“The thing is, meaning is not absolute. It does not reside inside the artwork to be unlocked or decoded and revealed. Meaning is something that happens between you and the work. It’s different for you than it is for anyone else, and it’s always shifting, changing, depending on who you are and where you are, and what’s happening around you.
The artist does not own the meaning. And neither do the experts or authorities who present it to you. They are voices in the room, often very good and compelling ones, but ultimately you determine the meaning for yourself and only for yourself. “
(Love love love this quote, so much great stuff is buried within! For starters its a great reminder on how we interact with art and that we are, indeed, interacting with it. It may seem, at first, like we’re only passive observers but it is quite the opposite — there is a lot going on. It is almost an ongoing dialogue, and the meaning we create is very much our own that may both include and be irrespective of that of the artist’s.
Even greater however is that we can replace “art,” “artist,” and “artwork” with “events,” “the world,” or “our life” in order to delve into the quote even deeper and explore its implications, inspirations, and liberations in whole new ways. What layers can we uncover in doing so? What dialogues that we thought we had long ago settled upon can we re-engage with? What new futures might we write?
So much to unpack, both in the quote and inside of our created meanings. Very well said.)
A glorious example of adaptive reuse tonight, in the form of a project that sports an equally epic name: Godsbanen. A former railway goods station it is now a full-blown cultural centre, with several theatres, galleries, night clubs, along with a number of art workshops and rentable spaces for creative business startups.
In its transformation the building keeps both its rugged heritage as well as its Neo-Baroque forebuilding, presenting several faces to the city. Forming a giant U, that elaborate forebuilding and the adjoining warehouses were both preserved, while a new and rather fanciful addition nestles within the base of the U. Appearing as a series of angular forms and ramps, this new bit houses the main theatres and all the connective tissue, such as the lobby, café, and a courtyard. A courtyard that connects to the roofs, allowing full access up and along those angular ramps, doing triple duty as a lookout, seating, and another venue for performances.
Inside, the addition the muscular facets of the addition’s angular forms create dynamic and interconnecting spaces that are further punctuated by overhead oculi. Meanwhile the amazing curved wooden structure of the original warehouses continue to march in succession into the distance along with the equally amazing continual light monitor. Galleries and workshops are enclosed within slightly sculptural insertions into the existing space.
Exiting Maps – the glorious gift for us who want to see a floor plan…
I totally love it. From the luscious and aged red brick to the rough concrete wedges, from the massive wood supports to the slick gallery walls, all wrapped up in a great play of light and form and shadow. Not to mention the diverse nature of the cultural centre itself, and the vibrant heart it gets to play for an entire area that will soon include a School of Architecture. It’s a fabulous example of repurposing something existing to create something even more amazing, taking the time, energy, detail, and beauty of the past and enhancing it through something equally detailed and beautifully thought out and crafted. Great stuff!
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a threat against your body and a threat against your identity.
To your brain, and your calculating self, they are the same, and it will fight back equally hard against either of them.
Thing is, only one of them is actually fatal.
The other is a chance for a glorious transformation, stepping forward into a new light that you, and your authentic self, will love much more.
One of the buildings I was really excited to see on the trip was the Fantoft Stave Church, south of Bergen in Norway. A re-creation of a church from the 1150s (the original had been moved then damaged by arson (!)), it is representative of an old style of simple local churches constructed using large ore-pine posts. Far from grand cathedrals, they were more intimately created by the local communities, humble yet still imbued with a sense of craft and care. What also really caught my attention was their delightful complexity of form, with multiple roofs, an exterior arcade, and the swath of structural members within.
The building did not disappoint. It’s not a large church, with maybe seating for 24 people, but it exudes presence. The dark monotone exterior strikes a strong silhouette, contrasting nicely with the surrounding greenery as well as the sky, especially with the prominent and wicked abstract dragon heads that jut from the ridges.
Inside, the unfinished and bright wood surfaces are a surprise. The solidity of the main support posts heighten the verticality of the space, and many nice details abound, including curved trusses, carved cross-braces, and more.
And I had to include this picture I found online, for it looks especially stunning in the fall!
Really great work, I loved it’s intimate yet grand feel, and it’s a great example of local work using humble materials all designed to a high degree to create something beautiful, personal, and meaningful.
(It’s also the site of my funniest accident of the trip… I was stepping back to take a picture, figuring I would lean up against the fence behind me. Except I failed to notice that the fence was not on the plinth upon which the church sits, but about a foot back, meaning there was a gap and drop off there. And so down into that gap did my foot go, and down between the fence and the plinth did I fall. Amusingly, the gap was narrow enough that my body had to squeeze between the fence and the plinth on its gravity-induced travel, which means I fell, completely horizontal, at a relatively slow speed for what felt like a long time (as my brain tried to make sense of what was going on) before being deposited quite gently onto the ground. I laughed so hard, and nothing was injured except my pride.)
If you’re ever in Bergen, I heartily recommend checking it out. The Fantoft Stave Church by architects unknown.
It is always good to remember that apologies
(True, authentic apologies)
Are not automatic means to an end.
We cannot simply put a quarter
Into the “apology/forgiveness machine”
And expect that all is forgotten,
And we go back to doing whatever it is
We want to do.
Real apologies take courage,
They take vulnerability,
And they come from a place
Of ownership and responsibility.
We are OFFERING an apology,
That may or may not be ACCEPTED.
And even if it IS
That doesn’t mean
That there won’t be any CONSEQUENCES.
To truly apologize
We offer the apology,
And then take
WHATEVER WE GET.
That our actions have had,
Whether intentional or not,
And we make no demands.
We ask for forgiveness.
And we take what we get.
We continue our tour of the Scandinavian city halls by heading over to Denmark tonight, landing ourselves before the Copenhagen City hall. In some ways this one is a precursor to the others, being the first to be completed, inaugurated in 1905.
Also adorned in the ubiquitous (and lovely) red brick, the exterior here leans much heavier into the National Romantic style, with plenty of articulation and ornamentation. A generous courtyard stands in the middle, and the clock tower remains one of the highest points near the downtown area.
As with the others the heart of the building, and the first thing you encounter upon entering, is the equally generous indoor hall. While no pipe organ hides within (alas!), the amazing glass roof more than makes up for it. The massing and composition of this indoor courtyard is exquisite – it’s a plethora of things (Arches! Gilded bas reliefs! Balconies! Friezes! Sculptural banding! Moldings! White stone! Red brick! Ornate columns! Glass!) yet it doesn’t feel like a hodgepodge vomit of disparate parts. Through careful proportion, well defined datum lines, and enough use of “white space” it instead becomes a delightful concoction. (Click here to stand in the middle of it.)
Again, we didn’t take a tour so we only saw the more public areas of the building, but who needs a tour when you get such amazing artwork integrated throughout! (I especially love the book-like vaulted ceiling…)
Another excellent and vibrant city centre. Good stuff. The Copenhagen City Hall by Martin Nyrop.
Awww, cute pic of the tigers before they were famous, getting their first gig auditions. :D
Forgot to point out all the great background details and puns! Like the jar of Tiger Balm on the desk (as a martial artist, I am well versed in its use, and the pun is great :P). Or the album by the famous sheep group ABBAA. Or the book titled “How to work 2 jobs at once” (the art industry is tough). Or the CrocCola can. And probably a bunch more hidden away. :D
Avoid basing your identity on beliefs or things
Instead, base it on values or intentions
(As we walk around in life, each of us a conglomeration of identities, some chosen, mostly not, and often forgetting that we were are the sole and final authors of our identities, there are a lot of good pointers and reminders on how to best put our identities together. The one above is nice and succinct. Beliefs rarely are eternally solid and often call us towards attachment, clinging tightly no matter what and no matter the detrimental outcomes. Values and intentions, however, beget multiple ways of being that call us powerfully into action that fulfill us while remaining adaptable, open to shift and always aiming towards our central, authentic, selves.)
Let’s slide over to Norway and check out another grand city hall (and location for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and banquet), the Oslo Rådhuset.
Much like the one in Stockholm (and likely/clearly influenced by it – one of the judges of the Oslo city hall competition was the architect for the Stockholm city hall), the building is nifty mix of art-nouveau expressive sculptural elements adorning the crisper lines of brick functionalism. Coming in, the two towers and arcades reach out to welcome you as you come up to the main façade, dotted with flourishes including sculpture, ornamental molding, patterns in the brick, and a very nifty astronomical clock.
Besides possessing large clerestory windows to admit light from above, the main hall inside takes a very different tack than the one at the Stockholm city hall. From wall to wall to wall it’s covered in colourful and very cool paintings that depict the history of Oslo and its people. And, of course, there’s a grand staircase for grand entrances during the Nobel ceremonies. (For the 360~ view, click here)
And best of all, yes, a there is a pipe organ here too!
We didn’t take a tour this time, so we didn’t see into any of the other halls, meeting rooms, or the council chambers, alas. Nevertheless, it is a mighty fine and unique design that makes for a great civic centre for the city.
The Oslo City Hall by Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson.
There was a funny thing that kept happening. We* would ask Sifu a question about some move in the Tai Chi form, usually a move somewhere near the end of the form, and he would say, “Well, go back to your Wu Ji.”
Now, Wu Ji is the first move in the form. It’s not even really a move – you stand in it. Translated literally, it means something like “Empty” or “Nothing” stance, though the more proper meaning is “Harmonious” stance, with the idea of bringing your body and body tension together in evenness and harmony, like a circle. It’s the starting position.
Which is why we would usually protest. “No Sifu, I meant this move here…” and we would demonstrate. “I know,” he would reply, “But go to Wu Ji.”
Despite our frustration, it does (Of course it does! He was Sifu!) make sense. If you don’t have your Wu Ji, you can’t “have” anything – your moves are all deficient** in some way. We are thinking and asking to tweak something on this one particular move when really a) the problem doesn’t start there b) we apparently don’t even fully grasp the depth of the problem c) tweaking that move won’t really fix the issue and d) if we can adjust our Wu Ji, then we won’t need to fix the problem because the problem goes away. Moreover, it doesn’t just go away, it e) creates a whole bunch of positive outcomes everywhere, in every single move we do.
It is a great way to express the concept of returning to the primordial. Whether martial arts moves or societal systems, whether cultural or our own personal views and realities, or our own identities and who we see ourselves and others to be, it’s hard to poke and prod something so deep and at the end of a long chain and have it be all that impactful. At best we can struggle and strain and maybe keep it (or our Tai Chi structure) from collapsing. But the issues remain, and often compound on each other. But when we get something fundamental and come from first principles, from the primordial, and adjust our Wu Ji so that we begin from a place of proper connection and intent, then massive shifts are possible. Everything sings, compounds harmoniously, and we come to those places of strength with ease, naturally.
All wrapped up in a simple small phrase. Thank you Sifu.
* While it would happen to all of us it seemed to happen to Steve the most… so much so that it has become our affectionate running joke now (and a way for us to remember and honour Sifu)
** Not bad, or wrong, but just missing something. Something to discover, get, incorporate, and grow.
A city can be made or unmade by its civic centre, and a grand city hall can do wonders to create a locus for civic activity, both mundane and the ceremonial. And no surprise in such historical cities with a strong social conscience, the Scandinavian city halls were something to behold.
Let’s start in Stockholm, where the city hall is, among all its other roles, the host of the annual banquet for the Nobel Prize winners (well, except for the Nobel peace prize, as that’s presented and hosted in Oslo – why? No one is sure… “Maybe Nobel thought Norwegians were more peaceful,” joked our tour guide). But before we get inside to see the grand halls, the outside and its courtyard is nifty on its own, starting to display the building’s curious mix of rugged brick, planar and bold in its geometries, punctuated by both subtle tracery and highly visible ornamentation. It sounds like an odd mix, but it really works, creating something very down to earth yet still ceremonial, capped by a series of expressive towers, including one with a beacon lantern.
Inside, we first get to the Blue Hall, an interior courtyard of sorts where the banquet is held and the recipients walk down that grand staircase after being introduced. If you’re noticing it’s not blue, well, yes… during the design the architect removed the blue tiles he had originally planned, but the name stuck. But best of all, hidden in the band of wood near the ceiling is a pipe organ! (For a 360 degree view of the hall, click here)
Overlooking the Blue Hall is the Golden Hall, and well, the name doesn’t disappoint here. Nor does the mosaic that forms that gilding, filled with abstract allegories to Swedish history. (This hall was originally going to be used for the banquets, but they moved it downstairs for more space – which means the waiters need to carry the food down that same stairway… and hope no one trips)
And no, the third one is not called the Red Hall, but the council chambers is equally impressive, especially with its amazing painted ceiling.
On the whole it’s a great design, bold and approachable, with spaces that feel great and filled with great little details and sculptures and carvings. A perfect centre for a city.
The Stockholm City Hall by Ragnar Östberg
“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.
There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.
There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavours than can ever be tasted.”
— Sun Tzu
I mean, it’s not like Copenhagen isn’t up for some great theatre fun! With not one but two grand playhouses on the waterfront!
First up we visited the Royal Danish Playhouse. Built for dramatic theatre, compared to the expressive Oslo Opera House it may seem understated but that doesn’t make it any less nice, mixing solidity and texture of stone with the lightness and precision of glass in a sweet interlocking composition.
Much like the Oslo Opera House this theatre has fully integrated itself into the community. Even in the middle of the day, with nary a performance in sight, the place was bustling both along the promenade and inside. Unfortunately, we couldn’t explore much within, but I bet the theatre lobbies within the big glass bar, cantilevered out towards the water, must be most impressive.
Just up the inlet is the Copenhagen Opera House. This one brings the idea of a “community porch” to a truly grand scale, with a giant projecting roof that reaches out towards the waterfront. From afar, the whole roof floats over the building. (For a 360~ shot from under that great porch roof, click here!)
Doubly unfortunately, the building was closed, so we didn’t get to tour in and could only glimpse the tantalizing multi-level lobby from the glass doors. The opera and ballet house is ensconced in polished wood, sitting like a jewel within and connected via a wonderful array of balconies and entryways, making for a fun spatial composition as you talk, drink, wander, and head to and from your seats.
Best of all, at night the curving façade of the opera house (which mirrors the curving face of the theatre within) glows like a lantern. With the reflections from the water, it’s a lovely sight.
A wonderful of great theatres – well done Copenhagen!
The Bigwig vs Woundwort battle was one of the big scenes (and also child traumatizing) of the movie and book, and it also contains one of my favorite bits that offers a beautiful character analysis of Woundwort, and leaders who think like him.
(after the first part of their bloody battle)
Woundwort: “Why are you fighting? You could lead my Owsla and instead you’re going to die here.”
Bigwig: “My Chief Rabbit told me to defend this run and I’m going to defend it until he tells me otherwise.”
Woundwort: <sudden pause> “…YOUR Chief Rabbit…?”
It’s so perfect in its simplicity because in one exchange you clearly see that Woundwort is completely knocked off kilter for the first time. Literally all he can understand of leadership is that the biggest and strongest and meanest lead. It’s his entire character. Because of this, he’s thrown for a loop at the idea that somewhere out there is a rabbit even bigger and meaner than Bigwig.
And of course, that’s not the case. Bigwig is the mirror, a rabbit that started out assuming bigger equaled leader, and over the course of the story has come to understand that Hazel’s leadership is genuinely better, because he cares deeply for his people instead of trying to dominate them.
Yes! One of my favorite parts in the book. Along with this amazing bit:
“At that moment, in the sunset on Watership Down, there was offered to General Woundwort the opportunity to show whether he was really the leader of vision and genius which he believed himself to be, or whether he was no more than a tyrant with the courage and cunning of a pirate. For one beat of his pulse the lame rabbit’s idea shone clearly before him. He grasped it and realized what it meant. The next, he had pushed it away from him.“
When it comes to willpower, I assert we’ve gotten a bit wonky in our relation to it.
Not that I don’t think willpower plays a role in life, or that it exists; I do, on both counts. It’s more that, in our considerations and judgements, we have overvalued it. Whether we disparage ourselves or deride others for failures in life – or the opposite, exalting our inner fire or wistfully admiring it in another – we have ascribed to it an outsized role without looking at everything that underpins it.
Because we tend to view willpower as this magical, inherent, and ingrained thing that makes some people great and others not so great. Yet there are many things ordinarily hidden from our view (unless we bring mindfulness to it) that underpin this thing we call willpower. There is a great gaggle of context that plays a role, both in developing willpower (for it is something that can be cultivated) as well as supporting it in the moment.
And support is the key word. It’s about being supported, by others, who can model, and teach, and train this self-capacity. Even more so, it’s about fallback. About being able to and having a fallback should and when things go awry. It’s about having the wherewithal to actually GO for it, do it, all while being secure in what will happen if it doesn’t work out. That people will be there. That resources will be there. That the system will be there. That it won’t be fatal, either spiritually, subsistence-ly, or literally.
Heck, just being in a good place means we have the energy and brainpower to be able to engage our will. Being stressed, tired, or having to constantly deal with fires all sap our vitality and nerve.
When we have a net to fall into, we are much more willing to take that leap, walk that tightrope, and do that thing. It bolsters us. And that’s great! And before we laud or denigrate it’d be best if we acknowledge that whole picture. The self-made person is kinda true, but it’s not necessarily the only or whole truth.* There’s more to it, and it can be much more of the deciding factor than some great natural force residing within.
When we encompass and grow this whole picture, willpower – for ourselves and for us all – can flourish.
* And there are plenty of non-self-made people too, who have made it through luck or birth or etc