Words by Rhett

Photography by Paul P

On Intervention

The act and art of intervention is a particularly curious one. I'm interested in coming between you and what comes automatically, you and your habits, your patterns, your addictions and assumptions about the world. ‘You' in this case might be an individual, a team/system, a corporate culture, a community, or a society.

I am arguing for the importance of interventions. They have the potential to surprise, shift, shock, catalyse, change and question the status quo and to amuse and invite curiosity and playfulness. They can reveal the rules, the truths and the heart and bones of how we perceive and experience the world, and through these moments and subsequent reflections they awaken us, animate, enliven, enlighten even.

Interventions reveal, and I want to initiate interventions that lead to everyday revelations. That may seem ambitious, but artists in the 1960s (most notably Guy Debord, founder of the Situationists), began making art interventions designed specifically to interact with other artworks, as well as audiences, institutions and aspects of the public domain and public space. Through changing the role of art and the artist in society, they sought nothing less than to radically transform society itself.

Particularly interesting to me as a coach and happiness designer is personal transformation through self-intervention. The British ‘Zen’ philosopher Alan Watts doesn't believe in this type of process, asking “can I improve me, when the person who will do the improving is the one to be improved?”. Is personal change and growth possible? Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindset would say it is, and that one’s attitude to intervention is in fact a key to success.

I’m reminded of one of the first jokes that completely stopped me in my tracks. It made me laugh and think in equal parts: What’s the difference between a penguin? One of its legs is both the same.

“But, but, but...” I said, “between a what and a what?”, the skeleton of language and its rules were stripped bare for me by a little nonsense.

Intervention: 1375-1425; late Middle English < Late Latin, interventiōn - a coming between.

So when we talk about self-intervention, between what and whom is the intervention coming? Perhaps between you and yourself, your automatic reactive self and your responsive reflective self (between system 1 and system 2), between your everyday self and your best self? Try this self-intervention experiment to sense the gap between you and yourself. When do you as ‘the caller’ end and you as ‘the called’ begin?

A Lovers Experiment
A Lovers Experiment

Call yourself*

Duration: 1-5 minutes

Props: A private / silent place where you can be uninhibited.

Effect: To feel the gap between you & yourself. To be seen, heard and called forward.

Instruction: Spend a minute paying attention to the silence, aware that you are about to speak and hear. Listen to the smallest sounds, anticipating how this peace is all about to end. Say your first name out loud. Articulate it clearly and having heard it, after a second or two, repeat it insistently, as if you are calling someone from a distance who can’t quite hear you.

The first few times it might feel a bit ridiculous, like you’re simply calling into space, to a ghost, but do continue. Gradually you start to get the feeling of calling and then being called, sensing the strangeness of being split down the middle or in two places at one time. You are calling but aren’t sure to whom. You are being called but don’t know where from or by whom. Where does you ‘the caller’ end and you ‘the called’ begin? Which you will answer the call and step forward?

When your time is up or you are ready to finish, to close the gap and integrate yourself again, simply answer the call with “Yes, I’m coming” or anything that feels natural.

*inspired by Roger-Pol Droit’s ‘Call Yourself’

Pillow Talk is a string of sweet nothings between , the design collective. More about us at lovers.co


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