost feel a visceral disgust of “what a fake world!”

PV: Not so long ago – I am now 9 months into my sabbatical – in June that was, I travelled for the first time since 8 months. At Swift I was traveling almost every week, or at least once every month. So it was 8 months since I saw a plane from the inside. I can assure you they still look the same… A very big company invited me – I can’t say whom, as I had to sign an NDA – a very big company with a formidable brand new research site in the middle of nature. OMG, what a possibilities they have! My host was global responsible for their research for that organisation, and they have something like 1,500 researchers on that site. Stunning! Everything you can dream of. But the exciting part was that she – because my host was a woman – she had created a very intense collaboration with an art academy and they brought in artists into their research projects. That also where we connected. Where we resonated. They are convinced that artists can offer a different perspective to their researchers who have a more engineering training. In the sense like philosophy and art can offer a different perspective, ask different questions. So they don’t use artists in an “artists in residence” program to let artist do their artwork. No, the artists are integral part of their research projects as “interrupt-stations”, as” other-insight-stations”. And all this is executed at scale and very professionally by an international jury of art curators etc. PS: in the meantime I did a post on this: https://petervan.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/research-is-not-about-search-but-about-finding/

RS: If you could choose, would you prefer to be the artist that gets invited, or would you like to be the organiser?

PV: The organiser. Although I appreciate very much when people like my artwork, I fully realise I am just an enthusiastic amateur.

(Music)

RS: You listened to the StoryClub podcast with Peter Vander Auwera.

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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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