Interview with House Artist in Residence, Helene Lundbye Petersen

On the need for a new language and using technology for our highest good

“We need a new foundation for being human”.

This bold statement begins the Journal’s conversation with Danish performance artist, Helene Lundbye Petersen.

The basis of Helene’s work originates from a spectrum of 11 books. Each represents a colour, symbolising an aspect of our existence — The White Book for beginnings, The Yellow Book for Balance, The Red Book for our Battles driven by passion and so on. The books — which Helene handwrote by stream of consciousness — act as the basis for performances and other artworks such as paintings, large- scale installations and conceptual works, designed to create sensuous, intellectual and emotional connections to the genuine life within us. Her work is gathered under the title ‘WhitePageProject’, which provides a genuine free space that can enable us to let go of the exhausted structures of the past, grasp the current condition of life, and prepare for the world to come.

The color spectrum of books

This drive to reconnect people to the genuine has led Helene to the top echelons of power — the political arena — where she recently completed a 6 month residency in the Danish Parliament.

“I personally met all political parties in Parliament. In most cases, this was at their confidential group meetings where the actual policies and law proposals are discussed. In some cases these meetings were only for MPs and ministers, sometime open for the employees as well” she says, “Speaking in the language of colour vs. the language of rhetoric and political language was profoundly transformational on a personal and professional level for so many of the politicians I met with. For me, I saw how shifting to this new way of viewing ourselves and the world could lead to new ways to approach complex issues”.

Performance Lecture on The Yellow Book — Ode to Balance Photo: Morten Eggert

Helene concluded her Danish residency to outstanding acclaim from MP’s. Her presence clearly had an impact and similar projects have already been initiated across Europe.

Prior to that, she will take up residence in The House of Beautiful Business in Lisbon, from November 3–10th. In preparation for her appearance at The House, we sat down to learn more about her fascinating work, and vision for the future.

From a colour perspective, what is the imbalance that you see in the world today?

We have become so Blue (our rational, thinking aspect) — in our pursuit of knowledge and information. We have become too systematic. The rational and strategic mind has got us to where we are, but it is currently limiting us. We forget that we are more than just our minds, more than just Blue. We are all 11 colours, and the more we connect to all of them, the richer we will become.

The language of colour is one of feeling and symbolism. Why do you see this as an improvement on say, the language of politics and rhetoric?

Languages today are so tainted by old power and old pain. I really saw this in Parliament, with the language of political rhetoric. To solve the big issues of the moment, we need to transcend the barriers of language, with a language of unity, not divisiveness. The language of colour — which has universal, symbolic interpretations — can have transformative implications, which I saw firsthand with the politicians. By recognising and acknowledging where we genuinely are, say that we are in Yellow– our intuition, or Blue — our thinking, rational mind, we can start to break down differences through a common understanding. Imagine if business leaders, instead of entering into battle with the weapons of rhetoric, used instead this language of colour?

Portrait of Helene Lundbye Petersen, The Danish Parliament, Photo: Morten Eggert

How can your work shape a future accelerated by technology and AI?

We need to understand that with technology, we are giving ourselves tools — like the machines we created in the Industrial Era. But if we as individuals and as a local, national and global society are not connected to ourselves, we will not be ready to handle this, and will simply end up with another set of problems.

We need the genuine now more than ever — a more genuine connection to life in order to become whole. The fragmented world that we live in is a reflection of the fragmented world within ourselves. Technology can only provide a tool. It is when we are whole that we can heal this fragmentation, and then work with technology to find solutions to the bigger problems that are plaguing our world right now.

Tech is enabling us to be closer together, but we still don’t have the language to create the genuine closeness that we are seeking. So in this sense, tech is fuelling the need to form a more genuine connection to the self.

If we answer that call, we can ensure that we are aware of how and why we use new technologies, otherwise the tech will accelerate faster than we can handle.

So before we get too far into AI, we need to become better at being human.

Red Space of Battle, Danish Parliament, 2017 Photo :Morten Eggert

What’s your version of utopia? 
 
 In a utopic future, we would all know these books. We would use the universal language of colour to break down the fragmentation that divides us.

And finally, what drives your passion?

I am in love with life. And through my work, I am a protector of life.

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Visit Helene’s exhibition at The House of Beautiful Business, November 3–10th, 2017 in Lisbon. Alongside fellow start-up founders, executives, nonprofit leaders, investors, writers, philosophers, scientists, designers, technologists, artists, we will be discussing and prototyping how to lead with purpose and passion; how to build human companies and workplaces; and how to design for deeper connections in an age of exponential change and massive societal disruption.

Hosted in collaboration with the BCG Henderson Institute, the House will serve as salon, stage, and sandbox for people who are keen on rehumanizing business and exploring meaningful conversations around humanity and technology. You can find more information and buy tickets at: houseofbeautiful.biz