Lego Workshop October 2011 Summary

Some workshop notes Concatenated, synthesised, and summarised by Maja

The speculative fairy land

From afar, FoAM is floating, or levitating - a shimmering octopus-like castle in the sky with baroque appendages, a fortune-telling tower, bridges into vastness (and into nowhere) and ladders pointing to the sky. It is a structure made of portals, gateways, windows into unidentified areas. Inside, there are hidden treasures, an array of weird, pretty things in a beautiful space. People (and other hybrid beings) are telling stories amidst scattered arcane technologies and a jungle of fantastic plants. The whole is powered by a precious knowledge-engine, fuelled by alchemy and multi-coloured magic.

Domain of the Bridge People

We can see much diversity, and through diversity - resilience. Although the individual components are fragile, the whole is adaptive and flexible. It is an entity able to face chaos and unpredictability - it is resilient (as a camel), through its ability to live in both abundance and scarcity. Its diversity offers multiple perspectives and ways in and out - which is confusing, as it keeps changing, moving, slipping away. It is always in progress, an ongoing construction between here, there and the unknown. It exists in different parts of the world, as a mobile safe space, a refreshing alternative able to deal with increasing complexity. The people in FoAM are themselves embodiments of bridges - between disciplines, ages and cultures - they are multi-skilled generalists, curious to make unexpected alliances between everything and everything else. Over time, the bridges are becoming more apparent, as people increase their filtering capacity and the clutter subsides.

A Brewery for human transformation

Bustling, buzzing, moving in and out - this is a hive of people on the move. People of all colours, ages and disciplines. They do many different things - from cooking to studying, child-rearing to tinkering. It is a place that is bigger inside than outside (the Tardis?). It is a space protected by a semipermeable shield. To get in, one must pass through a tiny door that is never fully open nor fully closed, through a riddle or an initiation ritual. It requires some effort to come in, unless you are invited. But once you're in - it becomes a home, a launching station from which you can fly. Some people come in on stretchers, in need of help and healing (physical, mental, spiritual). They can find a safe, healing space to recharge and regain their ability to walk into the future. For others it is a space to enjoy - food, work, silence, company. Whoever goes in comes out transformed - less lonely, more alive, in the flow, with fulfilled potential, able to face and influence the future. This is a brewery for transformation of humans.

Reconnecting with the Earth

We are moving towards a fertile, green place of abundance. Food is growing, cooking, being consumed, digested and composted, then compost transformed into food again… It is alive and richly organic, but also acknowledging the importance of death and decay. There are spaces of intense activity - gardening, farming, communicating with plants, and other spaces where wilderness thrives, untouched, but connected with and respected by the rest of the world.

Coming to our senses

We want to move towards greater awareness that reaches underneath and beyond thought. Awareness with the source of wisdom in all the senses. There is much observing, listening, receiving of signals from near and far. In order for the senses to become more sensitive, there is an intense silence. And within this silence, the energy of meditation and contemplation. When the signals come pouring in - from the human world, plants, nature, the universe, other dimensions - they are allowed to pass through open channels, then fed through to specially-built translators. Some things are mindfully ignored, others used and transformed, others again amplified and communicated out loud.

Deep down where technology equals magic

We want to create and apply technology in unusual ways, to explore the unknown and the magical. The tools are built and used to filter what is meaningful and then to communicate - between humans, between humans and non-humans, like plants. It is alchemical technology - transforming information into energy, compost into gold. Sometimes practical, sometimes not, but always open, accessible and risky. Technology looks and behaves like improbable science fiction machines that have time-travelled from the future, or the past.

Walking backwards into the future

This is a path of fortunetellers and futurists, aware that to see the future one must know the past and be alert and awake in the present. They cultivate behaviours that can help them survive in any future, but they also dare invoking futures they'd like to live in. They are in tune with the present, while not necessarily accepting it. They are knights fighting apathy and paralysis, fragmentation and segregation, while dancing with the universe.

Close the loop

The more you become involved, the more exhausted you get. There is an energetic loop in this system that is not closed, draining energy away. There is a sense of endless work and no satisfaction. There is external pressure to form a clear structure - preferably a hierarchy with a figurehead - and internal pressure for a non-hierarchical structure, and a constant tension between the two. In order to avoid life-threatening disasters (for the organisation and its individuals), the loop must be closed and the people involved must be nourished, so that they can help themselves, each other and their surroundings better.

Absorb and diversify

There is some ballast that drags behind, not allowing FoAM to fly - wreckages of old projects, collaborations gone sour, too-heavy funding commitments, etc. In order for it to become lighter and more resilient, the ballast has to be assimilated - accepted, pulled apart, talked through, made visible as “the elephant in the room” and not hidden under the carpet. When it comes to funding - responsibility should be decentralised and the sources diversified, getting more smaller crumbs from a variety of places, rather than relying on mammoth funding that makes the whole more inert.

From complicated opaqueness to complex translucency

What is FoAM? Many people heard about it, but don't really know what it is. Even people who consider themselves a part of FoAM avoid answering this question if at all possible. FoAM has become as complicated as possible, so that as a whole became tricky to understand - therefore perceived as something inaccessible, exclusive and difficult to relate to. To begin untangling the mess, having a shared purpose might help. It is then still possible to go off and experiment in different directions, but all experiments would have a unique “leitmotif.“ The purpose could be something like “Transformation of humans by integrating ecological thinking, sensual wisdom, tradition and innovation, technology and magic” (or the good old grow your own worlds). Furthermore, it might be possible to clarify which areas of FoAM are accessible and which are protected (and for what reason). Communication should be liberated from the bonds of time pressures and cultural blockages, making its outcomes and activities more visible. FoAM should open up and use its experience to connect diverse people and talents. It is important to reach out, provide a more inclusive view of the world, because alternatives (segregation, xenophobia) are strategies we know don't work.

Towards increased resilience on local and global levels

FoAM keeps going through difficult times. However, what collapses is immediately rebuilt into something new and improved. This becomes a patchwork of helpful yet uncoordinated activities, that are very difficult to maintain - requiring esoteric skills that only a few people possess. It is fragile and out of balance, due to its complexity built on a too small base. At the same time, it has proven its resilience to overcome obstacles and fight external enemies. If somewhat scaled down and contained (by collective prioritising among other things), it could become more coherent, stronger, dynamic, innovative and useful to itself and others.

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