Satō Tokihiro, #330 Taiji, 1998


My pyramid
January 21th, 2022

Honesty – Faith – Freedom
Creativity – Serenity – Joy – Love – Music – Presence.

Take another step toward what matters.

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Aline Smithson, Sun Setting on 2021.

End of 2021

Ten moments in time
December 31st, 2021

Artist Immensely enjoyed the visits to Sarah Szczesny's studio, and love conversing with her. Her energy, creativity, and knowledge are extraordinary and an inspiration for me. Am ultra delighted that she now joins us to teach in my Transmedia Forms concentration for the Klang und Realität master degree program at Institute for Music and Media.

Exhibition Due to the pandemic the students and I had to do our annual visit to the Julia Stoschek Collection one person at a time. What a privilege and concentration to be completely by myself in these chambers. This moment reaffirmed for me the immense relevance of art for our society.

Festival The 13th incarnation of the annual Ambient Festival in my hometown was a blast. Dietmar Saxler and his team put together a brilliant program. Gavin Bryars' Jesus blond never failed me yet played by The Ever Present Orchestra and conducted by Gregor Schwellenbach was a moment to drop to your knees for.

Film My favorite film experience this year was Sisters with Transistors by Lisa Rovner about the pioneering women of electronic music. It was moving and it gave me goosebumps to finally see so many distinguished female composers gathered in one documentary.

History Learned that the former name of the submarine Hai –that my father was supposed to serve on as a reservist of the marine– was U-2365. The numbers are day and year of my birthday. My father got really lucky that he was not allowed to board in September 1966 for the crossing from the base in Neustadt to Aberdeen in Scotland, because the submarine sank, and all but one of the crewmen drowned. I am grateful for the marine bureaucracy that had him stay on land for lack of insurance, and me have a father.

Mouse The Last Supper relief in St. Mary's Church, Lübeck includes a detail associated with Lübeck: a little mouse gnawing at the base of a rose bush. Touching it is supposed to mean that the person will have good luck. But the mouse is also a symbol that a great disaster can arise from small mishaps. Well, I touched it when still a kid, and again this summer when I revisited some of those memories.

Music I heard Kirtan: Turiya Sings by Alice Coltrane for the first time during a visit to the infamous a-Musik record store, had to have it immediately, and played it for weeks. "As Ravi Coltrane writes in a producer's note, this is functional music, meant to guide the practice of chanting: creating vibrations inside of oneself in order to transcend, like embodied meditations." (Pitchfork). My album of 2021.

Quote „Being resentful, they say, is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." – Susan Cheever

Ritual The last day of 2021 provided two fire rituals for me. It was a warm day, almost as if spring had arrived. For the first ritual I fed all the things that I am not taking with me to 2022 to the flames. With the second, even bigger fire we acknowledged the strength and empowerment of our ancestors to deal with their traumas – on their own. Am so grateful for the company next to the fires.

Work NICA artist development assigned me to work with brilliant people like Heidi Bayer, Leif Berger, Elisabeth Coudoux, Pablo Giw, Tamara Lukasheva, Martel Ollerenshaw, and Philip Zoubek on their communication strategies. Thanks to Thomas Venker for bringing their flattering compliments in interviews for his Kaput - Magazin für Insolvenz & Pop to my attention.
Also, head of the NICA program, Kornelia Vossebein, and I took our meetings outside. She became my first client to do walking meetings only. Best idea ever.

So, here we are... And what is next?


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Face (Fear), 2020, collage on paper by Christian Marclay. Courtesy Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo.

The Truth About Multitasking

A scientific treatise on the topic
December 7th, 2021

Via Medium: "The common belief is that multitasking makes you more productive, that multi-taskers are more talented and that women are the better multi-taskers, yet science suggests otherwise. Multitasking makes you unproductive [1]. It slows you down, increases the rate of your mistakes and reduces your ability to process information [2]. Moreover, it changes the structure of your brain, resulting in decreased cognitive control performance and less socio-emotional regulation [3]. [...]

The idea is that you can do two things at once. But you cannot focus on two things at once. Daniel Kahneman describes in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow that there are two systems in our brain, which he calls System 1 and System 2. System 2 is slow and logical and is used when we solve a difficult math task for example. System 1, on the other hand, is quick and intuitive and is used when we walk, talk or do any other automated task. While we can do several intuitive tasks at the same time, our System 2 requires full attention [7]. Think of driving a car: Both driving and talking is an intuitive task, so you can do both at the same time. But suddenly, something unexpected happens. Your System 2 requires your full attention. In the lucky case, you stop talking and handle the situation well. In the worst case, talking occupied so much of your brain power that your System 2 wasn’t able to react quick enough. This is why multitasking fails: Knowledge Work as described by Peter Drucker, i.e. work that requires us to code, manage, organize or think in general, requires our System 2. It’s neurologically impossible to multitask!"

[1] Bannister, F. & Remenyi, D. (2009). Multitasking: the Uncertain Impact of Technology on Knowledge Workers and Managers. Electronic Journal Information Systems Evaluation. 12.
[2] Lohr, S. (2007) Slow Down, Brave Multitasker, and Don’t Read This in Traffic,The New York Times, March 25th, 2007.
[3] Loh KK, Kanai R (2014) Higher Media Multi-Tasking Activity Is Associated with Smaller Gray-Matter Density in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. PLoS ONE 9(9): e106698. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106698
[4] Jones, Keith and Schambach, Thomas, “Student Perspectives On Multitasking” (2009). 2009 Proceedings. 23.
[5] Laloyaux, J., Laroi, F., & Hirnstein, M. (2018, September 26). Research: Women and Men Are Equally Bad at Multitasking. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from
[6] Gary, K. & Papasan, J. (2013). The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Austin: Bard Press.
[7] Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Thanks to Fee Fuchs!

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Illustration by Jorge Mascarenhas.

Beliefs about Creativity

Evidence for an insight bias
October 17th, 2021

Via ScienceDirect: "Research finds that creative ideas are often generated via two cognitive pathways: persistence and insight. Persistence refers to the effortful, deliberate, and sustained search for creative solutions. In contrast, insight refers to the effortless and unexpected comprehension of new ideas or solutions, colloquially called the ‘A-ha!’ moment. People report both pathways in their subjective experiences of creativity and both pathways promote creative performance. Yet, emerging research suggests that people’s beliefs about the creative process do not reflect these dual pathways. It appears that people associate creativity with effortless insight and undervalue persistence; a phenomenon we refer to as an insight bias. We next present evidence for an insight bias, consider the mechanisms behind it, and discuss the implications of these (faulty) beliefs. [...]

The studies summarized above provide evidence that people undervalue persistence and overvalue insight. Understanding these (faulty) beliefs is important because they influence how people choose to engage in creative work. For instance, undervaluing persistence and believing one’s best ideas come early leads people to disengage from creative work more quickly, which limits creativity. Valuing insight leads people to expect more creativity when in the bathtub than at one’s workstation and to discount the value of others whose accomplishments draw on persistence rather than innate genius.

What causes the insight bias? One explanation relates to the subjective experience of idea generation itself. Specifically, the feeling of effortfulness experienced while generating ideas (also called metacognitive fluency). Generating ideas via insight feels less effortful and less mentally exhausting than generating ideas via persistence. This more pleasant experience of insight, versus persistence, leads people to think and feel more positively about insight. For example, the research where people underestimated how many ideas they would generate while persisting found that the feeling of effortfulness experienced during initial idea generation accounted for the discrepancy between predictions and performance. Similarly, people’s belief that creativity declines across an ideation session was explained by people’s pessimism about the difficulty of producing ideas over time. Future research should continue to test this and other mechanisms."

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"The Mouth of Krishna" by Anna Cabrera & Ángel Albarrán. "In any part of the universe there is a whole universe –Hamlet saw the infinite space in a nutshell; William Blake saw a world in a grain of sand, a heaven in a wild flower, and eternity in an hour."

How to do philosophy

by Robert Paul Wolff
August 23rd, 2021

Via Lars P. Syll: "A contest was announced to see who could do the best job of carving up a side of beef. The judge was announced as a famous chef, who had earned two Michelin stars. Attracted by the prize money, a butcher and an analytic philosopher entered the contest.

The Analytic Philosopher went first. A fresh side of beef was placed on a large wooden table, and he approached to begin.  He was dressed in freshly pressed chinos and a button-down shirt. The Analytic Philosopher laid a leather case on one corner of the table and opened it, revealing a gleaming set of perfectly matched scalpels, newly sharpened. He selected one scalpel carefully and addressed the side of beef. After inspecting its surface carefully, he raised his hand and made the first cut, a precise slice in a perfectly straight line. Working steadily, but with meticulous care, he proceeded to make slices and cross slices until he had completed the carving of the beef, a task that took him the better part of an hour. When he had finished, he stepped back, wiped the scalpel clean on a piece of paper toweling, replaced it in the case, and with a bow to the judge, withdrew.

The butcher was next up. Her side of beef was on a table next to that on which the Analytic Philosopher had been working. She was dressed in overalls and a butcher’s apron, on which one could see spots of blood and stains from her work. She took out a cleaver, a saw, and a sharp butcher’s knife, and went to work on her side of beef, wasting no time. Bits of fat and gristle flew here and there, some ending up on her apron and even in her hair, which she had covered with a net. She whistled as she worked at the table, until with a flourish, she put down her saw, bowed to the judge, and stepped back.

The judge examined each table for no more than a moment, and then without the slightest hesitation, handed the prize to the butcher. The Analytic Philosopher was stunned. "But," he protested, "there is simply no comparison between the results on the two tables. The butcher’s table is a shambles, a heap of pieces of meat, with fat and bits of bone and drops of blood all over the place. My table is pristine — a careful display of perfectly carved cubes of meat, all with parallel sides and exactly the same size. Why on earth have you given the prize to the butcher?"

The Judge explained. "The butcher has turned her side of beef into a usable array of porterhouse steaks, T-bone steaks, sirloin steaks, beef roasts, and a small pile of beef scraps ready to be ground up for chop meat.  She clearly knew where the joints were in the beef, how to cut against the grain with the tough parts, where to apply her saw.  You, on the other hand, have reduced a perfectly good grade-A side of beef to stew meat."

Moral: When butchering a side of beef, it is best to know something about what lies beneath its surface.
Observation: This is also not a bad idea when doing Philosophy."

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Stil from the film 'The Invisible Woman' (1940).


My pyramid
June 5th, 2021

Faith – Honesty – Serenity
Creativity – Intuition – Joy – Love – Music – Presence.

Take another step toward what matters.

[ Latest additions ]

Sarah Maple, The Worlds as we know it, 2020.

Zoom fatigue

...and their simple fixes
March 6th, 2021

Via Stanford University: "In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on Feb. 23, Bailenson has taken the medium apart and assessed Zoom on its individual technical aspects. He has identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that he says contribute to the feeling commonly known as Zoom fatigue. [...]

1) Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.
Both the amount of eye contact we engage in on video chats, as well as the size of faces on screens is unnatural. [...]
Solution: Until the platforms change their interface, Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimize face size, and to use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between oneself and the grid.

2) Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.
Most video platforms show a square of what you look like on camera during a chat. But that’s unnatural, Bailenson said. 'In the real world, if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that,' he added. [...]
Solution: Bailenson recommends that platforms change the default practice of beaming the video to both self and others, when it only needs to be sent to others. In the meantime, users should use the hide self-view button, which one can access by right-clicking their own photo, once they see their face is framed properly in the video.

3) Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.
In-person and audio phone conversations allow humans to walk around and move. But with videoconferencing, most cameras have a set field of view, meaning a person has to generally stay in the same spot. Movement is limited in ways that are not natural. 'There’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively,' Bailenson said.
Solution: Bailenson recommends people think more about the room they’re videoconferencing in, where the camera is positioned and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility. For example, an external camera farther away from the screen will allow you to pace and doodle in virtual meetings just like we do in real ones. And of course, turning one’s video off periodically during meetings is a good ground rule to set for groups, just to give oneself a brief nonverbal rest.

4) The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.
Bailenson notes that in regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural and each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously. But in video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals.
Solution: During long stretches of meetings, give yourself an audio only break. 'This is not simply you turning off your camera to take a break from having to be nonverbally active, but also turning your body away from the screen,' Bailenson said, 'so that for a few minutes you are not smothered with gestures that are perceptually realistic but socially meaningless.' [...]

He notes that humans have been here before. 'When we first had elevators, we didn’t know whether we should stare at each other or not in that space. More recently, ridesharing has brought up questions about whether you talk to the driver or not, or whether to get in the back seat or the passenger seat,' Hancock explained. 'We had to evolve ways to make it work for us. We’re in that era now with videoconferencing, and understanding the mechanisms will help us understand the optimal way to do things for different settings, different organizations and different kinds of meetings.' "

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Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Year of the Metal Ox

Starting now
February 12th, 2021

Via Wikipedia: "The Ox (牛) is the second of the 12-year periodic sequence (cycle) of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar, and also appears in related calendar systems. The Chinese term translated here as ox is in Chinese niú (牛), a word generally referring to cows, bulls, or neutered types of the bovine family, such as common cattle or water buffalo. The zodiacal ox may be construed as male, female, neuter, and either singular or plural. The Year of the Ox is also denoted by the Earthly Branch symbol chǒu (丑). The term zodiac ultimately derives from an Ancient Greek term referring to a circle of little animals. There are also a yearly month of the ox and a daily hour of the ox (Chinese double hour, 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.). Years of the oxen (cows) are cyclically differentiated by correlation to the Heavenly Stems cycle, resulting in a repeating cycle of five years of the ox/cow (over a sixty-year period), each ox/cow year also being associated with one of the Chinese wǔxíng, also known as the five elements, or phases: the Five Phases being Fire (火 huǒ), Water (水 shuǐ), Wood (木 mù), Metal (金 jīn), and Earth (土 tǔ). The Year of the Ox follows after the Year of the Rat (the first year of the zodiacal cycle) and it then is followed by the Year of the Tiger."

Thanks to Swantje Lichtenstein!

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Keizo Tsukamoto, from JCA Annual 6 (1985).

Courage to change the things I can

Why being kind to others is good for your health
January 7th, 2021

Via BBC Future: "Studies show, for instance, that volunteering correlates with a 24% lower risk of early death – about the same as eating six or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to some studies. What’s more, volunteers have a lower risk of high blood glucose, and a lower risk of the inflammation levels connected to heart disease. They also spend 38% fewer nights in hospitals than people who shy from involvement in charities.

And these health-boosting impacts of volunteering appear to be found in all corners of the world, from Spain and Egypt to Uganda and Jamaica, according to one study based on the data from the Gallup World Poll."

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End of 2020

Ten things I’ve learned this year
December 31st, 2020

Book 2020 I fell in love with Yotam Ottolenghi's SIMPLE recipes. I started at the beginning; just finished the Pasta chapter. It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but this is how I started to learn how to cook, finally.

Bubble Got ultra lucky and found myself in a pandemic lockdown bubble with two extraordinary artists, and their three year old daughter. Thank you Anke Eckardt and Marcus Schmickler for keeping me company in the weirdest of times, and trusting me with your best project so far.

Film To have a wild, almost alien creature teach you about communication, trust, and letting go seems like a huge privilege to me. I am amazed what Craig Foster experienced through his relationship with an octopus female, and that he was able to put it all into an intriguing documentary. My Octopus Teacher provided a lesson in humility for me.

Friends (1984) I don’t know why or how this song by Amii Stewart popped up in my playlist this year – so 80s... From now on it will remind me of a very unique summer in the middle of an international pandemic, including a friendly, short but energizing crush. No harm done ;-)

Lockdown After commuting with planes, buses, cars, etc. came to a shrieking halt the air pollution in my city started to improve a lot. As one of the consequences I can now experience the moon at night in 3D. Wow, I am very grateful.

Perception Children believe that everything is going to be alright, that their parents are almighty, that they themselves are almighty too (and therefore in the position to give advice), and they believe in justice. Now that I’ve grown up, I know that all four are perceptual illusions. A transformative teaching.

Quote All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks is full of important quotes. The definition of love which bell hooks uses in her book might serve this list best, but you should not hesitate to read the book in full.
"Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word 'love' is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb. I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word 'love,' and was deeply relieved when I found one in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's classic self-help book The Road Less Traveled, first published in 1978. Echoing the work Eric Fromm, he defines love as 'the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth.' Explaining further, he continues: 'Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.' Since the choice must be made to nurture growth, this definition counters the more widely accepted assumption that we love instinctually."

Spazierengehen The streets in Cologne and also the parks became too crowed to take a relaxed walk and keep the required distance to others at the same time. So, my friends and I started to meet at local cemeteries, which were still pretty abandoned – thanks to society’s denial of death, I guess. Spazierengehen became my new clubbing. The most inspiring tombstone I saw simply says: HONESTY, PURITY, UNSELFISHNESS, LOVE.

Transmedia Forms It took me seven years to get the funding, and then build a new studio for the Transmedia Forms concentration at the Institute for Music and Media with it. At the end of 2020 the studio finally became a reality. I could not have done it without my amazing colleagues Carsten Goertz, Falk Grieffenhagen, Marcus Schmickler, and Martin Störkmann. I deeply appreciate their dedication and knowledge.

Word I know, there are still unsolved security issues, and Jitsi is the good sister. But in 2020 Zoom was where I did spend almost as much time as in my bed. I experienced meetings with one thousand people; that was mindblowing. To me therefore the word of the year is, to zoom.

So, here we are... And what is next?

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