“When it’s time for something different it has to be different”, says Age of Artists member Stephanie Barnes. Together with Phil Dodson and Doug Shaw, kindly sponsored by Herman Miller, Betahaus, and The Wesley Hotel Stephanie is co-facilitating a series of interactive and practical organizational and personal development workshops: The Art of Innovation. Innovation and creativity, powerful skills we need for differentiation purposes in business, and to which we are attracted as humans. Sadly, too often we let self criticism and anxiety hold us back from being creative. In the right environment, and with the right tools and techniques, we can progress past these blocks and let creativity and innovation become a regular, useful part of our daily lives and careers.
Stephanie, Phil and Doug invite you to join them for two one-day (London) or one two-day (Berlin) workshop of carefully yet loosely structured exploration and work, focusing on:
Identifying and applying the creative process
Learning ways to come up with new ideas and overcoming creative blocks
Reflecting on and adapting our own creative strengths and weaknesses
Through our work together, you can expect to gain improved self-confidence and resilience, and take away practical tools and ideas to help you be more curious and creative, enabling you to create better work for yourself and your team. You will take away any art works you make on the day, some good quality art materials to enable you to continue your adventures, a reading list, and some creative prompts to support your learning.
Through years of experimentation and hard work in our knowledge management, collaborative, and artistic practices, we have uncovered some important qualities which are necessary in order to sustain innovation and creativity.
Curiosity…An inquiring mind
Resilience…Strengthening and softening
Improvisation…Going with the flow
A sense of community…Belonging
Exploring these themes, and how we can practice and improve them, will form the basis of our time together.
The outline for the day looks like this:
Creativity and our organizations
Principles of Work
Making and Doing
London: 1-day workshop will be offered twice, June 8 and 9, 2017
Berlin: 2-day workshop offered July 4 – 5, 2017
(Berlin is a 2-day workshop to account for differences in demand/interest based on anecdotal evidence in both cities. The workshops will cover the same material, it is the depth that will vary.)
Stephanie Barnes is a painter and knowledge management consultant. She works with organizations to make better use of what they know, utilizing her strategic business knowledge, critical thinking, and creativity in the process.
Stephanie is a member of Age of Artists and she can also be found on her personal website or business presence.
Philip Dodson: Coach, Mentor, Blogger, Artist, Podcaster, Coworking Space Operator, Facilitator and speaker.
Founder of the creative and inspirational coworking space @Work Hubs, co-founder of International Collaboration Day, founder of Dodson Commercial, Creator of the Deep Work Project and London Art Club Meetup.
It’s all about why we do what we do, not what we do. Life is all about stories and being able to tell our own story. Phil is in love with writing, art and other communication and how it helps collaboration, connection, ideas, self-confidence and productivity.
In a world that is sadly dominated by shallow and repetitive work, he is on a mission to help people have the environment and tools to be able to create meaningful deep work that will set us apart.
Doug Shaw : Artist, Organisational Development Consultant, Facilitator.
Doug is at his best when helping people find greater effectiveness, enjoyment and inquiry in their work. He believes together beats apart, productive beats busy, connection gives us meaning, and conversations are the bond. Curiosity is underrated. We are all artists.
Robert D. Austin is an innovation and technology management researcher and professor of Innovation and Information Technology at Ivey Business School in Canada. Together with dramaturg and emeritus professor of theatre Lee Devin he examines business innovation through the lens of art practice. Their two books Artful Making and The Soul of Design explore the striking structural similarities between theatre artistry and production and today’s business projects. For Austin, there is no doubt artistic practices are highly relevant in today’s’ business environment, and particularly “in developed economies because communication and transportation networks have become so usable and inexpensive that it devalues cost-leadership approaches to business. Many companies in many places can enter into price competition when goods move around the globe so cheaply. And there are many places you can produce for a lower cost than in developed economies because of structural advantages (e.g., lower wages in developing economies). So, if you are based in developed economies you have a structural cost disadvantage. It doesn’t really matter how good you are, you may still have trouble defeating the competition based on cost. That forces more and more companies to differentiate themselves. Business differentiation usually arises from some sort of a creative act. It involves a shake-up for you that frees you from historical patterns, habits, processes and procedures and comes up with something truly new. That is something artists are striving for and good at.”
At the same time, Austin rejects an idealistic starry-eyed view into the matter. “Especially the arts, but every creative activity, are in a kind of enriching your view or in other terms, they are good for your soul. They have a spiritual dimension but I think in my work I have veered away from pressing that too far. Partly I worry a little bit that it is a slippery slope. I think there is a certain line of logic you can encounter that kind of expects art to save the world. That’s a lot to ask. We have to be kind of careful with what we approach. I emphasize that, and don’t mean to say that it is not a real effect, but I do think it can be of overly dramatized and romanticized. I know academics that are guilty of that. They do research in what I would call arts in management. Deep down what they have at heart is a rather more romantic notion of the arts than I think most real artists have. I think artists approach their work from the standpoint that it is nourishing for them and for their soul but it is for them quite a practical matter. My co-author was a playwright for a while and did many things in the theater. One of the things he likes to say is that writing, for him, was about putting his head into the work and keeping it down for a certain number of hours. Then do it again the next day. He was always quite skeptical on others who overly romanticized things. There are some concepts that come up into the discussion that can be dramatically romanticized. There is also a sense where some artists, in order to cultivate image and aura, cultivate a romantic notion of what they do for external consumption, but I think it has relatively little to do with what they actually do. Most of the artists I interviewed over the years working on this kind of thing, don’t try to romanticize what they do. In fact, it doesn’t mean that their project is unimportant or mundane but for them, they like to make things”, Austin comments. And he is certain that “an artist lives in the world like everyone else.”
Yet a world experienced through the four qualities of artful making allows to reconceive much of what one does along artful lines, Austin and Devin write in their first book. Those four qualities are release, collaboration, ensemble and play and while they sound not very sophisticated they represent some major differences to most established business practices. “[…M]any of the things that are expressed in these four processes are things that are not built into the reflexes of business managers who have learned to manage in a more industrial setting, where they are oriented to terms like maximizing, exploiting and value creation”, Austin clarifies. “I would say that what we are describing in our book is very much the exploration inclination. There are a lot of things in that process you would never do in a more industrial exploitation process like the whole idea of release, is not consistent with what you would try to do in a factory. There is also literature in the management research on what’s called organizational ambidexterity. Organizations are trying to do both, exploration and exploitation and are succeeding to differing degrees and we are trying to discover those companies. The decision attitude is based on logical frameworks where you focus on the machinery to choose between alternatives. The creation of entirely new attitudes like the design attitude would be much more focused on a creative act.” For Austin one major difference is the concept of emergence. “In a lot of creative processes, you don’t choose between alternatives but create the right alternative. At that point, the choice is obvious. In the final situation of a creative act you have worked your way to an alternative through what is basically an emergent process. Many businesses are historically rooted in the decision attitude. They need to move the direction to a design attitude.” A design attitude for Austin also involves a certain resilience; an ability to define an objective but to remain open enough to end up somewhere different than originally planned. “Often when you are in a creative process you start out going from A to B but you end up at C and that’s just the nature of things. I do agree that often creative processes especially in practical settings start with an objective but there are always multiple ways of finding the objective. What distinguishes the creative processes is that the outcome of those processes sometimes doesn’t solve the problem that they set out to solve. They reframe it in a new way that is more solvable or more satisfactorily solvable. Part of the creative act, especially in the field of design, is not to take the problem or objective as a given but to see as something that is subject to reframing and redefinition. A classic, elegant design solution is something that reframes the problem, solves the reframed problem, and in the process which also solves the original problem. You start out thinking the problem and objective were defined in a certain way and often this is where in the field of design a lot of user research comes in.”
Clearly, approaching a creative act with a design attitude involves not having all the answers, sometimes not even knowing the questions to begin with. For leaders with an orientation towards efficiency this is not easy to overcome, Austin explains. “They don’t enjoy not being able to make sense of things. They like to think they have already a good grip on the world. One of the things that’s fundamentally difficult about the arts is that they are continually evolving the meaning of things. In certain kinds of activities, especially if you are a manager who has focused on an industry for a long time, you don’t want to see much evolving at all. You want to see everything under control. When something as major as meaning starts to evolve; that doesn’t look like a good thing. It looks like something that needs to get under control, it runs against your reflexes.” Many artistic reflexes seem run against traditional management reflexes, many practices challenge classical business practices. While Austin does not favor one side over another, he is convinced creativity and innovation require the artful side of things. “An artful leader would probably be much more attuned to the emergent nature of creative acts and the way creative activities need to feed on each other: reactions to reactions to reactions as a way of moving ideas. They would be much more open to differences of perspectives because creative acts see things in different ways and are able to create something truly original. A second part is that once you’ve created something original and valuable, to recognize that that’s what you’ve done. That is something businesses have a lot of trouble with. Sometimes they create something new and quite valuable but their habitual procedures, practices and mindsets keep them from seeing the value. It is a very common pattern in business that companies that invent things are not the ones which eventually make that into a business. They are too busy in a different kind of businesses; it’s a pattern that repeats again and again. […] Another thing is that an open realization, that variation is at the heart of innovation and creativity, whereas it is the thing to be discouraged in a more industrial process. Randomness is a bad thing if you’re in an exploitation mode, but it’s an absolute requirement if you’re in an exploration mode. Companies have all sorts of systems that try to minimize variation in their processes, all of which work against creative and artful processes. Often in a creative activity you are making judgments about esthetic quality of a thing versus their practicality. In a design firm a limitation might be a certain budget of a number of hours for a certain activity. If we go beyond this number of hours we start to lose money, it would be an unprofitable job, if we go too far beyond the budget. That is one set of pressures. Another set of pressures might be, we’re at the budgeted amount that we expected to spend on this but we don’t have a solution that we think is satisfactory, of a sufficient esthetic quality. A designer’s inclination is to work beyond that boundary. A business manager’s inclination is to say, ‘no, we have to restrict the budget because the job needs to be profitable.’ One thing we see in creative companies is that the managers are sometimes willing to go beyond those boundaries because they see it as an investment in future reputation, in creation of creative capabilities that they will get to reuse, and even creation of ideas that would come back in other products or work with other clients. I guess it boils down to an inclination to set aside the classic cost minimization or profit maximization reflexes, for a lot of reasons: to create new capabilities, to keep the creative people happy because they don’t want to do only profitable jobs, they want to do interesting jobs. One of the things we see in a lot of creative companies is that they will engage in projects that they know are not very lucrative or profitable, even going in, but these projects might be very interesting or stretch the creative capabilities in an interesting way. These companies talk about it in very practical terms: ‘we do this one and it’s going to be fun but the next job we take has to be one where we pay the bills’, Austin exemplifies. “There is that balancing act that a lot of creative companies engage in.” When listening to Austin, it becomes clear that the balance he is describing is not aiming at keeping the balance at all times but allowing a company to achieve it by also going through various conditions. “
I see another thing which is part of the paper we just written. The company we were studying there is having the right number of crisis in a year. When they have too many crises it is too disruptive, if they have too few crises then they are not poking their process enough. That’s really not much like someone running a factory would think. The optimal number of crisis in a factory is zero. Those are just a few things and there are probably a lot of them, tolerance for ambiguity, and a capacity in a leader to help the people who work for them to tolerate ambiguity, in an important characteristic. To tolerate the fact that in a creative act you necessarily don’t know where you are going and that can be uncomfortable.”
Austin realizes learning from art for better outcomes in business and society is a topic of great promise and significance but he is also realistic enough to understand it is not an easy task to convince traditional leaders. “We have more than 150 years of industrial thinking to overcome. The problem is always, when you are proposing new things and thinking in new categories and naming categories with different terminology, that terminology in that world lives at a disadvantage to the much more established terminology that’s all been settled. Anything truly new is at first unfamiliar and therefore kind of uncomfortable and therefore without respectability and meaning for a while.” But Austin is also full of hope due to the simultaneousness of many initiatives in the field. “We all use slightly different terminology, but I have the feeling that we are talking about the same kinds of things.”
For this months edition we found some articles in the world wide web, about creativity and the ability of learning with, and from it.
Starting with the youngest age, read an article the Guardian has published about children’s “natural creativity and curiosity” and how it is being destroyed by our so called modern school systems. “In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?” The full article is written by George Monbiot.
The next unit takes a closer look on artists and their pressure to create an own handwriting at a very young age. “These days the pressure is on young artists to come up with a singular look while they are still in college.” But we believe, that creativity cannot be something that ends at a certain age or can be forced on someone. We never stop learning. Laura Cummings article “The Seven Ages of an Artist” again was published by the Guardian.
The Atlantic did an animated video we want to share with you on the flow of creativity. Based on the words of filmmaker David Lynch, this animation gives a possible answer to the question of “Where great ideas come from?”. Watch the short movie by Jackie Lay, Katherine Wells and Jennie Rothenberg Gritz.
Talking about animations, Pixar is now offering free online lessons in storytelling in partnership with online education provider Khan Academy. “The first lesson is available now, and will provide an introduction to storytelling as well as help you hone your initial creation of things like setting and character. The lessons include both videos and activities for students to complete, and provides a general basis on which to build.” The full article is written by Darrell Etherington and published by TechCrunch. Go on and access your first lesson.
Last but certainly not least we want to follow up on the topic of the influence of creativity and how it can not only help us learning and creating, but even improve our wellbeing. Once again the Guardian published a piece on the initiative, of the Springfield University hospital in London, to integrate donated art pieces into their building. “Will, a resident on the Phoenix ward, who is in his 20s and a keen artist himself, says of his new environment: “I like everything about it. It makes me feel good. It’s calmed the place down and the colours are more cool. It was a privilege to work with such talented people.””
Beneath the Waves
Photo credit: Alexa Sirbu. The artist’s work was inspired by jellyfish.
“When I think about artistic attitude the first thing that comes to my mind is to be open,” says Sharon Molloy, professional artist. She was born and raised in the U.K. but started travelling when she went to art school near London, at the Winchester School of Art. It was from that point onwards that she would expand her world and learn the importance of keeping an open mind. We interviewed Sharon Molloy to understand how her creative process is informed by science and process and to learn how things she has learned in her creative practice can be incorporated into the activities undertaken by organizations. Keeping an open mind and being curious has helped her to learn and experience new things as she has travelled the world. She recognizes that being curious is what is important in learning, innovating, and evolving her art practice, “I always felt that impelling curiosity. If I hear something new I want to know everything about it instantly.”
Small Square Green Web
Ms. Molloy states, “there are no finished states, really. Those separated moments don’t exist…we humans think that something starts and ends so we can reuse the output.” When in fact, everything keeps going and evolving we keep learning, “I have evolved some practices…because I’m open minded and playful. Curiosity makes me compassionate as an artist and for my life in general. When I am able to awaken the interest and interaction with non-artists, I couldn’t wish for more,” Ms Molloy enthuses. She sees her role as bringing a different perspective to people who don’t usually have contact with the kind of art she makes (Networkism) and during the interview related an anecdote about some dentists she had the opportunity to interact with at an exhibition. And they recognized that they (the dentists) were a network, like her paintings depict.
Ms Molloy enjoys learning and discovering new things. She says she was interested in science and processes at school, but had to decide between those subjects and her art, choosing art but recognizing that there is much in common between the two. Both have curiosity and the desire to know something at their heart. She says, “sometimes my work has been included in magazines the look at art and mathematics or art and science. There are moments I feel more like a scientist and my studio resembles an experimental workshop.” Ms Molloy believes that organizations have lost their way, focusing too much on profit, and not on “customers, society, or the environment. I think something is missing there,” she says. Further explaining that, “we should be aware that everything we use or do as individuals has an impact in a much bigger context.” It is this sense of purpose that helps drive her in her creative process and keeps her asking questions.
Ms Molloy believes that art transcends language, that “with visual art you can experience something which transcends language. You can express things that are separated and connected at the same time. You can see all the paradoxes.” She asserts we need more of this, not less in the world we live in, if we are going to survive as a species and appreciate the privilege we have of living on this planet, in this vast universe.
Den falschen Film für den Oscar nominiert? Sicher ein Fehler aber nicht so schlimm meint die Künstlerin und Age of Artists Mitglied Laura Kuch im Interview mit Deutschlandradio Kultur. „Man könnte aber auch aus einer ganz anderen Perspektive da mal draufschauen und könnte sagen, da ist ja was ganz Ungewöhnliches, was ganz Überraschendes passiert, etwas, was in Erinnerung bleibt und sich eben auch abhebt von dem sonst so perfekten oder makellosen Ablauf in so einer Oscar-Verleihung.“ Allenfalls ein Schlamassel also. Vielleicht etwas größer als die sympathische Tatsache, dass Laura Kuch’s Interview-Partner Julius Stucke in der Einführung zum Thema Fehler den Oscar mit dem Grammy verwechselt.
Es kommt eben darauf an wie man damit umgeht und was man daraus macht. “Ein Ereignis das geschah,” meinte der Musiker Herbie Hancock über die Reaktion von Miles Davis auf etwas das Hancock selbst bei einem gemeinsamen Konzert gründlich misslang. Dabei führte Hancock’s Erlebnis nicht dazu ab diesem Zeitpunkt immer falsch zu spielen, sondern wie Laura Kuch meint, eine Aufmerksamkeit dafür zu entwicklen, dass Fehler möglich sind und mitunter auch produktives Potenzial in sich tragen. Dabei stellt Laura Kuch klar, dass dies “kein Aufruf zur Unachtsamkeit oder willkürlichem Handeln sein soll. Aber zum einen, Fehler zu machen, ist ja ein Element, das uns durch dieses Menschlichsein alle verbindet.” Für Laura Kuch geht es darum, “auch diese Aufmerksamkeit dafür zu entwickeln. Im künstlerischen Schaffensprozess sind Fehler integraler Teil von diesem gestaltenden Prozess, der auch immer ein offener Prozess ist.”
“Ich gebe Ihnen mal ein Beispiel aus meinen Seminaren: dass die Teilnehmer zum Beispiel am Anfang die Augen schließen und sich den perfekten geometrischen Kreis vorstellen. Und wen sie den dann meinen, so klar vor ihrem inneren Auge zu sehen, dann öffnen sie die Augen wieder und zeichnen diesen Kreis mit schwarzer Tusche auf einem leeren Blatt Papier nach. Was da natürlich herauskommt, sind natürlich nicht eine Vielzahl an perfekten geometrischen Kreisen, das wäre ja auch todlangweilig. Stattdessen haben wir viele ganz einzigartige Kreise, von denen jeder was ganz Besonderes hat.
Lesen oder hören Sie das vollständige Interview mit Laura Kuch hier und erfahren mehr über das Seminarangebot von dem sie im Interview spricht.
Born in Berlin, Sebastian Heiner studied at the UdK (Universität der Künste) in his home town. Normally he works and lives in Berlin, where he shares an atelier with the artist Jörn Grothkopp. The Berliner told us as well, that his painting is influenced a lot by his temporary employment abroad. Over several years he held ateliers in Beijing, Shanghai and Bangkok. “I think, a lot broke loose inside of me while I was staying abroad. Before, I had the feeling that my painting got stuck in some kind of way. But the shock of the metropolis, the shock of the alien, highly opened myself up. I could return to colours, began to scratch inside of it and tried to find traces. (…) But also to be exposed to a completely different cultural context, I sensed as very fundamental and worth discovering for me. In a manner of speaking, I could find myself inside of the exceptional circumstances: inside of the foreign parts, far away from my cultural identity. I was able to return to myself – and was struck by this contradiction: To leave, to come back.” His devotion and examination of the Asian culture is significant and can be seen in his work. His paintings stand-out because of their abstract colouring and their graphic representation.
#1 The perception of the artist
“With both of us artists it’s mainly about perception. We talk a lot about what reality really is. We observe the world differently and try to identify how the other one sees it, how we differ from one another and where we meet again. For sure we meet within the steady challenge of our own position. For both it’s about the process of creating. The process, for us, is much more important than the outcome, the journey is the reward. It’s about the various options of the appearance of a painting, given that it’s beautiful, how diverse our variations are. We love the exchange, also with other people, and I consider it to be crucially important. It helps staying loose, to not freeze yourself and to keep the doors open.”
#2 The stage of the artist
“My domain of painting I seize as a stage. If I change, I try to cut myself out and to focus on my work. I leave the routine and pass the border into chaos, where I don’t possess anything but myself. The clothes are the skin, the stage is the screen. Then it’s about the design: I work quite physically. Sometimes I squeeze out the tubes on the floor, so that I first offer a ground of colours. Other Times I reach in with my hand to then directly smudge the colours with my body on the canvas. Or I take cardboard, dip it in colour and pull it over the linen. It has to be fast, direct and spontaneous. In that context I’m thinking about the work with China ink in Asia and that you have to concentrate to pick the right moment to do the right thing. This moment is the accuracy inside of the chaos. One has to follow his intuition. It may also happen that I created a composition I really like – besides a tiny moment, that brings down the whole system. It’s a series of reactions. The picture, that seems to appear randomly, eventually is always considered a system of elements. These elements have to experience some kind of order. The exemption might be illusory, because you always have certain modules and pieces available. Me, I have a particular movement I perform over and over again with my arm, without noticing. A specific repertoire is in some ways restrictive, too. Of course I can create lots of variations out of my repertoire, but still my great fear is the development of automatisms and a routine. In contrast I have to fight against it repeatedly, that’s why I change the main colour or the size and have to step back. Everyone has their own style: even the physical and psychic structure defines the elements one is provided with. It’s not about changing the repertoire of elements, at the most to widen it to its maximum. The dangers for creativity are the routine and the uniformity.”
Action at Work
#3 The working process of the artist
“It gets interesting when there is no concrete idea. It challenges me to always start at zero. That means not to have any deadlocked idea, or to have a ready-made opinion, but to act out of the moment and coincidence to then see that there will always arise a similar line. That way one cannot even act different than on his own terms. One leaves quite a lot behind, until he can only be what he is. My motivation exists out of the goal to not let anyone press me into one scheme, that’s why I even change the size of my canvas. So I also question myself technically. It’s a recurring question, which results out of a certain insecurity. I have to try something new again to challenge myself.”
“If mistakes occur, the worst case scenario is that I have to start a new painting. It might even be sorted out or I paint over it, which should only happen to a certain extent, because the freshness and immediacy otherwise get lost. Sometimes I mistrust the fast outcome, you always have to be on the watch, to always question yourself critically and to always be concentrated while doing so. I’m a huge fan of pragmatism. Maybe it’s because of the fear of chaos and the loss of control. It’s about keeping a balance between the disorder and a sorted, practically oriented world and tolerating this tension. The live is a subject to a messy principle, but there has to be some kind of order, otherwise the chaos would be destructive. It’s a dialectic assumption of the world out of two opposites, to create something and to question the creation afterwards again.”
#4 The rules of the artist
“It’s important to go step by step and to make decisions. To limit the dynamic of the chaos, you have to try to contain the things rationally, until you get to a result. I try to grasp the dynamic of the chaos within a small moment, like in chess. The chessboard is liable to the chaos and you try to rule over it. Therefore you need courage, because maybe you can’t control the entities even if you try. The risk of failing always exists. Yet it can be a struggle for existence, because you are a freelancer and you have to make your own rules day-in, day-out, even if you can’t enforce anything. You have to cultivate and renew your network and contacts all the time. It’s a current tension, because you are pressured forever with improvisation. Every day is new. There is never a guarantee for anything, but all of that can be very attractive as well. The resonance and the acknowledgement are essential. Within pure isolation you cannot create anything and that’s why you have to maintain the exchange. Otherwise the man folds.”
#5 What business can learn from artists
“From the process of the permanent self-renewal and the not standing still. That you keep having the courage to search for solutions and solve problems and to stay agile and open minded along the way. That they realise, that there is no security, only consistently new moments. That you do teamwork and communicate with your partner, so that you don’t achieve the things for yourself but together. That they believe in themselves and in one another. The belief in yourself is the strongest impulse to be able to find solutions. There is always an answer, even if it’s different from what you expected. Sometimes the answer doesn’t have a solution. I think, everyone can experience more: No matter if president, cashier, or professor. It’s about everyone displaying the things within his own possibilities and abilities and therefore brings out the best in himself. Meanwhile you should stay human and believe in the inventive quality even if there is not much tolerance. It’s about cultivating the positive, human skills: compassion, sympathy, exchange, help, etc., everyone can achieve that. Basically the economy wants to develop and to push something, those are basic elements of human action. You want to earn something and to create an additional benefit, that’s why there has to be a strategy to imply the creative. Without vision you cannot develop any strategy or product. The art is just a symbol for intense, human action. If you want to achieve something, you have to be brave, willing to take risks, curious and have fun. It doesn’t work if you are stubborn and without a certain freedom. There has to be conditions for the creative as well.” Additionally, Sebastian Heiner answered the question if he’s more resistant because of his art: “I think so. But that slowly developed over the years.”
Interview: Dirk Dobiéy, Transcript: Benjamin Stromberg, Blog: Adina Asbeck/Dirk Dobiéy, Editing: Stephanie Barnes Picture source: Hans-Georg Gaul (for Sebastian Heiner) except title portrait Age of Artists
Young, dynamic, international are some of the descriptors that instantly come to mind as soon as you enter the FabLab in Berlin: typical Berlin. However, this would not be accurate because Berlin’s FabLab is only three years old, making it even younger than many other FabLabs that are to be found in large cities all over Germany. Most of these FabLabs deal with 3D-printing and Laser technologies, but for what purpose?
“The focus of the FabLabs lies in the educational and enlightening purpose”, explains Wolf Jeschonnek, founder and manager of the FabLab in Berlin. “I did research about FabLabs and I had the desire to create such a place; a place where I can advance my projects. With the idea to found one I flew to the US and collected impressions of the existing FabLabs. […] The first FabLabs there were founded around 2003. In Germany they came in 2008. This means five years further development that you can highly recognize within the structures and organization of the FabLabs. […] I think the whole ecosystem for innovation culture and structure is more developed over there. Anything that deals with the topic of Maker Faire is clearly more developed. Someone from Maker Faire was even at the White House and presented 3D-Print, so the topic was discussed in a political setting. We are far away from these conditions in Germany.”
And it’s true, we are far away from this in Germany. The FabLabs are about providing modern machines and materials which will be the basis of technologically advanced societies in the future. This is why the FabLab primarily attracts people from the IT and MINT area. However, there are remarkable exceptions to this general rule, “Although there are not as many people from other areas, for example there are not more than ten percent artists, I consider it as diverse enough, because it’s very open and there is no forced connection to a university. All interested people just come and we cannot serve a broader spectrum of the public. We also strive for all ages. The professional depth is supported by professionals who support simple and complex questions. We share our knowledge because it’s the main idea of this place”, Wolf tells us. “We want to be considered as the intersection between people who invent technology and people who use it. The difference is whether you are a normal user of the technology or you become creative looking beyond the surface. The important objective is to design technology more transparent in its basics. This is why such a place exists.”
Right here one can find the huge potential of a lively FabLab: a random melting pot of people with different backgrounds, ages, interests, and skills. This is a factor that is ignored or created artificially at corporate business incubators. “Those act in a more goal-oriented and pragmatic fashion so that the potential of innovation is distinct to us. If you only start looking in a niche, the solutions are not so extensive. We are the opposite because we are very broad”, Wolf mentions. But he knows he still owes a proof for the FabLab’s ability to innovate. So far one cannot blame him for lacking that proof. It’s only been three years since the foundation; three years in which Wolf and his team stepped forward into a collaborative and creative future that still is far away for many of us.
You can find the complete Interview with Wolf Jeschonnek here (German only).
SAP’s Alumni Network has published on their news center as well as on their global intranet an article about Artistic Intelligence: How Art Inspires Innovation. Author Andrea Schmieden concludes “Age of Artists doesn’t focus on actual works of art, but rather on the artistic approach to producing creative and original results. Put this in business terms and the connection becomes clear: It’s about innovation and how we can evolve our creative potential to deal with new and complex challenges.” Please access the full article here.
Helge Steinmann, in the street art scene, is better known as “Bomber One”, a graffiti-institution in Germany. Born in Hessen, he studied communication design and became active as a graffiti artist in the late 80s. Mainly operating in and around Frankfurt he is also known internationally as an analyst, co-creator, and guest to various events and campaigns. His work has been published in a number of magazines and publications. In an interview with us he spoke about his career as an artist, about the freedom of the arts, and appreciation of oneself, the process of learning and education, as well as idea generation, and the daily struggle with structures and restrictions.
About courage, “to take the plunge, to go out at night and add something to the world.”
This sentence of course literally contains the process of the artist having the courage to spray a work, mostly outside and in secret. But furthermore it means to have the grit to express yourself in a public space; present ones’ art piece to the world and take advantage of the medium of art, to let everyone know ones’ position. Because “even if you seem to be invisible to the outside, the medium gives you a voice.” To become successful doing art isn’t easy. Helge Steinmann worked nearly two decades on his goal to be able to live from his graffiti and told us about his rocky road and his belief to have faith in yourself and never give up. “I’m certain, that you have to stick with some of your decisions for quite a while, so that one day they will lead you to success.”
About the generation of ideas and improvisation
“In the past, experimenting was much more thrilling than the final outcome.” Experimenting, again implies to dare and much more importantly, to start somewhere; no matter how sketchy or colorful, written or due to a recording. Improvising and processing your ideas to create a whole describes an action that requires time and patience. Bomber One talks about flashes of inspiration from his daily life, not about extremely exceptional ideas, which we can use to create a masterpiece. “I get my ideas out of the daily life. I read an article in the newspaper, get something sent via Facebook or see an image. The impressions are diverse and I am not able to source precisely where the images come from. I write down spontaneous brainwaves or sketch a brief note. If my ideas finally and successfully get converted, it is determined in the moment.” Moreover, improvisation also means that a draft that is created in a moment doesn’t necessarily have to be perfectly elaborated, but is allowed to represent an instant snapshot. “For the most part, I find this kind of approach a lot more appealing than the perfect drawing/painting. It contains within it the sensation of the instantaneous situation. That does not mean that the outlines I draw remain. If I get into something completely different next year, my attitude changes again.”
“I do something; I’m having fun doing.” About the economic value and the personal satisfaction
To learn to love oneself and one’s art is a big challenge for every artist. Often it’s about success, money, competition, and the critique of the public. But Helge Steinmann emphasizes that the personal satisfaction should come first and besides, art should definitely be fun. “I look at oeuvres detached from the clients’ perspective, because they’re unique. Of course I’m happy, if other people are fond of my work, but my valuation is primary. First of all, I am the target audience and if I like it, then I’m content. If others enjoy it, it’s even more pleasant, but not necessary. I have to be able to back the opus.” Furthermore, he criticizes our constant ambition for material possessions and the commercialization of art pieces. Of course he wants to keep being successful with his art, but that is not the objective; he describes the ephemerality of all belongings in comparison with satisfaction and the possibility to make active use of our time. “Lots of us are in the daily hustle of life and we basically have everything, but are conditioned through media, on an on-going basis, to acquire new products all the time to impress other human beings around us. That cuts both ways. I think it takes less to really be happy. I, myself don’t want to own that much and have noted that I only keep all of my belongings temporarily. We really only possess our life experiences, everything else is inferior to our competence in living our lives. In the end we give away all of the material possessions to someone else or in the meantime they are ground into atoms. We own nothing, that’s an illusion.”
“I define Fine Art as free work that is not being controlled and therefore holds huge significance.” Fine Art differs from commissioned work and describes artistry, which forms itself out of your own experiences and values and is then being brought to paper, canvas or even a wall.“ For me, some of the most important criteria are the freedom of the draft and my attitude towards the piece. To me, a painting has value if I feel sorry to give it out of my hands.” Steinmann thinks that “art is permanently in search of open space or even freedom.” Open space, here, means to have the possibility to express oneself unrestrictedly; especially in the public. “The search of art for freedom leads to the breaking of established standards and that, from time to time, the law is being questioned.”
Please access the full interview here (German only).
Graffiti from Helge Steinmann
Graffiti: Helge Steinmann All other: Age of Artists