— Cultural Sources of Newness

My professional life has offered me many opportunities to participate in advisory board meetings: as an advisor, as an advisee, and as an observer. After another such meeting today at the beautiful Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Nantes, for a major research project about Competences for CSR undertaken jointly by Audencia Nantes and the Ecole Centrale Nantes,  I find it intriguing to look back and reflect on some of those experiences to consider the conditions that seem to favor the emergence of something new.

 

Simone Weil on science at Maison de la Science des Hommes Nantes

Simone Weil on science at Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Nantes

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You really need to know about one special artist-led event at the Hidden Hunger congress 2015 that Ariane did not attend: The KRISENHERD / HotSPots on Thursday evening. Wanja Saatkamp invited the Hidden Hunger congress to participate in a collective cooking and eating experience, prepared by two of our guests: the social anthropologist Sebastian Schellhaas from Frankfurt/Main and the writer Yemisi Ogbe from Lagos, Nigeria. Wanja has been working artistically with the format of meals for some time, creating a mixture of debate club, cooking show, restaurant and informal gathering. She presented the format as Vagabundenküche in Summer 2014 during the infamous Vagabundenkongress at Theater Rampe.

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The 2nd international Hidden Hunger congress hosted by the University of Hohenheim was information-rich. Between Tuesday March 3rd and Friday March 6th 2015 the program offered the approximately 360 participants from around the globe

  • 66 lectures,
  • 35 poster presentations,
  • 2 panel discussions and
  • 1 film

by experts from numerous disciplines, such as nutrition, gynecology, pediatrics, agricultural sciences, and economics.

The scientific program was complemented by a “Science Meets Culture” stream , with 6 artists and 3 students from the Transdisciplinarity Master’s Program of the Zürich University of the Arts.

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The scientists at the Hidden Hunger conference are working hard. Presenting their findings, listening to others’ findings, and discussing each others’ findings–about food and over food during coffee breaks and lunch breaks.

The artists are also working hard. Conducting artistic research, giving their emerging ideas form, and finding ways to display their reflections back to the scientists. The artists are quietly and persistently changing the conference space. And they are offering the scientists provocative invitations about food and over food.

Artists's quotation-table-cover

Artists’ quotation-lunch-table-cover

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All the participants I have spoken to during the breaks at the Hidden Hunger conference say they feel it is a good idea to have art here. So I want to know why? The most frequent reason they cite is that the arts help communicate science. For example, they tell me that art communicates complex connections more clearly than technical language and technical graphs do, it communicates in a more human way, it provides the interpretation in a real life context. 

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Which is more surprising: to hold a conference on the theme of Hidden Hunger at a Mövenpick hotel? Or to bring in artists to intervene in a conference of technical experts from around the globe?

Hidden Hunger Congress 2015 at Mövenpick Stuttgart

Hidden Hunger Congress 2015 at Mövenpick Stuttgart

 

Whose hunger at Mövenpick Stuttgart?

Whose hunger at Mövenpick Stuttgart?

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Possibly one of the most frequently used tools in management is the SWOT exercise, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an organization in the context of the opportunities and threats in its environment. Last week I experienced what happens when a facilitator takes a group through an upsidedown SWOT process: it generates the unexpected and the new. Maybe especially if the exercise is conducted in an ideal location that offered wide-open views and fresh perspectives, like an old villa called Blumenfisch, directly on a Berlin lake in the sunshine of a very early Spring.

View of Wannsee from Blumenfisch terrace

View of Wannsee from Blumenfisch terrace

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Does what we researchers see on the way to work influence what we think when we get to our desks? Might it affect our capacity to generate newness? Having moved this month to a new office in a completely different setting from my previous one, the sights I pass have changed dramatically.

WZB, Reichpietschufer 50

WZB, Reichpietschufer 50

 

The EUREF Campus sign

The EUREF Campus: “Das Stadtquartier von Morgen”

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The closing event of my research program on artistic interventions in organizations at the unit Cultural Sources of Newness was the “Artful research conversation: Cultural Embeddedness of Artistic Interventions,” December 18-19 2014 at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. Building on the unit’s past seven years of multistakeholder research in this area, I invited 20 artists, scholars and intermediaries from various European countries, Korea and the US. My idea was that we would elicit from lived experiences in diverse contexts the elements of the national, organizational, professional culture (or other relevant cultural constellation) that affect the way artistic interventions are envisaged, implemented and discussed in different settings. For example, to what extent does the way the relationship between the arts and business is traditionally seen in a country influence what is considered desirable and possible in an artistic intervention? And what is the impact of the culturally shaped expectations and practices in relationships between management and employees? So many conversations flowed during the two days and two evenings that it will take some time to digest them, and each participant will make sense of the experience in different ways; here are a few of the thoughts occupying me the day after.

 

Engaging in an artful research conversation

Engaging in an artful research conversation

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When I took a picture of the guests at the opening dinner for the “Culture Around” conference speakers and special representatives from the world of the arts tonight in Warsaw, Justyna, one of the organizers,  said “I know what you are going to do with them! I have read your blog!” Actually, I was just capturing the mood, but then I realized that she was right: this evening offered an opportunity to get back to collecting my thoughts during and after an interesting moment and sharing them in another post. And I recognized that decidedly, dinners trigger the new.

IMG_9619

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