Visiting the SCHØN Conference

 

From the 14th–17th of June I attended a christian conference in Augsburg, Germany called “Schøn” (translates to beautiful). When I first saw the advertisements for this event it reminded me a lot of the Vienna Peace Starts With Me event except that its goal was to answer questions like:

  • What actually is beautiful?

  • What is art and what’s not?

  • What’s real and what’s fake?

  • What’s the secret of true inspiration—beyond kitsch and mainstream?

I was very curious to see what content they’d share, how they’d structure an entire 4-day conference, and to learn how they'd attract 1400 young people. The results I witnessed exceeded my expectations by far.

 
The opposite of beauty is not its absence, but sloppiness.
— Stefan Sagmeister (graphic designer)
 

They had invited many world-renown artists, designers, and musicians who discussed what beauty means to them and how they incorporate their faith and understanding of God in their work. I was amazed to see all these professionals openly testifying their commitment to God and attributing their work to God’s ultimate expression of creativity.

It was apparent that the organizers had done an amazing job. They had contacted and confirmed the venue, speakers, artists, and vendors at least a year or two in advance which allowed them enough time for preparations and advertising. Beauty could be found in the perfect attention to detail in every aspect of the program—everything was well thought-through. Here are some examples:

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Light, sound & stage setup

The musicians could shine because the sound technicians did their job perfectly. The stage crew worked seamlessly to transform the stage for every kind of performance. Instead of using a boring white wall for a projector they had different sized meshed frames hanging at various heights from the ceiling which they used to project presentations or song lyrics onto. The logo “Ø” appeared in different areas of the hall in various sizes throughout the entire conference.

 
Beauty without truth is kitsch. It wants to please but it’s not real.
— Dr. Johannes Hartl (founder of the Gebetshaus Augsburg)
 

Well-structured program

Each session began with the opening theme song that was composed specifically for the conference. It allowed people to settle down and focus their attention to the stage. Afterwards the MCs would greet everyone and give a few short announcements followed by the band who led the audience in a seamless praise & worship session for about a half an hour. The sessions themselves consisted of a good mixture of speeches and performances. All kinds of art forms were represented by photographers, musicians, singers, dancers, actors, painters, a pantomime, designers, architects, authors, filmmakers, an essayist, composers, a violin maker, a choreographer, and typographers.

Speaker Introductions

Before each speaker came up on stage a short slideshow was played. It showed either one image at a time or a short sentence/words in white on a black background and was paired with a shortened version of the beautiful theme song. The MCs only came on stage to open and close the sessions and share

Additional breakout sessions

Were offered in the afternoon. Some main speakers and others had the chance to meet in smaller groups and share best practices or go a little more in-depth about their work.

 

Free handouts

A tote bag, wristband, program booklet, magazines, newspaper, advertisements for next events, brochures about local activities. 

Everything was beautifully designed

Presentations, logo/branding, print materials...

Booths/stands

With artwork and a gift store with books, CDs, travel mugs, t-shirts, bags, pens, and notebooks.

 

Highlight of the conference

A premier viewing of the film “Pope Francis—A man of his word” followed by an extensive interview with the German regisseur Wim Wenders. He explained his intentions going into this project: In order to share this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be with the pope with his viewers, he used technology that allowed the pope to look at a prompter that showed Wim’s face as he was interviewing him. This creates the effect that the pope is speaking directly to the viewer instead of Wim.

 
An artists is an apostle of beauty.
— Pope Francis
 

Opportunities for improvement

A networking session by art-field. There were so many talented, like-minded people in one spot, it was a shame that no real networking opportunities were set up.

The group of attendants seemed to lack critical thinkers or doers. I was a bit disappointed to see that many believe that praising and worshipping God is their only goal/responsibility as christians to the world.

My takeaways

Things that were merely created to function, don’t function. Beauty is not a luxury—it’s a necessity (Stefan Sagmeister). Beauty in our surroundings affects the way we feel. This conference helped me realize the importance of investing into the arts that realizes beauty, truth, and goodness.

I often feel pressure or guilt that we can’t plan things too far ahead. If we did we might miss out on current opportunities. What if the providence changes and something unforeseeable becomes our new focus? However, it helps to recognize that True Parents’ teachings and mission stands the test of time. True Mother’s speeches have been consistent in the past. We can be certain that our goals and efforts will continue to be relevant in two, five, or ten years from now. Therefore, we shouldn’t be afraid to invest long-term, strive for excellence and make a lasting impact on people.

 
If we manage to see a person’s dignity, then we will only see goodness. I think that’s what art is about.
— Jan Schlegel (photographer)