Performance: The Art of Management and Organisation (AOMO) 2018 Conference Blog

Welcome to my reflections and commentary on the Art of Management and Organisation (AOMO) 2018 Conference Blog – August 30th – September 2nd, Brighton, UK.


Brighton – the city of the raucous Prince Regent; Brighton, London by the sea; Brighton, a creative hub and home of the Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe. This year’s theme is performance and I’ll be hosting the stream: Organisational Direct Performance.

Have a look at the programme here. (PDF)

AOMO is a once every two years coming together of artists and academics who explore aspects of art in organisational, managerial and social contexts. This year’s theme is ‘performance’. |You can find out more about my own theatre writing experiment here.

It is 11am and the pre-conference masterclasses have begun. People are beginning to arrive…




My first thoughts and questions at the start of AOMO 2018.

Talking before the conference to some artists at AOMO2018

I sat in the lobby, catching up with friends from AOMO 2016 which was in Bled in Slovenia. I recorded a chat with Simon Willlems, a UK artist based in London. He was setting up a rather unique artistic piece with a painting as well…


I talked to Simon about the piece. Simon’s session “How Not to Disappear Completely” is in G64 on Friday 31st August at 1.30pm.

I then chatted to designer Hein Duijnstee about “the promise of the other place” which explores strategy and also transport through visual art.

I also managed a chat with one of the leaders of the pre-conference masterclasses, street photographer Keith Moss. I also bumped into his with his group, out on the streets of Brighton, on New Road!

I’ll add more reflections soon, but these interviews are well worth a listen.

Richard Olivier at 17:40 after University of Brighton Vice Chancellor, Debra Humphris formally opens AOMO2018, invites us to a lab, a shared inquiry into the ‘next step…

Convener, Jenny Knight opens the conference as well.

Could there be a potential for the sacred in theatre again ?

Some phrases that Richard mentions that are worth following up…

“Leadership gift” = a set of archetypal roles, and even physical gestures that help us identify our own favoured archetypes. These are based upon upon order, relationship, creativity, change, action”

“I accept and I radiate” says the sovereign, the bearer of vision and purpose.

Richard presents a wheel of archetypal leadership gifts, with corresponding planets. A gesture and phrases for each one. And each has a shadow side.

More here:

Day 2

The second day begins. I am liking forward to the Direct Performance stream, partly because of the variety in that stream and some possible cross-disciplinary reflections and also because it includes the reading of my play, Bunk. I am wondering who might come.

I have opened the reading to a few colleagues outside of the conference, and the mix of insiders and outsiders will be interesting.

The sun is up over Brighton, it is 745am. It shines almost silver through clouds that are going to.part soon and reveal a sunny day above AOMO2018.

A question is asked by Merlin … (in the stream “In between time and space).

He is interested in the gap between good and remarkable? Is it this … Being honest and authentic, curious and in inquiry, asking questions of the music. Also seeking self-knowledge.

“If performance is the result of a human action, is remarkable performance the result of a human action illustrating a manifestation of humanity?”

We watched a video of a “remarkable” pianist. “Technique doesn’t exist” because every moment the world is changing. How can we be the instruments of that change?

Should performers respond to audiences, following the rule of ‘mob love?’Not according to Canadian pianist Glen Gould. It is an inquiry into the secrets of the music. For him this takes place in the studio, not in front of the audience where there is an unbalanced power relationship.

Are leaders always authentic ?

Are we better at discovering inauthenticity?

Steve Taylor: “Authenticity gets me to good. I am not sure it gets me beyond that.”

Afternoon in the Performance Studio. Assessing the Space of Potentiality. With Lotte Darso.

The space of knowing or not knowing. It is the space of not knowing is where innovation is born. What is the Space of Potentiality (Lotte mentioned Otto Scharmer and Theory U). Where does prescencing crystalise into potentiality and innovation ?

She mentioned Rupert Sheldrake and morphic fields. Controversial science.

The world is one whole, no separation.”

Crystallisation is the sudden idea.

Some more interviews with AOMOers…

Jenny Knight is one of our conveners of AOMO 2o18, along with Chris Matthews. Jenny shares the tale of how AOMO 2018 found itself in Brighton.

Alana Blackburn brings a session that is essentially a performance with recorder, called “The sound of silence.”

Greg Stone shared three archetypal players in organisational life: villains, victims and heroes (and heroines). These are key players in the process of telling a compelling organisation story.

We hit the evening activities with an immersive orchestral experience at the Royal Pavilion with Gloria and John Burgess, exploring vision and leadership via Tchaikovsky!

Then we are off to the Latest Music Bar for a poetry slam and rave disco…

I have enjoyed days 1 and 2.

So, Day 3…

I had a quick chat with Skye Burn about her session “Revitalising the Love of Life”.


The Organisational Direct Performance stream starts with a play, Through a Stained Glass Darkly by Anne-Marie Greene. It is a piece of verbatim theatre. “It isn’t easy being a clergywoman in the church.”

Based on interviews, the play is contemporary full of shocking stories, exploring the challenges of being a woman priest. And then there is the issue of bring gay as well…

After an intense feedback session, this is a play with a bright future, exploring important questions about marriage and sexual identity in the Church.

Now into Paul Stanley, a photographer with a session on Identity. A big question on Identity starts this session… “What do you do ?” Oerrr… we are doing that again… And again… What are you ? Who are you?

Paul talks about the reciprocal gaze with nature he experienced from the regular taking of a photo at sunset and sunrise. (See the work of Bortoft).

Paul has been on a journey of recovery, accessing limminality, journeying by motorbike, taking photographs, and facing past trauma, gaining insight and realisation. The participants in the session hear about the journey of a barer simplicity, without a clear destination, encountering people in temporary yet essential ways. Gaining self-insight. Healing? Understanding and resolving ? Does the journey on the road open up space within ? Is the bike trip a helpful glow state ? Something more aesetic and spiritual ?

Oh and look this up. Our “imago” is key to our healthily forming identity.

Steven Taylor, writer and Business School Dean, presents a rehearsed reading premiere of his play, Selling Beauty.

It explores beauty in a personal, social and organisational context. Can beauty be turned into a consultancy product?

The final session of the day in the Direct Performance stream is Alana Blackburn playing recorder and leading us through both a recital and talk exploring ‘sounds of silence’.

Silence plays a huge role in music and musical notation. Do we truly understand the power and importance of silence, the pause and the spaces in between ?

This was a fascinating, inspiring and helpful day. Theare makers birning their work unfinished, and the audience being a supportive peer group. It was about the work, improving the work, realising the work. We also explored the silence, the empty space, the liminal space and the potential of the pause. We heard about the paring down on things their reveraling essence, and even the musical rules of space and silence that can inform our life elsewhere.

Then onwards to a talk/performance inpired by Paraguay by Richard Durrant and dinner at the Grand Hotel. (He did an interview on the BBC straight after).

Final day…

On the final day I had the second reading of my play, Bunk, this time in the Sallis-Benney Theatre. It was a sleepier read, people were tired. Or were the weaknesses in my script finally showing? Feedback was still positive, and I was told the play has legs! So, perhaps onwards to full production? I will make the decision soon. I met a younger version of myself in this process (the play was originally written in 1999). It has been a powerful processes of both look back and look ahead. I put what went before, before me!

Before we ended with fish and chips, I managed to finish the day with three very different interviews.

Leny Woolsey talked to Greg Stone about her session and different aspects of the “Fool”. Her session was called “Speaking Truth to Power: The Organizational Artist as Lyrical Fool”.

And Ellen Speert shared thoughts and intentions about A sculptural experience: ‘Cultural Identity and a Sense of Space’.

(Cecilie Meltzer, Assistant Professor in Art-based Learning, Oslo Metropolitan University (former University College of Oslo and Akershus), Norway and Ellen Speert, ATR-BC, REAT, Director of the California Center for Creative Renewal)

Paul Z Jackson shared his session and also his approach to impprovisation and storytelling. Paul’s session was called “Organizations as Storytellers”.

His own development has involved exploring the evolution of applied improv from mirroring comedy improv, to improv as a set of tools for training and development to a ‘third wave’ where improvisation becomes a way of being.

Some final reflections

This was a very social AOMO conference for me, loaded with Brighton spirit, which meant some fine social activities blended wasily with the arts. We had orchestras in the Royal Pavilion, cabaret and dance at the Grand Hotel, a guitar keynote, and fish and chips discussing performance. Yes, “performance”, the theme of this conference.

I still felt a strong internal definition of leadership from many offering sessions at the conference, as well as participants, as being s top down thing, a unique individual leader, a hero, a conductor, someone with overview, someone either feared and mistrusted, or trusted and seen as inspiring. For some, this type of leadership is a given, the director of the play who leads the cast on. Vision comes from the top, and we, the folloers commit to it, more or less engaged, more or less collaborators.

Out of that (and this may be uncomfortable for some to read), I found myself in sessions where session leaders were facipulators, “getting us” to do things. This was almost totally benevolent, but in some cases it felt pompous, arrogant and even suspect. I am very much involved in the notion of “invitation” in my own exploration of leadership and performance. Leadership is not facipulative, it is trully horizonal, collaborative, co-creative, and leadership is mostly invited, based on trust, and largely temporary. Excellent performance is not an input-output-transformation system, but instead an emergent property of self-organisation. (Read more on facipulation here and here).

That was less prevalent at AOMO 2018, but it was there. The invitation to co-create, to co-lead and to allow leadership to emerge as a temporary process, not a top-down person. I want to explore that more and look forward to even more of it in Liverpooll 2020. I had a wonderful time at AOMO 2018 in my home city of Brighton. It was the dilemmas and paradoxes thatr made it so vital and so well suited to being in Brighton.

Useful link: (The Programme for AOMO 2018)

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