Guila-Clara Kessous is Ambassador for Peace, UNESCO Artist for Peace, and Rising Talent 2020 of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. She will host prestigious speakers at the second edition of the International Women’s Leadership Summit on December 8 and 9, a 100% digital event. She will be joined by personalities such as Eve Ensler, famous author of the “Vagina Monologues”.
Other panels will also be with famous personalities like authors such as Metin Arditi (UNESCO ambassador and Giono prize) and David Foenkinos (Renaudot prize), who will give a masculine vision to women empowerment. These live encounters will be opened to the general public who will discover more than ten panels on vast subjects such as digital, audacity, Generation Z, intercultural dialogue, with notably President of UN Women France and activist Frédérique Bedos. In this context, the opening night will be dedicated to host famous actress Eva Longoriain order to get some funding to the Global Gift Foundation.
Enjoy, here below, an interview with Guila-Clara Kessous, speaking about the initiative.
Why this international summit on women’s leadership?
GCK – This summit is a moment of sharing reflection on the place of women and her capacity of action in the society. This conference aims to give the floor to speakers on the theme of women’s leadership, that is to say the ability for women to create follow-up, enthusiasm and to endorse a notion of power. An actress like Eva Longoria or an entrepreneur like Arielle Kitio have in common that they do not avoid from accepting the responsibility of being seen as a woman of power and create a male and female followership from this strength.
Why choosing a personality like Eva Longoria to open the entire summit linked to the Global Gift Foundation on the topic: “Finding inner strength”?
GCK – Eva Longoria is an example to follow in terms of women’s leadership. She accepts her femininity together with endorsing political views and creating followership on very important causes. Having her introducing the entire summit is the chance for women today to understand that you do not have to “play it like a man” to be successful in your leadership. She will reveal the secret to resist in those uncertain times and finding inner peace. Those elements will be precious for the rest of the summit, to have those advice in mind to be more efficiently talking about an intellectual approach once you find calm within yourself… The Global Gift Foundation was chosen for its amazing work helping women and children to find resilience. Beginning with this event was a beautiful message of hope.
For you, is there a difference between women’s and men’s leadership?If so, what would it be?
GCK – It is very difficult to make the difference between what comes from birth and what comes from education between men and women. Today, “leadership” remains an unconscious collective representation linked to the power of the alpha male. This refers to this “first man”, the man who is a pioneer in all fields, to the point of having a predominance over women since he was the first human being on earth through the biblical figure of Adam. As a result, the “first man in the world”, “the first man on the moon”, has invaded our imagination to the point of having immediately in mind when we speak of “progress” or even “humanism”, this naked man’s body with four arms and four legs in a circle annotated by Leonardo da Vinci. Of course, its feminine equivalent by the famous painter, remains wisely with arms crossed and showing only an upper body. For me, there is no difference in the leadership made by men and women. The Mona Lisa could have been a leader, but she remains a “mysterious woman”… The Vitruvian Man, is stunning by the masculine power of strength and energy that comes from the drawing.
In your opinion, is it necessary to steer away from stereotypes in 2021?
GCK – It is absolutely necessary to steer away from stereotypes in 2021 and fight them with all our strength. This starts with an education of respect for women and stop treating them as beings who must serve or define themselves only in relation to motherhood. Strengthening the girls’ self-confidence with early exposure to, among other things, team sports, strategic games and daring to let them speak more in public remains a basis for positive education. In the business world, it is also through the education of women AND men that this mental switch is taking place. Programs such as Eve from Danone, EllesVMH, among others, are there to help women to break the glass ceiling, to dare to run for positions of high responsibility without fear of not finding a balance between personal and professional life. There is still a lot to be done, especially now in times of COVID, with domestic violence that still puts women back to a level of victims.
Personally, how would you describe your leadership, and how does it manifest itself?
GCK – I describe myself as an “artivist”, which means that I use my art to bring my action to the world. My work as an educator, a coach or an activist are all linked to my approach to drama. As art is not simply here to “create Beauty” as a “Mona Lisa” representation would do, but on the contrary, to help human leadership taking distance with our action. Today, I have the chance to help many leaders to give them the strength to be able to strengthen the embodiment of their character to give them all the depth of an authentic leadership, where vulnerability becomes revealing of powerful management. This is deeply linked to the body, in the posture, the non-verbal…
What actions have you personally implemented to achieve greater participation of women?
GCK – I have been a spokesperson for several founding texts of women’s emancipation through readings that I have recorded such as “I am Malala” by Malala Yousfzaior “A memory, a monologue, a rant, a prayer” under the direction of Eve Ensler. I am a facilitator of several programs of “Women Empowerment” in several Nasdaq companies and I often do conferences on the issue of women’s leadership. Training and coaching-in are also part of my solidarity action for beaten women through organizations such as the “Maison des Femmes” in France for example, or through UNESCO. Not to mention partnership actions to help young girls access education.
What would you like to tell the new generations (men and women), children and young adults on these subjects?
GCK – Not to be afraid…It is fear that creates this sense of empowerment in others. It’s very difficult for a woman not to be afraid: to be a “bad” daughter, a “bad” mother, a “bad” wife, a “bad” girl…With this injunction of “being good” that remains in the minds of women and girls. Today, what I want to say, especially to women, is not to be afraid of not being “good”, since the question is not to be good or bad, but simply to “be” themselves. It’s time to stop being afraid of not looking smart and speak up, that’s why participating in this second international summit on women’s leadership is so important.
For our ON-Business column, our Business Innovation Strategist and Artistic Director Daniela Pavan distills tips on creativity and success in times of COVID-19.
For years people in creative roles were kind of left out of serious business conversations, which instead used to take place only among the upper management in boardrooms. More recently, it looks like Creativity is knocking at the door of those rooms and has gained the right to sit at the decision-making tables as a driver of innovation. The creative spark that used to be just an aesthetic abstraction and somehow light and breezy concept, is now an important leadership quality that is dramatically transforming the way we do business.
By Daniela Pavan
The challenging scenario created by the pandemic emergency is giving creativity an even more crucial role in our lives. We’ve been through so many changes during the past months: we changed the way we work, the way we interact with each other, the way we shop. Change looks always scary, and facing change can throw us in a state of chaos. In times of crisis like these, who should we turn to, and learn from? My answer is: from creative minds, from artists. You may remember Darwin’s evolution theory about “the survival of the fittest”. It’s not the strongest or the smartest one who survives but the one who can adapt more quickly to change and to new contexts. The ability to adapt to change combined with resilience (the quality of recovering quickly from failure and adversity, and using the opportunity for your personal development,) seems to be the best match to navigate this unprecedented scenario. A set of skills that are part of artists and creatives’ natural attitude.
The Creative Pois-On #CreativityWillSaveUs video and podcast serieswants to demonstrate this exactly. We started the project to give voice to prominent figures from the world of art, culture, and entertainment during the COVID-19 emergency, inviting them to come together to reflect on the central value that art brings to humanity during the harsh quarantine times. We have been blessed by so many great contributions from artists from all over the world: 50+ artists for 10 episodes plus a special one celebrating Pride Day. Following these artists and watching them from a privileged point of view, we realized that even between their differences in terms of disciplines and artistic attitudes, they all have two fundemantal traits in common: resilience and adaptability. In fact, they all managed to keep their creative spark alive and produce arts against all of the odds. Even the performing artists who have seen their venues abruptly shut down, basically overnight.
So now the question is, how can we learn to be ourselves, as resilient and flexible? Here are some of the reflections that our series #CreativityWillSaveUs inspired me:
1 Change the narrative: when something bad or unpredictable happens, many of us spend a lot of time in a “rumination mood”, reliving the event over and over in our heads. This way we don’t allow ourselves to move forward. What I learned from our artists is the importance and the courage to change a story by building a new one. How? By writing, singing, playing music, painting, acting, there are infinite creative ways that we could all explore. The goal is to be brave enough to face our deepest thoughts and feelings, and not to necessarily produce a memoir-like masterpiece, courage as a first step is already a big accomplishment. And precisely about this topic, I found out that there is a study from 1988 that demonstrates how a sample of people who embarked in an Expressive Writing program for four days was healthier six weeks later and happier up to three months later if compared to some others whose task was to write about some more random topics. This is valid, in my opinion, for any form of art because it forces us to deeply analyze each one of our ideas and allows us to see things from new perspectives. I personally enjoy changing my narratives through acting and dancing, because they both allow me to explore the story from different angles.
2 Practice Meditation: you may already know that usually, our most painful thoughts revolve around our past and our future. We may regret things that went wrong or we are anxious about the things that will happen or not happen to us. Practicing mindfulness and meditation keeps us centered and concentrated on the present. being, the now. You may think that our main concerns are attached to the present time we are living. You might have this sensation, even though really, our lives are made of a series of circumstances that often we can’t control. Therefore meditation can help us stay focused on what we can control, accept what we can’t control and think more clearly about our next steps. The past months have been very painful for me as well, on a personal level. I want to suggest a practice that I like to do: mindful breathing. I usually get very anxious because I am always projecting my thoughts into the future of what might happen. This exercise can be done for 5 or 7 minutes a day, or every time you feel under stress. Find a comfortable position. You can be seated on a chair or on the floor, on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight, with your hands rested comfortably. Allow yourself to relax and become aware of your body seated, the sensations that it experiences, the connection with the floor or the chair. Remove any tightness or tension. Simply breathe. Feel the natural flow of breath, while inhaling and exhaling. Notice how you feel while you breathe. See if you can feel the sensations of your breath, one breath at a time. Now as you do this, your mind may start to wander and think about different things. It’s very natural, so no worries. When this happens, gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
3 Find your Ikigai.Ikigaiis a Japanese word that means purpose in life. We can say that Ikigai is the secret ingredient for happiness. Ikigai is about finding fulfillment, happiness, and balance in life. Many of us think that our job, family, and passions are different solos, like separate aspects of life. The Ikigai philosophy instead puts the accent on a fundamental truth: nothing in life is a solo… but everything is connected… as we always say here atCreative Pois-On. So yes, according to the Ikigai, it is possible to be true to what you love, live a fulfilled life, and make a positive impact on the life of others. So let’s dive in, what’s the definition of Ikigai. The Ikigai is the intersection between what you love, what the world needs, what you can get paid for, and what you are good at. Take a few minutes to write down some keywords, concepts, and ideas that come up to your mind for each of the four categories above and for overlapping areas. Think about how these elements may relate to each other. And then, leave space in your mind to whatever element, word, category, may naturally emerge by bringing these four elements together. So when you have this centerpiece clear in your mind found it, think about what is the first very simple step you can immediately take, and that it could be a practical expression of this centerpiece, which is your Ikigai. Are you curious to try? Artists, creative minds as well as successful businessmen all over the world, have in common the fact that they have found their Ikigai, that they are crystal clear about their purpose in life. That is what keeps them motivated, resilient but also flexible and perseverant.
Now it’s up to you. Ready to take your first step?
Learn more about Creative Pois-On Business Services HERE.
About Daniela Pavan
THE STORYTELLER WHO CONNECTS THE DOTS OF CREATIVITY, INNOVATION, AND BUSINESS
Born and raised in Italy, Daniela Pavan is now based in NYC. This is one of the reasons why she is blessed with both Italian artistic passion and NYC’s unique edge. With 20 years of experience working in the world of digital, design and communication with big companies, agencies as well as small start-ups, Daniela has also a strong collaboration with the University of Venice (Italy) where she won a grant for a research focused on understanding if and how creativity and design can be drivers for innovation. Co-Founder, Artistic Director, Creativity Curator, and Business Mind of Creative Pois-On. She is also our resident “bridge builder” as she is fluent in both business and creativity! Our creatives would be lost without her! Follow her Creative Bridge episodes on the Creative Pois-On Podcast.
Or the delicate art of contactless hands-free connection. A reflection on the world after COVID-19
By Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD, Harvard University Edited by Kyra Johnson
As the world continues to undergo the effects of the coronavirus in all aspects of life, it becomes necessary to recognize what a post-COVID world looks like, as well as to consider it to be a sort of separator of space and time. Such a world-altering event, after all, is so extreme and drastic that it reflects an almost messianic importance.
Imagining oneself in a post-coronavirus future is already to recognize the pandemic’s role as a separator of space-time. After all, aren’t we in 2020 AD, or even 1441 A.D., 1441 Hegira, Chinese 4718, or 5780 in the Jewish calendar, to name but a few? All these calendars base their point of departure, the year 1, on a founding event which radically separates the coming era from the preceding one. Most importantly, the new era also “updates” the cultural, territorial, social, behavioural, and economic system. We now must seek out a global meaning in all civilizations, which comes from a posteriori to the event since the year zero does not exist. We therefore begin to count long after the event, which only takes on its meaning once we choose its meaning. Therefore, in the current case of COVID-19, we are still in the year zero. Let us try to see what societal norms we are radically leaving behind in order to go towards year one, Post-COVID, and what this new era of ours will potentially look like.
Turning to a New Sun
In our society prior to the coronavirus, human beings shared in the tropism—the natural turning towards an external stimulus–exhibited by many plants; we are like sunflowers, following the rays of the stimuli we have grown accustomed to in order to support our own social growth.What we are leaving to go into the Post-COVID world is above all an anthropological tropism that acted as an irresistible and unconscious force, a reflex behavior that seemed so natural to us. This behavior that seemed so natural to us and pushed us to use all of our five senses fearlessly in our relationship with others is now absent in lieu of our inability to psychically reach out. Whether they were close or unknown to us, accepting the other meant bringing them into our social “spheres”: the professional sphere, the family sphere, the personal intimate sphere. Each of these spheres has required some sortof a contact greeting. This human-to-human “recognition” seemed so natural to us–whether it was a kiss, handshake, or hug–that it had become a tropism.
We collectively failed to realize how physical contact norms may endanger us if we had to consider the other or oneself as “potentially contagious”. In the face of the virus, us metaphorical sunflowers are forced to find a new type of sun to turn to in order to achieve and maintain our social growth.
For example, this “new sun” is already somewhat adopted by Asian cultures,where it is custom to avoid touching each other during greetings, particularly in China, where salutations are exchanged at a distance, with heads bowed. We are therefore encouragedto follow the Chinese example in our professional spheres, where even prior to the pandemic, physical exchanges were rarely intimate, and are therefore the most appropriate type of contact greeting to undergo procedural changes in our Post-COVID Year One. The choice of the “elbow” salutation (widely remembered as the “Ebola Shake” salutation, born during the Ebola epidemic) is appropriate, and even already common, in several cultures. What does this mean in terms of anthropological tropism of finding a new stimulus in which to grow from? We would orient our physical interactions to a much more “Asian fashion”: less touching, interruptions, and emotions, and more observation, silence, and neutrality. Adopting foreign greetings may lead us to culture shock, and feelings of “Fear and Trembling” may await us in this “Asia-tization” of our methods of greeting, and perhaps even our modes of societal functioning.
Learning from Porcupines: A New “Hands Free” Connection
If we cannot enjoy our typical experiences of physical contact anymore, does this mean that we all need to find an “inner warmth” to replace what no longer comes from others? This is what philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer recommended in his famous parable of the porcupines in “Parerga and Paralipomena”, in which he used this group of animals to explain the paradox of human contact. During a frosty snowstorm, the porcupines huddled together in tight-knit groups to keep warm, but ultimately suffered from each other’s sharp prickles, since they were too close together. They were forced to find a “medium distance” where they could benefit from their collective warmth yet avoid harming others with their spikes. Schopenhauer then writes:
“Thus the need for society, born of the emptiness and monotony of their inner life, pushes people towards each other; but their many unsympathetic ways and unbearable defects scatter them again. The average distance they eventually discover and at which living together becomes possible is politeness and good manners.” Arthur Schopenhauer
What we come to understand from this example is that, during this pandemic, we must learn how to benefit from one another’s metaphorical warmth while still keeping our distance, as the infectious disease has become our own set of sharp spines that could damage others, should we fail to maintain a proper distance.Would we have failed in the principle of “politeness” by abruptly changing our socially “average distance” into a brand-new “sanitary distance”? There are no more possible contacts to fall back on once the pandemic has passed, because it is the aggregation of the whole system that is changing. The anthropological system described by Arthur Schopenhauer assumed that groups of humans push towards each other by aggregates “born from the emptiness and monotony of their inner life”. But does this kind of emptiness still exist today?In accordance with our metaphor, the quills of porcupines have grown and become a type of interconnected network of antennas that connect without contact, as if their exchange of bodily warmth is done virtually–it is “hands-free”.
This is the basis of our real-world rapidly expanding Internet connectivity, with intelligent underground, underwater, aerial and space smart grids… 5G obliges! The interconnected system of porcupines that gathered together to keep warm symbolically evolved to become an emanation of our own individual social antennas. We each radiate our own quills that serve as a protective “crown”–which, strangely enough, looks similar to the shape of the coronavirus when viewed under an electron microscope. These antennas are also our ways of relating to each other. This explains why we are able to have hundreds of friends on Facebook without ever actually meeting them in person. In 1992, anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggested that 150 was the maximum number of people with whom we could maintain stable social relationships, so as not to exceed the maximum size allowed by the information processing capacity of our brain. Humans have an incredible capacity to connect, but this pandemic creates a blockage for us to demonstrate our typical human warmth. When “emptiness” no longer exists outside, it is reborn inside us via a “lack of oxytocin”, which is the hormone of love, trust and bonding created through physical contact (such as caresses, kisses, etc.). We are about to live through an incredible moment of withdrawal where our only option to remain hyper-connected is to use social media platforms, where we can engage in a sort of “hands-free” style of interaction (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok, among others). But is keeping this mode of “no contact” relationships, truly without risk of contamination? It may present a dangerous “Zoom-ification” of our world where others only appear in two dimensions, “framed” in a relationship controlled by a “power” button that you just have to press once for others to disappear.
The Return of “Courtesy”
This “love from afar” that we must now practice is reminiscent of the ballads of “courtly love” that were sung by William IX of Aquitaine“Roman de la Rose” and the troubadours (traveling poets) of the twelfth century. In this medieval context, songs describe the object of love: the rose; and the woman, the object of wooing, is far away, but one must surpass the presented obstacles in order to fulfill their conquest. In our non-medieval context: less oxytocin hormone, therefore, equates less touching, yet provides more dopamine, the hormone of success. A “setting far away”, which is the new distant location of individuals in our lives, allows us to rework the path that leads to others. This medieval approach to human connection seems very outdated.
On the contrary, the practice of working through obstacles to achieve our object of interest is anchored deep within us, in what we are desperately trying to find again during this time: a rediscovered physical closeness with our companions and an ambition to take on a brand new, albeit mysterious, future. a brand new future.
The term “courtesy” does not force us to return to feudalistic style, but allows us to rethink our “porcupine” social system on a human scale–that is to say, we must insert ourselves into metaphorical “courtyards”: small bordered spaces in which a finite number of individuals who share common values reside as a community. Taking residence in these spaces is not advocating for the return of the aristocracy, or the feudal reign of the King and his Court, but rather, it is to set up each individual to have the capacity of a “power” button; not to make others entirely disappear, but to simply make them leave their screen, like Tom Baxter in Woody Allen’s film “The Purple Rose of Cairo”. We have the ability to be aware of the collective world, thanks in particular to the analysis grid of the17 Sustainable Development objectives adopted by the UN in 2015, and the credo of the platform of action for the coronavirus, set up in mid-March by the World Economic Forum in Davos. We know what we have to do, but we don’t do it yet… even if we hear many people say that, despite the difficulty of containment, what we will regret most is this long period of time when we could have “settled down” for a moment before returning to the frenzy of active life. This is the principle of the “JOMO” (the “Joy Of Missing Out”). This joy celebrates disconnection from an idealized world in order to concentrate on real life, on our truly important relationships without feeling fearful under the gaze of others.
Towards Optimistic Leadership
What about business in our “professional sphere”? In comparison to the familial sphere, it is not the one that is most naturally useful to society, but it is probably the one that has the most responsibilities in terms of helping everyone “hold it together”. In Latin, “Entre-prehendere” means “to take in one’s hands”, and “to take the risk” of creating something valuable that is beyond financial gain. This is where the “courtyard” that the company represents is so important since it must recreate a will to create, share, and co-construct together, and to bring water to the metaphorical mill of society so that the economy can turn. Just as an individual struggles with the idea of death at the sound of a cough, a company thinks it is finished when it sees its sales drop during the last two months. However, they are far from being finished.
Just like the individual, if companies take on the responsibility to not contaminate and not be contaminated, they enter a phase of change in accordance with what the virus has taught us: how to resist by breathing. To continue to breathe in spite of the miasma of this virus means to, against all odds, feed on the air of others and accept that it may be necessary to empty oneself of their own air so that another can feed on it.
This circulation of air must take place in a healthy environment, between healthy individuals, for a healthy purpose. The return of deconfinement in the workplace should aim to achieve this healthy system at the managerial level: leaders must regain the health of the collective through a narrative sense. Telling a story of survival is crucial in terms of resilience. And for that, the leader’s communication is essential at both the verbal and non-verbal level. When presenting content, a leader must make the choice of using positive, unifying, hope-creating words, but above all, they must be transparent with the situation, for that will make the difference. Far too many leaders would like to apply the perception of the pre-COVID to the post-COVID era by making people believe that nothing has happened. On the contrary, it is by underlining the difficulties undergone during this time of collective survival, and by detailing the different steps to follow going forwards, that unity will be able to motivate the team. This is what the “optimistic” leader should look for, to use the ideas of the famous Tal Ben Shahar, professor of “happiness” (a form of positive psychology)at Harvard University, in his book The Happiness of Being a Leader: a clever mix of optimism and realism. The leader must go beyond their bodily barriers. It is their own body, which has been denied so much in the virtual relationship, that they will have to re-inhabitat. This will show how the leader will be judged, measured, and despised, and if they can be followed. For the body does not lie and when one is the image of power in a company, it is the body that reveals its weaknesses, impostor syndrome, or megalomaniacal impulses.
Even the newly named “coronial” generation of babies coming from this era (including X Æ A-12, the aptly named newborn of Elon Musk) have a body, which is what remains to us as irreducibly fragile and therefore “human”. So let us become guards of our own body by not listening to those who want to amputate it under the narrative of reinforcing our performance with “painkillers” and “anti-epileptics” by inhibiting nerves or by cutting off our sensitivity where it hurts. In medicine, just as in business, we should be wary of symptomatic treatments that would create a Guillain-Barré syndrome, a consequential fallout suffered by many people who have been ill with corona: a loss of sensation that can lead to paralysis of the extremities (hands/feet). In a company, it is necessary to look at how the virus was experienced by all the employees, offering at all levels (from “feet” to “hands”) not only spaces for words, but real possibilities to integrate and collaborate “in the common courtyard” with real recognition–without such an approach, it would lead to a paralysis of the company’s whole collective body . “Stop applauding us and come and put your hands in the sludge instead,” a doctor said to me the other day. He didn’t necessarily mean making a medical commitment, but contributing in some way to ensuring that there is a dedication to relieving the harshness of daily life, each at one’s own level. What can be said about what awaits us in the post-COVID era is a real human question that searches for meaning and involvement at the individual level.
This shared sense that we all have within us is a voice that guarantees the survival of our species and tells us to “do and play our part” as if we are an orchestra with an infinite number of instruments. Our song would be an uproar that is certainly very powerful because of its resonant force but would have no collective melody and even less unison.
At the moment, the system of the world has just been updated and unifying platforms, such asTikTok’s viral trends, have an impressive capacity to be its own type of virus and spread the same pantomime repeated across the continents as if it is a domino effect of one following after another.The virtual spread of ideas is a unifying force that helps us expand our perception of the world as a whole. Contrastingly, however, Voltaire’s satire Candide tells us of the importance of staying in one’s own social sphere and recognizing their place in the world. After having done all kinds of pantomimes and lived in various burlesque situations whilst traveling the world, the title character comes back home and advises us that it would be best for him to simply “cultivate his garden”… not in terms of being selfishly interested only in his small plot of physical land, but to play at his level in the territorial, political, economic, and social issues–his own garden, his own yard. This is not a reflection of a post-COVID individualism, but a warning against a possible hyper-connected system that is overwhelmed by the desire to once again restore our norms of contact. The solution seems simple: does “cultivating your garden” not mean less connection and more contact with reality?
ABOUT GUILA-CLARA KESSOUS
Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD. is a research professor, a coach, and a UNESCOArtist for Peace. Recipient of a doctorate under Elie Wiesel’s direction, she is using theatrical techniques to help suffering populations (survivors of genocide and human rights violations) better express themselves and have a stronger impact on new generations. She is also certified in positive psychology by Harvard University Professor Tal Ben Shahar and accompanies people to achieve stronger resilience in times of crisis. She deals with issues of positive leadership, crisis communication, and managerial posture using theatrical techniques and role-playing. Following the coaching of suffering populations, she accompanies personalities, executive committees, senior executives, and managers in crisis contexts in France and abroad. Today, she is working with healthcare personnel, ranging from executives to nurses, to provide coaching and counseling to those serving at the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.
In this powerful Op-ed. Storyteller, Art Curator, Artist & Creative Pois-On Contributor Sabrina Wirth reflects on our collective social and business future after the global pandemic emergency.
When we started this quarantine journey together in mid-March, it was like we knew we were settling in for the long ride. We knew it would be temporary, and that it would be an inconvenience, but we approached it as a challenge. And so, we began to get creative and resourceful, thinking of ways to keep us busy, or create new content, because all of a sudden, social media became everyone’s outlet, and our home, the stage. Three months in and this temporary way of life has slowly transformed into the “new normal”. The big questions on everyone’s minds now, are: what will remain from this existence, what will return to how we remembered it, and what will change?
By Sabrina Wirth
There is no question that pre-COVID life will remain in the past, and whatever we had been used to will have to continue in its adapted form- if it is to continue at all. Anyone who had been reluctant to jump on Instagram, or other social media, is now discovering the platform, and realizing that it is the window into a borderless, and virus-free world that does not have to follow social-distancing rules (Yet, at the same time, realizing that it is also a highly visible world, where the impact of what you publish can have far-reaching consequences). In the process of (re)discovering these alternate environments, many individuals and companies came to the awareness that much of what they deemed necessary, like in-person meetings, is in reality more efficient over the phone or on Zoom.
Distance can no longer be considered an acceptable excuse for missing -or being late to- a meeting, because how can you be late to a phone call? It is safe to say that technology has significantly changed our pace of life over the past 30 years. Remember writing and receiving letters? Those shoeboxes once filled with letters from pen-pals are now filled with either bills, invitations, solicitations, and the occasional letters or postcards. In those letter-writing days, immediate gratification was not a thing. We lived our lives off-line and in the physically present moment. Indeed, everything was much more local, and calling someone in another country was a planned event. When texting became more common, it was exciting to be able to reach another person so instantaneously. Now, no one even gives it a second thought. Our pace of adjusting to the opportunities technology provides has been increasing gradually- so gradually that no one has really noticed.
Then, Covid-19 happened. It was as though someone said “now stop whatever you’re doing because if you want to continue, you have to figure out a different way.” They say “necessity is the mother of inventions”, and in a sense, we (by “we” I mean the majority) have had to invent a new way of life. That’s why #creativitywillsaveus keeps growing, because creatives are, by nature, constantly reinventing and reimagining. They are the ones who are leading the path into this new world, and the more people share on this platform, the more people are inspiring others to do the same.
With all these advancements in technology and tools for working remotely, why has the workplace structure remained the same for so long? The traditional 9-5, 8-hour workweek has been around since the 20s when Henry Ford and the labor unions instituted a regulated work schedule. After WWII, when women and African Americans entered the workforce, office layouts were designed in the style of the factory floor rows, which had become common during the war years, and have since barely changed. It’s taken 3 months of quarantine and forced “work-from-home” for people to consider a different way- a more creative way.
During the quarantine, Sabrina got creative producing art, homemade masks, and developing innovative entrepreneurial ideas. She is also giving her voice to the podcast version of the Creative Pois-On #CreativityWillSaveUs Series. Check it here below!
And it’s taken this pandemic for people to finally embrace the changes that technology has made possible. If employees are able to productively work from home from whatever geographic location they are in, it confirms the notion that the traditional work model is outdated. As businesses begin to open up and people are given the option to return to their offices to work, there is a high likelihood that most people will want to maintain their flexibility, since it worked just fine during the quarantine. The one main difficulty, however, will be maintaining a sense of structure and balance between work and life, since the two have been blurred by existing within the same space.
One industry that is discovering a “re-birth” of sorts, is the art business. Auction houses, galleries, museums… the kind of business that relies on in-person viewing. It’s a hand-shake business that capitalizes on the stories behind the object, the mystery of the artist’s process, the stories evoked in the tactility of the paint. The Mona Lisa is not the same on a screen as it is in the Louvre. A picture of aWarholis not the same as the real thing. So what will this post-Covid transition look like?
For a while, auction houses were merely flirting with the idea of expanding the market online, and -despite the fact that being in the auction room itself is much more exciting- were cautiously making advancements with online bidding. It was never taken completely seriously though until a recent online auction at Sotheby’s brought in $36 million, more than double from the same period last year. Seeing these numbers come in from digital sales seems to be the validation the art world needed in order to forge ahead into more online ventures. To move ahead of the competition, without the advantages of real estate and location, the challenges will then be about storytelling and creating experiences that transcend between the virtual and the physical. In the meantime, however, museums and institutions that rely on membership and visitor fees will need to re-imagine the on-site experiences they provide in order to keep visitor numbers up. Will visits be limited to a certain number of people? What will happen with blockbuster exhibitions?
As the light at the end of this quarantine-tunnel becomes more visible, and our global attention is split between health and civil rights issues, I cannot help but feel a rush of emotions when I consider what our next phase of life will be. While eager to return to a sense of normalcy, I find myself hoping that some elements from this moment of isolation carry through into our future. Solidarity and community, for one.
When we were all forced to individually “shelter-in-place”, we found ways to come together with tools like Zoom, FaceTime, and social media. In fact, many people may have found more community throughout these past several months than they had before. The shared efforts of making masks or designing and producing PPE face shields brought creative people from all industries together in a way they hadn’t previously experienced. The Black Lives Matter movement amplified the feeling of solidarity. Hopefully, this awareness of being able to impact change as a collective can transition into a more permanent state. Together, we can do more: we can be more creative, we can affect change, we can be stronger. Together, we are better. Let’s keep this as our main souvenir from Covid.
Sabrina Wirth is an artist, curator, writer, and storyteller. Her curiosity for people and different cultures has led her down various unusual, but fulfilling paths, such as exploring Iraqi Kurdistan, and working on a film about refugees in France. She believes in the power of creativity, and has learned that the best stories are the real-life, human ones.
For more info on Sabrina please visit:www.sabrinawirth.com
New York, May 20th, 2020, how long have you been locked down? A couple of months? Is it really just a couple of months, or have we been living in stages of lockdown, on and off, since our life’s journeys began? Have we escaped? Have we tried to escape? With our bodies, with our minds, with our souls? Have we experienced freedom or are we still excruciatingly mingling with self-imposed or super-imposed imprisonments? Do we know that is our Self who is Super and has Super-powers? Are we aware of the superpower of our creative minds? Do we know that the Creation is never completed until we co-create it and expand its marvels with the pyrotechnical visions of the worlds we wish to live?
How Long Have IBeen Locked Down?
That was one of my first thoughts when the surreal and yet super-real atmosphere of this global pandemic started clouding our vision and super-impose itself on our daily lives. Why was this atmosphere so familiar to me, where and when did I experience it? If I detected the origin of this feeling, could I have recollected how I dealt with it before, and what helped me to escape? The brutal desolation and isolation, the sorrow and the despair, with which this sneaky and virulent virus is paralyzing and polluting both our bodies and consciences, brought back virulent paralyzing and polluting memories.
Masking – An Old Habit This is certainly not the first mask I’m wearing, and masking is a fashion that really never went out of style. How many times was I forced to wear a mask; a mask on my eyes for the worlds I wasn’t allowed to see or reach, a mask on my mouth for the words I wasn’t allowed to say, a mask on my heart for the feelings I was not allowed to express. How many days and nights, locked-down in a room wishing on lives, wishing on far-away lands and emotional landscapes I so wanted to walk in, fear-free, mask-free.
Art & Creativity – Compass of Our Lives What helped me survive that isolation? What helped me expand my vision, my senses, and bring reality closer, shaped exactly how I envisioned it? It was Art, always, there were the artists, the mentors, the writers, the muses, injecting my mind with their purposeful creations. Art and Creativity are the compass of our lives, the sails unfurled navigating towards the ends of any horizon, transporting us through dimensions, unlocking all locks, unmasking all masks.
With the same instinct that brought me to cling on to the artists to survive my many lockdowns and experiencing the life I’m leading today, we at Creative Pois-Onfelt that we needed to cling on to the artists to understand this very challenging time that we are facing, find in them guidance and find with them the time to rediscover how our own creativity can lead us to phase 2, 3, 4… of our future. As we are finding new measures to contain the spreading of this virus, and we are looking for effective treatments, the testimony of the artists of our times living through this pandemic, can give us creative measures to contain the spreading of our fears and treat our minds and souls to re-design the more sustainable world of tomorrow, humanly, ethically, economically.
A video/podcast series and social media campaign – nominated for the prestigious United Nations SDG Impact Awards – where prominent figures from the international world of art, culture,and entertainment come together to reflect on the central value that art brings to all humanity during these challenging quarantine times of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is also designed to support the global community of artists who are seeing all of their venues temporarily shut down to safely prevent the spreading of the Corona Virus.
Listen to the Podcast Series Here below:
Creative Pois-On thinks that this is the time to go back to basics, to the essential DNA of its mission: “More than 7 billion people are living on Planet Earth. Every single one of us is like an isolated island, a polka-dot (Pois, in French), seemingly disconnected from one another. Laptops, smartphones, and social media provide technological bridges, but the storylines we channel are the real threads for all of the living polka-dots around the world to truly connect in this infinite maze.”
These words sound so incredibly current and important in this climate of fear and transformation. So Creative Pois-On thought to channel the extraordinary, talented voices of some of the artists whose stories and creations have been enriching the pages of the platform, both on the Creative Pois-On Podcast show, the editorial project – Storytelier – and the Creative Pois-On Official Youtube Channel. The reach extends beyond these outlets, enlarging CP’s tentacular maze to embrace a constellation of a different variety of artistic expressions and artists. All together they raise a voice that can break through these walls of isolation sending everybody a positive message that #CreativityWillSaveUs and that we can spend this time making the most out of our creative powers.
Follow us on this journey with the goal to find ourselves renewed and ready to soon unlock not only the doors of our houses but also the ones of our intuition, when this virus will dissipate and we will be asked to co-create the world of tomorrow, mask-free, fear-free.
Ready, Set, Imagine!
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