Recap of DoTS #7: Seeing Together, on the Solstice

Dec 23, 2019

Kelvy Bird was Otto Scharmer’s final dialogue partner of the year on the topic of “Generative Scribing: On the Power of the Social Arts” for the seventh episode of Dialogues on Transforming Society and Self (DoTS).

Over 600 people from about 60 countries signed up to join the 7th and final DoTS episode of the year (and decade) with Kelvy Bird and Otto Scharmer on “Generative Scribing: On the Power of the Social Arts”. They touched on Kelvy's background, how Otto and Kelvy came to be in the unique professional partnership they are in today, and how the Social Arts serve social constellations.


Deeper Pattern Language

Otto started off the dialogue by reflecting on the relationship between him and Kelvy, recalling that:

"I never conceived of scribing as just a way to make ideas visible. The essence of art is not just visualising concepts and ideas, but creating a language that goes way beyond what you can articulate."

He emphasized that, as a co-founder of the Presencing Institute and a "pioneer in creating generative scribing and systems scribing as social art forms", Kelvy has been a major contributor to what we now refer to as the Social Arts. He stressed that her work has allowed "us to see the deeper pattern language of our own history."



Nature, Reflection & Quieting

Otto then asked Kelvy: "What was it in your own childhood and upbringing that prepared you for the kind of role you are now playing in our community and in the world?" Kelvy reflected: "It was a real gift that this practice came my way."  Coming from a family of artists and scientists and having grown up between multiple households, she remembers turning to art for sense-making from early on in her life.

"I think that art was always a way for me to stay clear with myself. Through school and after, art became a way of holding things together. When I was young, it would be something that I'd do to naturally soothe myself, even before I was conscious of it. As I became more conscious, it became a reflective tool." 

Raised in New York's Hudson Valley, Kelvy grew up surrounded by woodland and recalls spending a lot of time in nature there, which plays an important role in her art. Reflecting on her life, she says: "It was a very curvy path. It involved a lot of quieting in order to sense into ‘what’s out there’. The path was a meeting of my own curiosity and intersection with people who shared a certain inquiry around the state of the planet and human beings."


From Art Studio to Social Field

Otto then asked: “What is generative scribing? What does your work look and feel like?” Having studied painting and art history, Kelvy started out painting in a studio, functioning as an artist in perhaps the traditional understanding of the role. However, she recalls that at one point: “I was facing this internal question around ‘What do I do with my life?’” Scribing seemed the natural answer, even though that was not necessarily a comfortable conclusion: “I was struggling with that, because I really prefer the private nature of making art in my studio, but scribing is a social art.”

Kelvy went on to reflect:

“Generative Scribing is a type of practice where you’re making something visual that is from the social field, embodies the energy of the social field, and is in service of the social field. As an artist, I could be in my studio painting, where the source is me. I might even be sourcing from the times, a social concern, but ultimately it is coming from me. But with Generative Scribing you’re in a room full of people anywhere from 12 to 1000 -- or when we broadcast for u.lab, up to 10,000 or more people -- and there is an awareness of the energy that’s between them.”

She explains that in Generative Scribing you're “holding the whole system”, which includes “what’s not in the room. You’re holding what’s in between the people.” Kelvy reveals that it also requires “understanding that this moment in time that you’re helping to represent" is not the only dimension you tap into; "you’re actually sensing into what came before that moment and what might emerge from that moment.”

“It’s like a breeze around a milkweed pod or in a field; you don’t have a flower without all of the conditions around the flower.”


A Gift to Offer, Not to Have

Otto described what he values in Kelvy as a partner:

“A good scribe sources what’s happening in the group and in the field. The hand of the artist manifests what’s happening deep within the group. And the vehicle for sourcing is the mind, but particularly the heart. The mastery of scribing is a function of how deep you can source.”

Kelvy responded: “Yes, and it can have a mystic or channeling element to it, focused around the artist. But I truly think that everyone has this capacity. Anyone who wants to help people see, can do it. It’s a very basic and essential practice. It’s a gift to offer people, not a gift to have.” Indeed, she highlighted that this is its function and power: “Scribing is this language that cuts across divides, differences, languages, regions, and sectors. I’ve been hoping that we can come together more as a community,” referring to the global “constellation of scribes” she is sensing into.


Footprint of Our Work

Kelvy went on to share some beautiful examples of scribing in action and some of her work with the Presencing Institute over the years, going as far back as 2011. She included examples where multiple Social Arts were applied together, including Social Presencing Theater and Social Poetics.

Otto reflected on Kelvy’s images, saying: “It’s kind of a footprint of the Presencing work of the last half-decade or so.” He then led the session into a new version of the Image  Resonance Practice, which involved observing a series of Kelvy’s images in stillness, each time with a few sentences to get a sense of the context for every individual image.

Gift of the Day

The final image was a new one, which Kelvy had created especially for this session. She introduced it with the words: “And here finally is one that’s the gift of today. In some ways, this is the solstice drawing, the coming together of the dark and the light, and it’s an integrated picture of where we are in this moment in time, as we are sensing into the moment of possibility that we face now.”


Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge - Kelvy Bird's Gift of the Day for DoTS 7

After the Image Series Resonance, participants were invited to share using the sentence structures: “I see...”, “I sense…”, “I feel...”. From there, participants were moved into breakout groups to discuss what resonated with them from the practice, reflecting on the following questions:

  • Check in: name and location
  • What resonated most for you from the images and the dialogue?
  • How does it relate to the deeper journey of your own life and work?


The Eggs from the Bird and the Nest

After the breakout session, participants were invited to share what had come up for them in the plenary session. There were some powerful shares on how people were connecting their own work and lives to what they had heard.

In closing, Kelvy reflected: “It is remarkable to me that the power went out,” referring to having temporarily disappeared from the session mid-Resonance Practice due to a power outage. She touched on her sense of overwhelm at seeing the drawings together, “because of the power of this community that has supported the energy, and the nest, and the container to help these images come through like eggs. It’s maybe no coincidence that I was born with the last name Bird,” she laughed.

Otto shared words of appreciation, saying: “I loved all the reflections we heard today. That really is manifesting the power of the work that you, Kelvy, have been bringing into the world, which is now becoming more and more part of our community’s capacity around global movement building.”

Otto closed off by saying:

“It’s the midnight point of our annual cycle, where we can set the intention for the next decade, where a lot needs to happen in this world, where we will see the rise of a global movement, and our job is to rise to the occasion. This session is setting the tone to really connect with our deeper resonance: What is it that we’re here for? What is it we really want to put front and center?”


For a full slide overview and responses to the questions in the chat, please visit Kelvy's website here.

Watch the video recording of the session below:


DoTS episode #8 will take place in January 2020 and will feature special guest Arawana Hayashi on Social Presencing Theater. Keep an eye on our announcements for further details.