Verena Wald The Artistic Process (detail)

Age of Artists – Our Year in Retrospective

Dirk Dobiéy News Leave a Comment

For the first time, over ten members of our network have been involved in projects and events in very different contexts this year. Examples are the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), the German Statutory Accident Insurance (DGUV), IT companies Comparex and Incadea, the Association of German Business Engineers (VWI) and the German railway network (Deutsche Bahn).

Our ideas on cultural education were featured in a publication by the Association of Arts and Culture of the German Economy at the Federation of German Industries e.V., while the Werte-Index, an institution mapping how and in which context societal values are discussed on the internet, published an interview with us. Artist Verena Wald has translated our findings from over 100 interviews into a series of etchings. An example is depicted along with this post,  will share more about them next year.

There is now a German version of our website. Additionally, as has been done in previous years, many interviews with artists, researchers and other interesting people have been uploaded to the site during the year.

We were inside the time capsule with musician SAFI and learned about empathy and movement from dancer Lucia Mikas. Wolf Jenschonnek, founder of Berlin’s Fab Lab, also talked to us about movement. He is convinced that one has to leave one’s niche position in order to find great solutions. Artist Sharon Molloy has practical experience in this field. Her colleague Sebastian Heiner taught us how to act out oneself, and graffiti artist Bomber One aka Helge Steinmann how to contribute to the world we live in.

Author Michael Atavar is of the opinion that sub-consciousness is at the root of creativity, and composer Ludger Brümmer thinks that a moment of surprise is always attached to creativity. The latter statement is close the findings of scientific historian Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, whom we interviewed about the nature of the experiment.

For the first time, we talked to artists from China this year. Zhang Wei reported that artists need to express themselves and Dai Chenlian explained to us that art for him provided a reason to live. Researcher and professor for innovation and information technology at the Ivey Business School in Canada Robert D. Austin reported that art can be a reason, but is not unconditional, as artists share the same world with everyone else. A world where an increase in information is not paralleled with an increase in vocabulary according to artist, author and Beuys-Pupil Johannes Stüttgen.

Moreover, we started another research project, in which we met companies that are artistic masterpieces according to our definition, meaning they are characterized by diversity, purpose, autonomy and elasticity. To name but a few, we had the pleasure of interviewing Sonnentor, Otto, Beurer, Vaude and Zotter. In the new year, we will report on how these and many other companies are already paving the way for better business.

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Jan Brueghel the Younger Satire on Tulip Mania 2nd quarter of the 17th century

From Ecstasy to Relevance: What Blossoming and Blockchain Have in Common

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Jan Brueghel the Elder, scion to an eminent Flemish dynasty of painters, was doing well in his day. On an equal footing with Peter Paul Rubens – both men used to work conjointly on paintings at times – Flower Brueghel, as he was aptly called, was one of the leading painters at the turn of the 17th century. But why should this be of interest to us? Still lifes, especially from these days, are not precisely at the core of the contemporary interest in art. More so, one encounters them rather by chance, perhaps in a museum having taken a wrong turn on one’s way to the collection of classical modernism. Should this have happened to you, it is conspicuous that tulips were a recurring theme at the time. Here is the reason why:

Jan Philips van Thielen Roses and a Tulip in a Glass Vase

The beginning of the 17th century saw the formation of the first well-documented speculative bubble in the history of mankind. In those days, speculation was not focused on spices, real estate or similar desirables, but indeed tulip bulbs. In the Netherlands, just ten tulip bulbs had a value equivalent to what a family of four needed for half a lifetime. Until the speculative bubble burst in a surprising fashion, as is the common course. Jan Brueghel the Elder did not live to see this happen, but his son did, who, compliant with tradition, carried on his father’s name and profession. Jan Brueghel the Younger became known for his painting Satire on Tulip Mania. By displaying monkeys, a common Renaissance metaphor for human greed and stupidity, the 1640’s artwork was a pointed comment on the tulip crisis.

Vincent van Gogh Flower Beds in Holland

In those days, the art of horticulture was perceived as a decorous and prestigious pastime of the top ten thousand. The tulip, then an exotic and desirable flower from the Far East, was esteemed to be the greatest decorative flower in any garden. The first European growers often knew each other personally. They supported one another, shared their knowledge and traded bulbs, both within countries and across borders. Only as the network grew, the idea of trading tulip bulbs for money was put into practice, but consequently the system became more fragile. The increasing demand for tulips was also fueled by the overcapitalization of vast parts of the population. With the Netherlands being the richest country in Europe at the time, many Dutch people simply had too much money to spend. Paradoxically, bulbs afflicted by a virus (unbeknownst to people) were traded at a particularly high price. Their leaves showed unique patterns, which were considered so chic that at the height of events, the value of one single bulb could increase tenfold in a day. Eventually, tulip bulbs were used as a substitute for money. At the beginning of the 1630’s a townhouse in Amsterdam was dealt for five tulip bulbs, if only it was sufficiently impressive, of course. When the euphoria reached broad sections of society, the hype briefly accelerated once more, until it crashed in the winter of 1636/37 without warning. People lost astounding amounts of money. The discussion about the created debt kept the country on tenterhooks for many years to come.

It is possible to relate this story (which is further discussed in Mike Dash’s Tulipomania) to more recent events associated with cryptocurrency, and to read it as a warning reminder or didactic play. However, this has already been done extensively, and there is more to discover.

Claude Monet Tulip fields in Holland

Astonishingly, the Dutch have not lost their interest in flowers over time, not in the arts or the economy. Tulips remain one of the leading export commodities; fields are filled with flowers as far as the eye can see – a sight world-renowned on account of paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Franzconde Tulip fields in Zuidschermer

Another lesson to be learned from this story (but also, for instance, from the early days of the internet) then is, that the initial euphoria requires a turning point, so that something truly substantial can emerge.

Not to be taken literally: Should the pessimists be proved right; our calculation locates the crash of the bitcoin or crypto-hype in February of 2018.

Chances are, the cryptocurrency hype will end abruptly yet temporarily, and the still life, a symbol of transience, will undergo a renaissance in the near future. (Full disclosure in final note form: The author of this text owns both tulip bulbs and still lifes depicting tulips.)

 

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Blog: Dirk Dobiéy
Translation: Vivian Kolster, Stephanie Barnes

Picture Sources: Jan Philips van Thielen – Roses and a Tulip in a Glass Vase, Quelle: NGA.gov
Jan von Brueghel the Younger. – Satire on Tulip Mania. Quelle Wikimedia Commons
Vincent van Gogh – Flower Beds in Holland. Quelle: NGA.gov
Claude Monet – Tulip Fields in Holland. Quelle: Wikimedia Commons
Franzconde – Tulip fields in Zuidschermer, North Holland, The Netherlands. Quelle: Wikimedia Commons

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Johannes Stüttgen

The increase in information is not paralleled with an increase in vocabulary – interview with artist and author Johannes Stüttgen

Dirk Dobiéy Insights Leave a Comment

Artist and author Johannes Stüttgen studied at Düsseldorf’s art academy as one of Joseph Beuys star pupils. “It was him who instilled my interest in the concept of art”, admits Stüttgen before elaborating with ease on the decades that have passed since his graduation. “Essentially, you (Age of Artists) are  striving for something similar. You are not searching for single artistic particularities, but a paramount concept of art.” By establishing the extended concept of art – the idea that artistic practice is not exclusive to art itself, but applicable to a range of disciplines – Joseph Beuys and Johannes Stüttgen became pioneers of a movement which refused to understand art solely as a physical artwork. “Nowadays art is usually understood as one artist’s particularity or style, which is always a constricted point of view”, explains Stüttgen. “The artwork of which I am speaking is much more extensive than those single model cases.“ The expanded concept of art comprises not only of artists in the traditional sense, “but all people and all fields of work. It transcends limitations. If we concern ourselves with this concept for a prolonged period, we will find within it the key to question and correct all conventional conditions.”

Anyone who argues in this way cannot shy away from political and economic engagements. In order to actively contribute towards a future-compliant society, Stüttgen converses publicly about the idea of an unconditional basic income with Götz Werner, founder of drugstore DM. Furthermore, Stüttgen is a co-founder of ‘OMNIBUS für direkte Demokratie’ with whom he lobbies for alternatives to current developments concerning the understanding of democracy. “The increase in information in our world is not paralleled with an increase in vocabulary”, diagnoses Stüttgen in want of new concepts and clear terminology e.g. about what makes a company. “Ultimately, a company is an artwork, too, which is why, both its roles in business and the global economy are of interest. I am deliberately choosing to forego the concept of a national economy, as it has expanded to a global economy, in my opinion. At this point, every business needs to ask about its role in the the bigger picture. One’s corporate objective cannot be limited to single products in the market. Today, every corporate objective is accompanied by a parallel process which attempts to locate the company in the broader context of the world. Thus, companies are well advised to create a department responsible only for this process. The underlying idea is that every employee should be able to work in this department, independent of their usual one. Processes also need to happen in certain, rhythmic intervals and embrace opinions and questions that go beyond the horizon of the company.”

Anyone unwilling to hastily group Johannes Stüttgen’s arguments along with past utopias will be prompted to inevitably explore and discover the self. “The question about the archetypal is always a question about the beginning; and the question about the beginning is a condition to be fulfilled if one aims to find out who one is. However, most people will make the mistake and not allow this question. Their career and external, existential worries are bigger than their curiosity and search. Thus, they increasingly devote themselves to the system.“ Stüttgen perceives the 70’s subculture of punk as an example of questioning existing beliefs and socially established goals. “However, if one asks oneself what became of punk, the conclusion is sobering. Punk wasn’t an ongoing movement. Nobody took it seriously, everyone simply went with the flow, and as soon as one entered professional life, the image was shed. Even though a lot of adolescents were transfixed by punk, today they do not question what it meant for them back in the day. If a movement hinders the career, it remains nothing but a fond memory or nostalgia. The adolescent impulses wither away. Instead, they should be understood as instructions of where things are heading. Success is possible, if one stays true to oneself and oneself only. ‘Why should one put a wretched career before the fulfilling search for a deeper meaning or the raison d’être?’ Most people’s reason is pure fear – the fear of looking down their internal abyss – so they take the easy way and choose not to look. Admittedly, searching for a deeper meaning is strenuous, but so is climbing a mountain, and the view in both cases is worth the effort. That is why I perceive my path as the obvious choice and see, in said outlook on life, a contribution to mankind. ”A contribution which Johannes Stüttgen pursues with a certain perspective and method. Metaphorically phrased his perspective boils down to this: “My ideal is the upright gait. Standing up straight, head above water, feet on the ground, heart at the core. It is a cooperation between hand, heart and mind. (…) My stance is clear. I want to stand up straight.” His method is especially characterized by curiosity, “because I long to find out, what another person actually wants and how this compares to my experiences. Essentially, it is a fabrication of relationships; an approach that shows my own work results and patterns, while the other person is influencing my imagination. Every person has an existing, artistic impulse, and I believe this impulse to even be the key to the future of human evolution. Progress lies in human connection, because connection transcends external contexts and frameworks and enables people to recognize their similarities. Although this broadens the concept of interpersonal relationships, it will end in catastrophe, if this recognition remains unnoticed. Communication and mutual cooperation create an artistic and social task.“ Stüttgen claims quick wins are not to be expected from this concept. “Generally, these successes take time and there are detours and step backs along the way. Any artistic process is a kind of experiment in the name of progress.“ But a higher level is in reach with the correct form of appreciation. “A person’s life – from their birth, via childhood, adolescence and adulthood, till death – is a permanent process. If one questions what all of it is leading up to, it is easy to become dissatisfied or distracted. One is at risk of being ruled by external influences, although some factors, such as ageing, can only be disturbed by a limited amount. I perceive all stages of life as artistic processes, because they embody freedom. They are processes of freedom and a biography therefore, becomes a piece of art.“

Read the full interview with Johannes Stüttgen here. (German only).

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Dai Chenlian

“Art gave me a Reason to Live”- Interview with Artist Dai Chenlian

Benjamin Stromberg Insights, Interview Leave a Comment

After a one and a half hour drive by car from Beijing’s city centre to the south the many skyscrapers and blocks begin to clear. The end of the city isn’t reached, but instead another micro cosmos which is not part of the everyday life in the Chinese capital: Abandoned, decayed buildings and curious looks mark the way to the artist Dai Chenlian. His studio lays in this remote part of the city where proper administration by the government doesn’t exist anymore. The bald-headed man with the smart smile invites me into his premises and prepares a black tea. “Art gave me a reason to live”, he tells me. “It exists for me to express something. Through art I found my way to live happily.” So, how did he discover his hidden talent? “I think first of all you have to be sensitive and second you have to work hard”, is his answer. His path as an artist already guided him to Germany, where he lived in Dresden for a couple of years. Now he is back in China. Soon he is going to look for a new studio at the other end of the city, around two hours away.

“The artist should not always stay in the rules of safety. The questions should be questioned.” Nevertheless routine is very important for Dai during his work. Creativity and routine are no contradiction to him, but part of the same system: “I always use the powers of nature to change the routines like the elements. Usually I use water or fire. I want the routine to change or to break.” In a way, Dai provokes moments in which he could lose control, in order to gain control again and to create something new out of it: “I think a good artist is an artist who can also control his work. And I think my position is actually like being an editor. I have lots of materials and I have to choose them or to pick them or to combine them, just like an editor.” And how does he know when to publish? “I know it is finished when it can help someone else. If someone else gains something from the project there is a stopping point. And I will set a time for it. Like a pot of water will boil, it will come to its end”, he tells me.

But the end of a work is for Dai just a small mark on a long, maybe infinite journey. “Art always breaks itself and goes to the future, to the supposed next stage. […] And we can imagine what the future looks like and this is always imagined from now. It is the artist’s job do these imaginations and the artist will always stand with the future.” Right here lays for him the biggest difference between art and business: “Business is sometimes satisfied with its situation. The economy should create more ways or systems to overcome the separation of the rich and the poor people. They have to create stable systems if they want to make progress instead of standing at the same point.” Our translator and Dai’s friend, Zhang Heming, completes this perspective at the end of our talk and closes with a well known German artist: “As Beuys said famously, ‘everyone is an artist’. I don’t think that everyone should be an artist but I do think that everyone should be creative in his work. This is my personal dream.“


Interview and Blog-Post: Benjamin Stromberg

Translation: Benjamin Stromberg and Stephanie Barnes

Picture Source: The Artist

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Hans-Jörg Rheinberger

The Aspect of Activity – Interview with Hans-Jörg Rheinberger

Adina Asbeck Insights, Interview Leave a Comment

Hans-Jörg Rheinberger is a scientific historian. He not only has a humanistic background in sociology, philosophy, and linguistics, but also a life science background in biology and chemistry. Since adolescence, he has been writing poems and essays. From 1997 to 2014, he was director at Berlin’s Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science.

In his research, Rheinberger mostly occupies himself with the nature of the experiment and experimental systems, a term he coined for configurations which contain uncertainty, unpredictability and the state of not knowing, “One has to look at them as places of emergence, as structures that have arisen from the development of the sciences in order to discover the unimaginable. They act like a spider web, in that they need to be able to catch everything, without the knowledge of what it is or where it comes from. Experimental systems are precautions taken for the generation of spontaneous events.” It follows that (true) experiments are firstly, open-ended and secondly, that their findings cannot be anticipated. For Rheinberger, the experiment mostly constitutes of a “moment of activity and a moment of uncertainty (…) When doing experiments, one evidently has to combine different aspects within the process. If, say, a biologist is conducting research, the bio materials need to be treated so that they and the applicable technology productively coalesce. Imagine working in a room, in which the equipment is incomplete, or there are disturbing vibrations to be switched off. The whole process is an ensemble of elements – including the researcher, who one day might be more cheerful than the next. It is an ensemble that is constantly under configuration and re-configuration, but is not systematically assembled as e.g. a car, in which every part is built to fit the next for it to work. Indeed, the process exists because there is no working car!” 

What Rheinberger suggests has little to do with the stringent, linear process that generally comes to mind if one thinks of research. Rather, it is reminiscent of a playground of coincidences or more so, a system to achieve serendipity, with neither provides the end result, nor suggests a defined route. The activity aspect plays an essential role in this, as it integrates experimentation where one seeks to generate new knowledge: It is discernible in the rehearsal of a play, a draft, the trial run of an idea in the form of a sketch or model, the composition of different components or in the orchestration of teamwork. Usually experimenting is teamwork. Even supposing it was not, the work of a single researcher is still collective in that it attempts to disclose the previous findings of the scientific community. The new work is integrated into the debate and at the disposal of everyone from the community who challenges it. At least, that is the ideal, which describes the process at its core – although there may be deviations. Research is conceived as a collective discourse, which in the visual arts possibly features differently – despite the fact that they have brought about the phenomenon of the ‘Workshops’. One simply has to think back to the 17th century and Rubens’s studio. […] Evidently then, it can no longer be a closed-off room, in which the artistic process takes place in isolation.”

If one asks Rheinberger, who pens poems when he is not writing for academic purposes, whether he sees any parallels to art, he acknowledges a lot of similarities: “I think artistic work is a practical way of relating to the world and just as activity driven as the sciences. In both cases, it is about pioneering the unknown: a step closer in exploring a topic, of which one does not yet know much. Therefore, the execution of research and the execution of artistic work are generally comparable activities. One engages oneself in an adventure with an uncertain outcome. […] Both are not to be understood as a teleological process, but rather the rejection of a current state, which leaves much to be desired. Essentially, it is unclear where the journey leads. But there is an understanding, that the journey needs to be made – there is no arbitrariness in that. This is a situation in which both artists and researchers find themselves, although they potentially work with disparate materials and techniques. […] It would be wrong to assume, however, that this type of uncertainty equals flabbiness or generality. On the contrary: I believe that someone, who is willing to engage experimentally with a field of study already has a clear research objective in mind.” 

Creativity, for Rheinberger, means going on an open-ended journey while maintaining a clear intention and negotiating the research outcome in dialogue with the material. He believes that there is no method applicable to this and “that one has to have entered a process of confrontation and been truly involved in it, with all the faculties and capabilities available to the specific person.“ Rheinberger’s ideas discern themselves in his reference to the handling of the material and its resistance, “Within the life sciences ‘not everything goes’. The objective is to find out about material processes, which usually are not evident, and the researcher is more or less bound to the material used. No personal mark is to be left on it. In that way it is similar to art. There may be artists who believe that all art is created from within and that it serves as self-realisation. For me, that was never the interesting part, because I think the key issue is how to access one’s own world. The material used in the creative process, be it paint or canvas, is equally as resistant. The creation originates not within oneself, but the material.” Rheinberger does not perceive a restriction in the resistance of the material, but a challenge. To elaborate, he tells us about his poetic output: “Since the age of eighteen, I have been writing and never stopped, although I have also never made it my profession. The point for me, is not to express my innermost feelings, but to engage with a different material, namely language and words, and these can be very resistant. How they are arranged and what can be created with them are materially contingent processes to me. At their very end, things emerge, which one would not have thought of in the beginning, as they configure and originate only in the concrete handling of the word material.“

Download the full interview as a PDF. (German only)


Interview: Dirk Dobiey, Claudia Helmert
Blogpost: Adina Asbeck
Translation: Vivian Kolster and Stephanie Barnes

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Zhang Wei

“Artists need to Express Themselves” – Interview with Photographer Zhang Wei

Benjamin Stromberg Insights Leave a Comment

In one of the most popular art districts in the East of Beijing, photographer Zhang Wei invites me into his stylish studio in a dark backyard. The neighborhood seems central and lively, even though we are at least two hours from the city centre. Zhang Wei has the view of someone who has seen quite a lot of things in life. He speaks quietly and thoughtfully.

On his walls hang world famous people depicted in perfect photographs. Zhang Wei is a master of illusion, because he has never met any one of these personalities. The celebrities are collages of hundreds of faces of Chinese people that were photographed by Zhang Wei. He says other people’s faces are his way to express himself. He pours us a boiling hot tea. The first sip burns the tongue. “It took a long time. About 15 years ago I truly wanted to find a way to express myself. At the beginning I was just very confused. I tried every method that I could think about. And actually all the methods were just about the method: So I came to the camera to record what I saw, to record what was around me. At first I just focused on myself and on my friends. Then I found out it would be a bigger thing to connect with the society – that is the process. Before that I made all my work just for myself or my friends. After that I just thought time has come to observe the world.”

That connection to society through expressing himself is, for Zhang, the key to his being an artist. To reach this point means hard work: “Before a lot of people actually told me that my work was not good. I felt really sad when they said that. As time passed on I thought it doesn’t matter if someone says something bad about my work. I didn’t care and just wanted to try my best.” This tenaciousness is important for Zhang, but one should not confuse it with trying more of the same: “Not only trying. Being an artist is not just to try things. It is mostly about experience and also to let it happen naturally.” After that he brews a new tea, another type this time.

It is important for Zhang to state his social connection to his fellow man as the core of his art: “I always try to record not just the moments but also the changes because our society keeps on changing all the time. I want to give back my thoughts about this to the people who see the pictures. And hopefully through this they also can connect better to themselves. So I definitely think that I want to help people.” Art is the instrument he chose in order to create such a connection to society. He names communication as the most important requirement: “Communication with each other is the key. What I like are some resident projects where artists from all over the world live together and communicate with each other. And they all say: ‘We are actually the same. All that we try is freedom.’ To give such a spirit also to the rest of the world is a fantastic idea.” He smiles and nods slowly. The time has come to say Goodbye.

Please read the full interview here.


Interview and Blog-Post: Benjamin Stromberg

Translation: Benjamin Stromberg and Stephanie Barnes

Picture Source: The Artist

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Artistic Intelligence and Commercial Artists – Our Links of the Month

Adina Asbeck Education, News Leave a Comment

Artistic intelligence and Commercial Artists – this months links play with fire, so it’s only logical to surface a contribution that explains why it doesn’t make any sense to be an artist.

Sam Wetherell wrote an article for the Jacobin, presenting the new thoughts of Richard Florida, “who wants you to know that he got almost everything about cities wrong. Talking about “creative classes” and how they influence our urban lives, his latest book, The New Urban Crisis, represents the culmination of this long mea culpa. Though he stops just short of saying it, he all but admits that he was wrong. He argues that the creative classes have grabbed hold of many of the world’s great cities and choked them to death.”

So why be creative at all? Why be an artist? This video created by Simon Cade gives an insight  on “Why You Shouldn’t be an Artist” – Or should you at least try?

Cat Ellis published an interview with Jony Ive for the TechRadar, asking the question “Why add art?”. “The shift from STEM to STEAM is important as design will make technology better – more accepted, relevant to human need and much more desirable and useful […] from driverless cars to AI, VR and AR, design can ensure that new technology benefits people across the board.”

Directed and edited by Mitchell Mullins and produced and written by Eli Paul, “Too Far Gone” is a video and testament to creatives who often find themselves absent from the moment. Not through choice but from their own drive to create. It is so important to stop and appreciate the moments for what they are and what they stand for.


Picture source: Creative Commons (CCO)

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Stephanie von Becker SAFI

Inside the Time Capsule with Musician SAFI

Adina Asbeck Insights, Interview Leave a Comment

SAFI is a musician and eponym of the same-named band; the band’s work can be identified somewhere between punk and poetry. After a graphic design education in Halle and Leipzig, and various jobs in that area, SAFI’s dream to become a full time musician became more urgent and she decided to concentrate on that genre while continuing to work as a graphic designer.

Because of her concerts and meetings with clients far away from her hometown of Berlin, she told us that to “work on the fly” is one part of the creative process. “When working on the road my concentration is the best. Probably because I have limited time and nothing can distract me. For sure my focus is better than if I was working in the studio for several days. For the whole time one has an observer’s perspective. One consumes influences and has a look out of the window or examines people. Especially that situation, to be trapped in a room that I can’t leave instantly, inspires me to create. For me, that window is like looking at a collage [of different people, scenery, events].” Therefore it’s obvious, to not only perceive those impressions, but to use them for my own work.

SAFI JANUS

“I’m always collecting impressions – no matter where I am. I’m collecting through audio recordings or sketch books. In sketchbooks I am writing fragments of sentences and when I’m experimenting with audios on the computer – I’m putting together traces, taking them apart again and saving them within other archives: Sound Collage.”

SAFI described putting all those fragments together, as a whole, like this: “I treat text and music like a sculpture, I summarize and take away again, until I can find the form. At the moment the basis for a piece is the sound, the music, the rhythm, the melody. The text comes later – but sometimes it is the other way around.“ SAFI isn’t afraid of connecting her creative work with her education: “to me it’s kind of a painting; a compression and a process until the verdict that it is good enough and even after listening to it for the seventh time it still exists.” For SAFI, songs only survive if they are allowed to mature. “Generally I take time to leave pieces alone for a while. That creates the necessary distance to evaluate a piece in its being. With a fresh ear you are in the position of an aerial perspective and you realise immediately where it snags and is inconsistent, whether the piece really has a meaning, if the idea has manifested and whether the piece is relevant. Every second, every little shred can give rise to a new song.To me, every millimeter of writing on paper contains the potential to develop a story. The main inspiration is a playful approach: to liberate oneself, establish new rules, and to break them again; the passion to play and to create. The happiness is the main inspiration and motivating force. The next step is the aspiration: Where to go? What should it look like? What purpose does it all have?”

Contact with other artists plays a big role in the musician’s life, even if that can be painful from time to time. “It’s an amazing thing to work together with people from different genres. […] Together there is a creative process again. There, the songs are still able to change, they can get another character. If I notice that suddenly something weird happens with Matthias on the second guitar or Frank at the drums and we try to save that moment: ‘play this continuously and we improvise various things.’ Or they might say: ‘SAFI, that’s impossible to play, we can’t do it like that. What do you think about me playing it like this?’ Like that it’s amazing as well.”

SAFI/ Stephanie von Becker

For SAFI, even after several iterative loops the work isn’t done. “The reaction of the audience shows how well you’re able to perform the song. It is about the direct dialogue. If I played music just by myself, I would probably be very lonely. If people come to concerts and listen and understand, something magical happens. Everything has a purpose. It is being examined at its heart, screened by the audience, it is being absorbed, celebrated, or misunderstood – the whole work happens in that moment. It all becomes one.”

To share music or art, whether on a stage or in public, always means to be judged by people and to be confronted with critique. “Generally we think it is important that critique happens. The most instantaneous reaction we get is at concerts. On the one hand, the immediate reaction, the more or less strong applause during the concert, but also after the performance. Afterwards we get to talk to people at the merchandise stand: they buy things, ask questions, or share their excitement, but also their critique. Our friends and colleagues also share their compliments and critique with us. That feedback is more intense because our work really gets challenged or positively evaluated.”

It is important to SAFI to share the songs with the people she trusts and whose critique helps it to evolve. And she thinks, that it is important to, “not show her music to too many people, only to a small circle because otherwise there would be too many opinions. I am the most happy, when people say that I gave them something: they can take something home with them and think about it.”
SAFI also thinks that the artistic and creative influence of all kinds of genres contributes to our economy and improves our environment, that every person can be creative. “I noted, that everyone, even if he’s as far from the art as possible is creative because he decides about his own life and likes the things that he likes, otherwise he wouldn’t do them.
Project ideas emerge out of a creative impulse or will. If someone wants to hire one or one hundred employees, or how someone paints his own picture or dream is creative to me. The process is able to be designed. I would probably advise the managing partner of a collection agency to talk to creative people more often and to go to exhibitions and concerts. Additionally, we should have dialogues concerning idealistic and philosophical topics, so that the perspective is able to change and new opportunities arise.”

Read the full (german) interview here.


Interview: Dirk Dobiey
Blog-Post: Adina Asbeck
Translation: Adina Asbeck, Stephanie Barnes
Picture Source: SAFI/ Stephanie von Becker (http://safimusic.com/presse/)

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Thinking the Complex – Our Links of the month

Adina Asbeck Education, News Leave a Comment

Our this months collection out of the world wide web gives some input on how our society and businesses struggle with their aim to control and structure the way of learning and working.

“What makes a genius?” an article  by Claudia Kalb, published by the National Geographic concentrates on the scientific research of genius minds, such as Michelangelo or Einstein and states that to achieve brilliant ideas we need “intelligence, creativity, perseverance, and simple good fortune, to name a few”.

““The more complex an organism is,” says artist and teacher Adam Wolpert, “the more capable it becomes. And the more capable it is, the more it can address challenges and seize opportunities. The downside of that is, the more complex it becomes, the more vulnerable it becomes.””, Steve Vassalo wrote in his article “Design Thinking Needs To Think Bigger” for Co.Design and introduces the need to renew our way of thinking.

Thomas L. Friedmann asks in his essay “From Hands to Heads to Hearts”, published by the New York Times, “what makes us humans unique?”, concentrating on the fact, that we live in a technical society, competing in thinking with machines. But machines “will never have: a heart”. “Humans can love, they can have compassion, they can dream. While humans can act from fear and anger, and be harmful, at their most elevated, they can inspire and be virtuous. And while machines can reliably interoperate, humans, uniquely, can build deep relationships of trust.”

The Guardian published an article by Christina Patterson, suggesting that dance might “future-proof our children”, meaning that “we will need all the creativity and curiosity and flexibility we can muster. We’ll need all the “innovation” we can get.”

Last but not  least, take the time to watch this short animated film by Daniel Martínez Lara and Rafa Cano Méndez, giving a colorful statement about our systematic, structured world, lacking the freedom of creativity and self expression and their necessity to be truly content.


Picture Source: Creative Commons (CCO)

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