Posts tagged Dialogue
All of This and Nothing
Buber 4 20091121_0217.jpg

I've been working with my Ashridge colleague Hugh P on a dialogue project which will celebrate a new translation of Martin Buber's 'I and Thou.'

Buber's work is often seen as one of the founding texts of conversational practice and dialogue; he believes in the fundamental wholeness of nature and our complete participation in it.  Hugh has been working with a short piece of Buber's work, "I consider a tree...'" and we have been asking top academics from the fields of physics, mathematics, botany, ecology and art, "So, how do you see a tree?"  In turn, I have been working photographically with the various responses to produce images for a film which Hugh will present at a conference in Mexico next month.

This image came from our conversation with the brilliant Andrew Steane, Professor of Physics at Exeter College, Oxford.  Andrew guided us into through the matter and forces that make up a tree before takinging us into the shadowy world of quantum physics where the idea of matter itself becomes erm... problematic...  We know that we have information pointing to the existence of matter but actually putting a finger on it....

So, here is my quantum tree.  We can see information that leads us to think of the tree but... it kind of isn't really there....

Martin Buber - I consider a tree

I can look on it as a picture: stiff column in a shock of light, or splash of green shot with the delicate blue and silver of the background.

I can perceive it as movement: flowing veins on clinging, pressing pith, suck of the roots, breathing of the leaves, ceaseless commerce with earth and air - and the obscure growth itself.

I can classify it in a species and study it as a type in its structure and mode of life.

I can subdue its actual presence and form so sternly that I recognize it only as an expression of law...

I can dissipate it and perpetuate it in number...

In all this the tree remains my object, occupies space and time, and has its nature and constitution.

It can, however, also come about, if I have both will and grace, that in considering the tree I become bound up in relation to it. The tree is no longer It. I have been seized by the power of exclusiveness.

The Edge of Chaos

The Edge of Chaos, the aptly named bar at Schumacher College in Devon.

A place where, according to the complexity scientists, phase transition is liable to take place.  I've got to say, I've transited through the odd phase in there myself...

This is Sky, one of the participants on last month's Artful Organisation course.

Sky had travelled over from the States where he helps run Perque, an company attempting to transform healthcare 'speeding the transition from sickness care to healthful caring' by addressing the root causes of sickness rather than simply fixing the symptoms.  He was there to join with artists and policymakers to think about how to respond artfully, aesthetically to the economic and ecological challenges we will be facing over the next decade.

And so that's part of the Schumacher story really; bringing interesting people together in a curious, mostly slightly chaotic, but always very creative way.  

What's not to like...?

Fox Games

Fox Games © 1989 Sandy Skoglund

Please Note: "Fox Games": This work has been published with the permission of the artist and copyright holder Sandy Skoglund.

I was really delighted when Sandy Skoglund gave me permission to use a copy of 'Fox Games' on Photo-Dialogue.  

I'm always keen to feel my way into a New Year with a reflection on how things are changing for me, whether as a consultant, photographer or academic and towards the end of last year it felt like some seismic shifts were in play as I defined how I intend to work with Photo-Dialogue in 2012.  So, perhaps that's why it felt important to get back to 'Fox Games'.

Back in 2003, I worked with Ashridge colleague and author John Higgins as he guided me through a visual exercise using postcards that we had purchased from the shop at the Tate Modern.  As we spread the cards on the floor of the gallery, John asked me to describe my practice as a coach and consultant through the images.

'Fox Games' was particularly significant for me - I felt it showed how I saw organisations: grey, dull places where commerce took place but where the red foxes of emotion and feeling ran wild while remaining apparently unseen and ignored. The image told me of things that I intuitively knew but had, at that time, been unable (or unwilling) to clearly articulate.  In fact, as the product of a good deal of 'formal management training' and an MBA graduate, perhaps I had been 'educated' out of taking my own experience seriously.

Following my epiphanic moment in the Tate Modern, 'Fox Games' became the cornerstone of my Master's dissertation and then continued to set the tone and agenda throughout my PhD.  It has been a remarkable and significant image for me and continues to both provoke and inform.  Now, as I use imagery of various kinds to help articulate some of the unseen dynamics within organisations or to provide the basis for coaching inerventions, the Fox Games postcard travels with me to remind me of where my personal journey into imagery and vision began.

So, you might like to attempt your own piece of art-shop photo-dialogue.

Here is a simple process:

  • Immerse yourself in a problem, issue or dilemma.

  • Take some time out, relax, grab a coffee and visit your local art gallery.

  • Buy a few art cards, 8-10 will do. Buy anything that engages you - act intuitively - don't overthink your purchase.

  • Lay out the cards in a pattern that resonates - again - don't overthink the process.

  • Take a few minutes - what are the images telling you about you, your approach, how you are seeing the issue, what is the 'story' you are telling yourself?

  • What other perspectives become available to you? What insights do the cards offer?

  • Take a photo of your collection and the layout - on your phone will do.

  • Show the images to a friend (set them up as in your previous layout)

  • What do they see? What do the images and the layout mean to them?

  • Take a longer break - a few days or so - then review the images and layout again. What is significant to you now?

Good luck! Have some fun and enjoy yourself.  And be careful, an image might emerge that begins to set an amazing, compelling vision for your life and career...!

Let me know how you get on!

Parts and Wholes

One of the enduring questions in any kind of dialogue work is how to hold a sense of the 'whole'; a view of the wider context that doesn't fragment, categorise or label parts at the expense of the bigger picture.

As photographers, we often tend to direct and confine attention - looking perhaps at our subject matter in extreme close-up, seizing a split second of the action, lifting the detail away from its background through differential focus and narrow depth of field. In fact, this tends to be a bit of a reflex action for me - portraits shot with 85mm lens at f1.4 - you know kind of thing...

Back in NYC, I felt really compelled to not separate... To tell stories in a way that held as much of the context as I could.  As I look back, I'm getting more attached to the pictures. Sure they are chaotic at first sight... but then seem to reward the extra attention...

I like the way this image holds the madness of the city while also letting us into a little moment... and lets me build my own narrative of family, intimacy, and conversation within a broader story.

I'm enjoying the freedom to roam in these shots.

f1.4 will never be the same again.