Home > Geen categorie > Cartesius Museum, a showcase for Economy 3.0

Cartesius Museum, a showcase for Economy 3.0

You know that words do not always resemble the things they signify, but they still have the ability to fire our imagination.
– René Descartes –

The piano drops from 30 meters and smashes into pieces on the floor. Applause? Yes, a perfectly orchestrated performance by young creative professionals in a former factory hall of ‘Werkspoor’ (railway works) as part of a theatre experience called ‘Hanging House’.
The factory hall is one of the few remnants of an industry that has almost completely disappeared since the early seventies of the last century. This industrial area is now called Cartesius. It is located in the geographical heart of the city of Utrecht and is slowly changing in a fascinating way. Many different companies have taken up business in the area since Werkspoor disappeared more than forty years ago. Most of these companies follow their own path, only focused on ‘core business’, not interested in other companies or anyone else. It is a colorful mix of large and smaller businesses. From transport and logistics to a fancy car wash, from artist’s studios to a commercial event hall and from a bakery to a power plant for the city of Utrecht. The industrial area Cartesius seems to be the city’s backwater where everyone can start a business without the slightest sense of cohesion. All until something remarkable happened a few years ago.

In January 2012 the Cartesius Museum was launched, relatively spontaneously. The Cartesius Museum is an idea about collaboration between creative professionals and other interested parties, both profit/non-profit and governmental (market society). The Cartesius area has proved to be fertile place for this idea. Within a few months, 25 professionals were addressing the curatorial challenge to come up with activities to give shape to their ideas on urban dynamics and innovative collaboration. A crucial part of the process has been the ‘Cartesius Table’, a meeting on the first Monday of each month for curators and any other interested parties. At this ‘Cartesius Table’ plans and possibilities for cooperation are discussed. The essence of the activities is set against the notions of an ever changing market society. How can creative professionals contribute to meaningful and sustainable solutions?

At the same time, local government has developed a plan for this area, an administrative framework that explicitly does not want to be a blueprint but a Development vision for the Werkspoor quarter, with the intention: The transformation of a business area. The vision fits perfectly with the ideas of the Cartesius Museum with a prominent place for the creative industries in this transition area and explicitly based on ‘the strategy to use the self-changing ability of the region to a slow fading discoloration towards a new work landscape.’

Transition area is slang for urban planners and appears to be holding all managerial options open. Yet, as far as I am concerned, the term is very usable because the world economy is in transition. The paradigm of growth and profit maximization is faltering and old economic models are crashing. How should we proceed? This urgency is central to the vision of the Cartesius Museum. Instead of growth and profit maximization dominating the market, the search is now on for optimization, making do with less and sustainability. This fundamentally different attitude is needed in all sectors of the economy but also in civil society organizations, in Governments and even for every citizen. That does not happen overnight and is by no means self-evident. Because how can we accomplish this?
Charles Leadbeater, the internationally recognized authority in the field of creativity and innovation, has pointed out for years the possibilities of a WE-Culture in which he strongly focuses on cooperation. In his view we are witnessing a struggle between two forces: those of the familiar but dysfunctional world in which decisions are made for us and actions are undertaken on behalf of us and on our behalf versus the new, illusory and potentially revolutionary world in which we think and work together.
The daily evidence of these forces has been obvious. We see that in many places in the modern world. Communities organize themselves to answer fundamental questions together in order to realize concrete changes. This requires an open attitude of participants and skills for which not everyone is trained. Schools have taught us what insights and skills are useful in trusted industrial processes but they have not usually taught us how we have to deal creatively in processes of change.
Another internationally recognized authority and prominent advocate of a more balanced attention to our creative talents, the education expert Sir Ken Robinson writes about this: ‘Our best hope for the future is the development of a new paradigm of human capacity, tailor-made for a new era of human existence. […] We need to create environments – in our schools, at workplaces and in jobs – where every person is inspired to grow creatively.’

The Cartesius Museum is such an environment. Because of the open character of the cooperation a stream of interest originates from all directions: businesses, residents, secondary schools, secondary vocational education, universities, the creative sector, cultural and social sectors and government. In a mix of disciplines, projects are jointly designed and implemented or realized in commission.
Cooperation, really working together, is not only a lot more fun, it is also extremely effective. By leveraging each other’s expertise and networks, better choices can be made and an entrepreneurial spirit grows.

This cooperation is not always successful and without hitches. Sometimes insights turn out to differ or there is friction about each other’s attitude or actions. In the Cartesius Museum it works predominantly well and the network is growing with people who are attracted to the artistic, utopian and practical framework of the Cartesius Museum in conjunction with the location, the Cartesius area. With varying success, new coalitions arise to create opportunities and work together on projects.

Good cooperation is essential for any exploration of possibilities for a sustainable and social market society. With good cooperation the term ‘swarming’ is also frequently used as an analogy for seemingly acting, moving and organizing as a group. In the book, Easycratie (2010) Martijn Aslander and Erwin Witteveen describe the conditions under which such a group must meet: The group must be varied so that different pieces of information are introduced. There must be a system to summarize the different pieces and to put this information together. The group should be decentralized, so that the answer is not dictated to the group by someone at the top. The group members must be able to think independently and should not be worried about what others will think, because otherwise the group will not reach its objectives.
Remarkable in this otherwise meaningful instruction is the reference to ‘someone at the top’. In my experience, any rise in the group that works as an open cooperative is problematic and you should be very careful with formal or explicit leadership. In any case, there cannot be a ‘top’ who can tell others what to do.

Because of the problematic nature of formal or explicit leadership in open collaboration, I have observed there are three crucial skills for the participants: loyalty, trust and responsibility.
These skills are difficult to objectify for the group or to be agreed on as ‘rules’ with each other. Enforcing these crucial skills with contracts or other forms of regulation makes little sense because this would nullify the open nature of the cooperation. So, if the open collaboration succeeds, this says something about the particular skills of the participants and I’ve noticed that many creative professionals regularly achieve great successes. Why is that?

The professional ability to “create” is a fragile talent. After all, you put something of yourself in this creation and that is inherently vulnerable. Creative professionals know and are deeply aware of this. It is my experience that this vulnerability is rarely ‘abused’. Of course creative professionals can criticize each other as a form of disqualification contesting the others’ professionalism openly with potentially damaging consequences. But as long as there is no doubt about each other’s professionalism loyalty will prevail. There is a mutual respect for shared vulnerability and the others’ creative power.
Essential to creation is scanning and searching; a matter of going with a hunch or a gut feeling. It leaves no doubt that it is the skill of scanning and searching is ideal for setting up a fruitful collaboration. Once this joint scan and search is disrupted, creation fails. It is precisely here where the creative professional distinguishes itself from most other disciplines. The creative professional is aware of a flow that can only exist by mutual loyalty to the fragile process of looking for opportunities.

Trust is the second competency and is close to loyalty. Trust in each other’s position as co-creator goes beyond loyalty when scanning capabilities. Trust here implies an unconditional willingness to take a person seriously, as a thinker and as creator.
These are high demands for cooperation, but not strange for most creative professionals. Many creative professionals are unconsciously competent when it comes to the skills loyalty and trust, but these skills are of great value to a fruitful cooperation. I suspect that it is precisely these skills for most creative professionals, paradoxically, stand in their way when it comes to making clear agreements and negotiations. “Everything is going well!” “We’ll see how things turn out!”

Responsibility is the third conditional competency for successful cooperation. Who creates, also has a responsibility. What choices do you make? What do you choose and what do you leave out? Who and what do you involve in your considerations? What are the consequences of your choices?
Independent artist and director of Het Instituut, Johan Wagenaar says about artists – and in my eyes, also other creative professionals – that they should be deeply aware of the enormous wealth that art [shaping] brings us to the representation of human knowledge and experience. To think in images about people and the world. In a compressed and intensified way art shows human struggle with ideals, temptation, ethics, magic and violence. Art [creating] is a domain with its own logic. But because of this marriage between knowledge, politics, beauty and unpredictability the use of artists [and other creative professionals] in community projects offers excellent opportunities to establish connections between diverse disciplines and to expose conflicting interests and ways of thinking and perhaps to bridge these differences.

From composing music to designing postage stamps, and from making sculptures to theatre, it is a professional responsibility of every creative professional to involve the global aspects in their artistic issues.
The renowned art historian and philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) said:
‘Art is in the most literal sense of the word worldview.’ This worldview affects the artistic interpretation and performance and because of its holistic nature is an important quality in partnerships. Find consistency and know why you choose something and why you omit other things, to know why you depict something and that this raises a new question is a professional responsibility and competence of any creative professional.

For most creative professionals I recognize loyalty, trust and responsibility as professional skills. My thesis is that loyalty, trust and responsibility are professionally guaranteed by most creative professionals and that collaboration between creative professionals therefore, by definition, has a good chance. I know many examples of fruitful collaboration between creative professionals and also examples of such cooperation that was disrupted by non creative professionals with suspicion or mistrust of people or processes.

Perhaps it is the creativity itself that allows us to deal with loyalty, trust and responsibility.
A few years ago I carried out a project in collaboration with both creative professionals and entrepreneurs and experts from all sectors of society. Prior to a substantive debate we divided the participants into small groups and gave them a ‘creative assignment’. The assignment was content related to the theme of the debate, but was also an exercise in free association. This free association will only succeed if you respect each other and give each other space. And this only works with sufficient confidence. The creative challenge with space for shared free association is exactly what we need as a basis for a fruitful cooperation. The result of fifteen minutes of free association together, within the context of a relevant theme or topic is amazing. Without exception, the participants were eager to then go in depth with each other during the debate.

Creativity allows people to explore opportunities on touch. How creativity is fuelled actually becomes less important. According to the author of the popular science book Imagine: How Creativity Works, journalist and writer Jonah Lehrer, creativity is essentially a process of how we imagine something. Once we are able to imagine something we create a distance between ourselves and a given situation, and create a new situation. When we do this together then this will only happen if the uncertainty is respected by the others. A first step towards loyalty.

Back to Cartesius. Collaboration between creative professionals themselves and with parties from the market society has proven to be successful in the Cartesius Museum. Because of the mix of disciplines and transparent cooperation not only local residents, local businesses, government officials and councillors are interested, but we also see more and more curious students wanting to get involved. “What are you doing?” “Can I join in?” “Yes, of course, if you’re ready for cooperation based on loyalty, trust and responsibility.”

Here is a challenge for education – across the entire width, from primary schools to universities. Young people need to get involved with things that matter, with work and activities that affect them personally, that spark and ignite the early awakening of individuality and skills. When they encounter something and they see the opportunity to contribute then new skills are trained and experiences gained as an important supplement to current educational programs: they learn to be enterprising.

The Cartesius region is growing into a ‘samenwerkplaats’ where working, learning and living melt into one another and a place where we seek solutions the challenges that to our changing market society offers us. In Utrecht we are heading to an Economy 3.0, we are swarming and once in a while we even drop a piano.

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