People. Ideas. Nature. Creativity
PINC is the best excuse to take a day off on a Tuesday in May and be refreshed with inspiring and extraordinary stories about people, ideas, nature and creativity. Why PINC? I compare it to what Bas Heijne talked about on the 14th of May about his fascination for the novel by Louis Couperus De Stille Kracht (The Still Force). Heijne argued for a new appreciation of this classic from Dutch literature: “The disadvantage of an old book is that it becomes encapsulated in a reputation, often at the cost of understanding its true meaning.” To understand the still force of PINC, you have to experience it every year.
As in the circus, the audience in Zeist were pleasantly knocked off balance by a stimulating ‘theatreshow’ full of intermezzos, story-tellers, sidesteps, surprises, visions, humour, flavours, innovative ideas, sculptures and music. This ranged from scones with original jam combinations to a 13-year-old finalist in the Princess Christina Concours who is not only an inspired pianist but brought to our ears a composition she wrote herself. And from a 60-year-old television commercial made by filmmaker Ingmar Bergman to the PINC leader designed by Linda Gijezen. The public got more than what they wished for on a day that, in a word, was complete. Also without Peter, but thanks to his creative vision.
“I would like to preach a bit. And above all enchant,” said Peter van Lindonk in his last interview. In so doing, he unintentionally touched upon the essence of his life’s philosophy. Peter was an inspiration to all who knew him and no one would forget him. The man of the dictum “I don’t seek, I find” died suddenly on the 2nd of March at the age of 76. Since 1999, together with his wife Nelleke, Peter brought his passion and vision together in an annual ode to the power of associative thinking, PINC. This jewel in the crown of congress land has achieved international recognition as one if the ten most inspiring events in the world. Peter’s touch in the composition of PINC.14 was unmistakable. He was also remembered on several occasions during the day, in ways that reflected humour and love for life, very much in the spirit of Peter. For instance, the little green book of citations from Peter, the musical ode from Ton Hermans I get a kick if I see you and the remark from Peter’s son Olivier that his father is looking down from above “with a smile and a wink”.
A tribute to the master of improvisation at the start of the day was the stunning tap-dance performance starring two pairs of vivid green shoes - a reference to the green gym shoes that Peter wore as PINC’s master of ceremonies. Nelleke, co-founder and hostess of PINC reassured everyone, that PINC.15 would go full-steam ahead on 20 May 2014. “A shower of ideas” is how PINC fan-from-the-first-hour and writer Adriaan van Dis described the congress that knows no equal. Van Dis made an erudite and humorous master of ceremonies.
Here are a handful of impressions I received at PINC.14. Oceanographer and photographer Chris Linder (“I have learned two Dutch words in my childhood: ‘mooie boom’ “) described with passion his mission to enfeeble academics that work in white coats and replace them with researchers who take photos while doing their work on location in nature. A fine Linder quote that has remained with me is the advice Linder gives to young scientists in the field confronted with life-threatening situations in Siberian swamps: “Move like a crocodile, don’t be afraid to get dirty”. To survive in Antarctica, the first lesson is: “You have to learn how not to die”. Scientists who risk their lives to do their work at the ends of the Earth. That takes passion.
The unassuming Thomas Poulsom shares this quality, albeit in the safe surroundings of gardens. In 15 minutes, he told his remarkable life story. After eight years working in telemarketing, Poulsom followed his heart and studied to become a tree surgeon. He learned to combine his passion for Lego and life-long love of birds to create the most beautiful birds out of coloured blocks. In so doing, he invented characters like Bobby the Robin, Billy the Blue Tit and Stormy the Snowy Owl. His imagination was fired and he went on to make series of birds from all continents of the world. The Brit then discovered that Lego in fact had no birds for sale in their production line. “Children should learn that there is more to life than man-made objects,” said Poulsom who has now made a proposal to the mega toy-maker in Denmark that his birds can be brought into production. On the site Lego Cuusoo Poulsom has to assemble 10,000 supporters and is already more than half way. Life can revolve around coincidental meetings and unexpected choices. Via his hobby, Poulsom came into contact online with an artist who made birds out of paper. “I like her birds too, and now she is coming over to England to live with me and we are getting married.” The audience cheered and gave the sympathetic Lego-gardener an impassioned applause.
Introducing another speaker, Africa traveler Adriaan van Dis showed the audience a few cotton fabrics that he bought while traveling in West Africa, because they reflected so much about the land and its cultures. Since 1963, these materials have been designed in Helmond and produced by a trading company that in Africa has the status of Prada or Louis Vuitton in the West. The designers Vlisco were established in 1846. The double-sided creatively designed and finely made materials are not made in China or Turkey but in countries like Ghana and Senegal. Twenty thousand people in Helmond and Africa live from the business generated by Vlisco. “We sell a design process and not a product,” said creative director Roger Gerards. The anthropologist and designer gave an inspired description of how he and his team of 17 designers have stimulated a market in Africa of 400 million consumers: “Our textile designs have social and emotional relevance in the African countries. Our designs are very varied. We have a collection of 300,000 designs and use 200 colours, 21 of them being our own creations. “
Following this story, Van Dis added that one of Vlisco’s oldest designs, the Ventilator, inspired a local dance in which the women allow their rotating buttocks to be stroked.
From this animated first-hand story, the master of ceremonies switched over to a marvelous quote from the American writer Dorothy Parker: “The more you think about dying, the better you live, but will you live better if you never die?” This announced the philosopher Stephen Cave, renowned for his best seller Immortality, about the human quest to live forever. Woody Allen once said: “I want to live on in my apartment. I don’t want to live on in the heart of my fellow countrymen”. The Brit had a well-studied story focused on the four big themes: “The dream of keeping going on in this body without dying, in search of the elixir of life; the resurrection story; the soul story – upload the real me on the computer and live on as an avatar; and finally the legacy story – live on through the echo you leave, i.e. the classic Greek myth about Achilles and Troje. Children leave a more tangible biological legacy. We believe in these stories because we want to believe them and are afraid of death. The fact of the matter is that the fear of death is not rational. Death is not an event in life.”
At PINC.14 there were many special artists. The trouble about art is that you must see it before you can pass an opinion on it. For me, an exception to this rule is the German Simon Schubert who by folding paper has become a master in creating illusions and perceptions simply using a white piece of paper and his hands. Complete worlds are revealed. The German philosopher and sculptor has invented a minimalist folding technique. He does not use tools like pencil or paint. He only makes use of light and shadow in a subtle and stunning way.
I would like to close with a fantastic story from an American who came to Zeist to tell us about a club that no doubt reminded many PINC aficionados of the Cloud Appreciation Society presented at PINC.9. In everyday life, Miles Rohan is head of Knowledge and Digital Asset Management at Nickelodeon. But it was because of his hobby that Peter asked him to speak at PINC.14 and tell the 450 participants about the extraordinary world of corduroy enthusiasts whose archenemies are wearers of velvet. The Corduroy Appreciation Club was founded on 11 November 2001 as a secret society. The meetings climaxed on the magic date of 11. 11. 2011 and have brought together people who otherwise had nothing in common -- apart from their passion for the striped fabric that bore a similarity to the number 11. “Corduroy dates back to the ancient Egyptians. We have a secret handshake and even secret offerings, which can be a large bowl of potato crisps or slices of celery. We have handed out a Lifetime Achievement Award to Woody Allen, who refused to accept it. We have adopted the whale as a visual metaphor to the wavy relief of the corduroy fabric. The concept of taking the subject so seriously seemed very humorous.” And that was precisely the impression that Miles Rohan gave at PINC.
I could go on for hours about the inspiration I received at PINC.14. But it is better to ask you to simply block off 20 May 2014 in your agenda. That’s the date of PINC.15. And Nelleke, Minouk and Olivier van Lindonk will ensure that PINC.15 will be as special and inspiring as PINC.14 and all previous PINCs.
Rupert Parker Brady
Media strategist and PINC fan