TedxEutropolis: making borders fade and our souls smile

It's been more than a week already since TedxEutropolis took place in our neighbouring Belgian city of Hasselt and I am still thinking about all the insightful talks I heard there.

The conference lasted the entire day, from 10 am until 6 pm, and gathered an enthusiastic audience of 300 people at the Muzikodroom centre for music in the Quartier Canal, a former industrial area that has now become the creative hub of Hasselt.

We had all come to listen to a select list of speakers in the hope to get inspired by their ideas, experiences and projects, and also to meet and connect with other like-minded people from Eutropolis, the name the organisers of the event have given to our Meuse-Rhine cross-border region.

Valerie del Re, board member of CreativeClass and Deputy Mayor of Hasselt said that supporting creativity is a historical goal of her city

The theme of the border actually became the leitmotif of the day. Throughout the conference, the speakers continuously played with the physical and mental borders and boundaries within and around us. Sometimes, borders were presented as annoying obstacles to be removed and other times they were seen as a necessary condition to spark creativity. They would sometimes fade away or suddenly become visible again, they were shifted, pushed, crossed, transgressed or simply lifted as by magic, only to reappear later again, in another shape or form or with another purpose.


"Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness later," teased the young and free-spirited hacker Edial Dekker, who enjoys finding and exploiting the cracks in the walls.

Nick Steurs, on the contrary, said that he consciously looked for situations with boundaries: “I am at my most creative inside borders. That’s when I come up with my most innovative ideas. Just like a cat that’s been cornered and will make a strange move.”

David Venter eloquently spoke about Nelson Mandela's leadership qualities

Another recurrent theme at TedxEutropolis was the idea of the world-changing power of doing the unexpected thing, going into the opposite direction, taking the perhaps more unexpected route, opting for the counter-intuitive solution.

David Venter praised Nelson Mandela for demonstrating utmost brave and admirable leadership qualities after the end of the apartheid system in South Africa when he called his fellow citizens to “look beyond conflicts through Goodness and Forgiveness" and strive for reconciliation instead of revenge.

The speakers had a varied and often mixed cultural background and took us on a whirlwind journey around the world. Many of their experiences included travels abroad and showed the potential and value of integrating foreign concepts into the way we lead our daily lives.

Nick Decrock found great inspiration in the Kama Sutra

Nick Decrock gave an original and smartly provocative presentation about the great pleasures and benefits we can reap by following the precepts of the 4th century Indian Kama Sutra in conducting business.

He argued for example that the Kama Sutra’s recommendations on how to treat and manage one’s wife, or wives, could effectively be applied to the way businessmen and entrepreneurs should deal with their colleagues, competitors and partners, in order to obtain the smoothest and most harmonious results.

TEDxEutropolis swinged and rocked with the Al Paone Italoswing band!

Two lively musical sessions provided for more border-crossings through the mixing and fusion of genres: the Sabena band combined African lyrics from Ghana with Flemish pop and electronic music and the Al Paone band, formed by first and second generations of Italian immigrants in Hasselt, delivered on its promise to take us on “the most swinging 12 minutes of Italian Flemish Jazz in your life”.

The new euregional project Fashion Across Borders, a collaboration between Modemuseum Hasselt, Fashionclash Maastricht and Designmetropole Aachen, showed that fashion designers are also moved by the same open spirit and finding inspiration in cross-border initiatives.

Korean designer Jihyun Ryou taught us how to better preserve our fruits and vegetables

Thomas Lommee's OpenStructures project explores a design model whereby "everyone designs for everyone on the basis of one shared geometrical grid"

Reading between the lines with Gijs van Vaerenbergh's see-through church

“There will be extensive media coverage not only from the organisation but also from you,” the TedxEutropolis team had written in the newsletter they had sent out to all participants ahead of the event.

This sentence had struck me and made me smile because I had found it very wittily phrased. It had even convinced me to bring my laptop along, in order to be able to share my impressions throughout the day on Twitter.

There were many other enthusiastic Twitterers in the room that day and many of our Tweets were collected in the Storify report that the organisers produced for the TedxEutropolis website.

They reveal the key ideas that inspired us the most and “made our souls smile”:

  • Frank & Patrik Rilkin presenting the first Null Stern Hotel in the world. Unexpected art disturbing the system at #TEDxEutropolis

Frank and Patrik Riklin believe that art belongs outside of the museum

One of the highlights of the day was the talk given by Frank and Patrik Riklin, two Swiss conceptual artists who, driven by the desire to take art outside of the museum, have conceived a series of very disruptive and successful projects, such as the Null Stern Hotel – “Where the only star is you!” – or the “Anti G-8 Summit or Smallest Summit in the world.”

When I congratulated them for their inspiring presentation, the twin brothers laughed: “Did you like it? Was our English enough good?”

I told them that I was sure that no one had paid attention to their very minor mistakes and that they had completely conquered the audience with their vision, passion and energy. I said that the communication had taken place on another level, beyond language and perhaps even beyond the wonderful examples they had shared with us. Because to me, people like them and the speakers we had seen and heard throughout the day had a gift to show others how to transcend the ordinary, take reality to the next level and give it a new dimension. They knew how to conquer their fears, take control, bring people together, create movements, and demonstrate that the impossible could become possible...

They looked very pleased with my answer and rewarded me with a broad and simultaneous smile: “We feel like we can make mountains move. We can see a path through the forest of trees. It was a great privilege for us to be here today.”

A big thank you to the TedxEutropolis team!


Source: EJC.net blog, 15 February 2009

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