Give the drummer some! Below are some interesting reads in creativity, culture, and tech from this week. Listen to the track ‘Something More’ from UK artist Nabihah Iqbal after the jump.
A Night at the Garden by Marshall Curry. On February 20, 1939, 20,000 Americans gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City to celebrate the rise of Nazism. Film producer Marshall Curry worked with an archivist to pull together the clips of footage to tell a cohesive story that is eerily similar to today, lies and all! History is a GIF loop.
Thinking Like a Mountain. Nature writers endeavor to make sense of the land dominated by humans to see if it’s just as conscious as themselves. “What is looking back at us through other species’ eyes? Could we ever escape our own heads and know the viewpoint of a hawk? Is there such a thing as thinking like a mountain?”
thought of the week
“A caterpillar who seeks to know himself would never become a butterfly.”
“I’m not interested in creating an object of decoration; that’s not what I do. My task is to create something that fits the surrounding or the area. If it were to be removed, you would miss it.”
Public art can shape its surroundings. But the same piece won’t work everywhere, as sculptor Lawrence Argent noted: “That bear was designed for Denver. It belongs in that particular place.’ The sculpture addresses this city, this life.”
Hi all! This week’s focus is productivity. Below is a list of inspirational links to help us step outside the robot and think differently about our work habits. Plus, peep the new tune from Harlem based singer-songwriter Lynette Williams after the jump.
Pretending to be Batman helps kids stay on task. Good advice for adults and kids alike. The magic of acting like someone else helps us ignore the distractions that get in our way. “It is important to note that pretending to be another character had large effects on children’s perseverance.”
The pleasure/happiness gap. We have two choices: the taking of short-term dopamine or the giving of long-term serotonin. We become what we choose.
I would, for a four-week period, ruthlessly clear my diary and go on what we somewhat mysteriously called a “Crash”. During the Crash, I would do nothing but write from 9am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday.
Thought of the week
“I have no idea. People who boast about their IQ are losers.”
There was a moment when marketers thought words didn’t matter, that the future was speaking through images.
But then everybody’s images started looking the same. The Instagram feed looked like a giant pile of sameness where anyone could be a photographer and upload a beautiful picture.
Snapchat then ushered in the video game and all of a sudden, copycats followed. Facebook’s algorithm started to favor video. Instagram introduced Stories and Live. People could share their thoughts without a keyboard.
But if there’s anything Twitter shows us, words matter more than ever. The US president and the ‘rocket man’ tease nuclear war. While images and video are propaganda, it is words that beget action; they are volatile, easily copy-pasted and bent into echo chambers to paint fraudulent stories of intent.
If we want to awe someone, we choose static and moving images. But if we ‘re going to poke someone, we select text.
Words are game changers. Not only do they provide context to an empty visual, but they also control the inner-narrative that ultimately influences external decisions. Choose them with care.
The Intuitive Thing: Ray Bradbury on the Arts. I love what Ray Bradbury said about books versus movies in this interview: “when you read…you’re creating it in your own theater inside your head. But a film is total realism. You can’t change it, it’s right there, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Our job is to imagine a better future, because if we can imagine it, we can create it. But it starts with that imagination.” Tim O’Reilly explains why we should avoid envisioning a dystopian society where robots wipe out humans.
Creativity isn’t a faucet; you can’t just turn it on at a moment’s notice and expect genius to flow out.
So what should you do in a creative rut?
The comedian Aziz Ansari takes the lack of inspiration as a sign to do nothing at all.
“I’m not gonna make stuff just for the sake of making stuff. I want to make stuff ’cause I’m inspired. Right now I don’t really feel inspired.”
Creativity comes in waves; it ebbs and flows but finds its way back to people that are “open to detours.” Taking a walk or going on travel never fail to reignite the curious mind.
However, some artists like painter Chuck Close and writer Steven Pressfield encourage their colleagues to get to work daily. Said Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
Making stuff is a habit; whether you’re having a good or bad day, feeling inspired or out of gas, there’s no excuse not to sit your ass down and get to work.
Everything is practice.
Whether you let creativity happen or you force it out, keep the faucet on so it can at least drip. All creative slumps are merely temporary.
Everyone waits for the web to come to them. Such passiveness means that humans leave their decision-making up to algorithms. But don’t hide behind the machines; look yourself in the eyes as you would others and pick yourself to succeed.
The internet could save you feeling stuck. It liberates the amateur photographer or writer from holding back on their interests and tastes and instead encourages them to show the world their art. The barrier between consumer and maker is thinner than ever.
Don’t wait for the internet to come to you. Use it proactively to stumble into new worlds that inspire you to recast what you think you already know. Experiment with its distribution and feedback.
The internet is a tool you use to make stuff. Just as code changes, you too can sense patterns and update your skill set through trial and error. There’s no reason to shy away from individual oddities; feel free to trespass your fear by getting some skin in the game too.
Why We Fail and How. I love 16th-century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s concept of solitude in finding a “room behind a shop.”
“We must reserve a back shop all our own, entirely free, in which to establish our real liberty and our principal retreat and solitude. Here our ordinary conversation must be between us and ourselves, and so private that no outside association or communication can find a place.”
Keepers of the Secrets. No one knows what they want anymore because they depend on an algorithm to feed it to them. Thank goodness library archivists are still the element of surprise alive by giving you a box you don’t ask for. People “only want information based on the information they think they want. It’s important to look outside of your own existence.” We miss you John.
The Mask of Doom. He “wore the mask out of necessity.” Take a look back at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s piece on MF Doom from 2009.
The Stahl House Movie. Like watching The Office or seen Big Lebowski? My older brother wrote and filmed a mockumentary about icons & contemporary Los Angeles for his Sci-Arc thesis. Watch it, funny and brilliant.
Is it good enough? What will the audience think? What will our closest friends think of what we made with our bare hands?
As an artist, fear and doubt pervade our craft. But it’s also what guides it. If we’re afraid to publish our work, that most likely means we should do it anyway.
‘This may not work’
A clap, likes, a positive comment – reassurance is not the end-goal. In fact, what should drive the artist is the fact that what they make may not work. Much of artist work is what they can get away with.
“Dance with the fear. Use fear as a compass to push you toward bringing your best creative work to life.” – Seth Godin
“You break experience up into pieces and you put them together in different combinations, and some are real and some are not, some are documentary, and some are imagined…It takes a pedestrian and literal mind to be worried about which is true and which is not true. It’s all of it not true, and it’s all of it true.”
— Author Walter Stegner in an interview with Richard Etulain
Fact or fiction, our lives are but are an amalgamation of experience and imagination, neither of which explains the factual nature of our origins. Context fence-sits to prove no foreseeable answer, one that needs no seeking anyway.
The above quote is lifted from the afterword in Wallace Stegner’s novel Crossing to Safety, a highly recommended read.
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to see my brother Ryan Baum graduate from SCI-Arc, an architecture school in downtown Los Angeles.
Each student was responsible for presenting their thesis in front of faculty and special guests. For his final project, my brother put some renderings together over the Stahl House to recreate the iconic modernist house built by American architect Pierre Koenig in the hills of Los Angeles in 1969. He also redesigned the interior dining room and living room with sculpture.
You may have seen the Stahl house in fashion ads and movies like the Big Lebowski, or most famously in black and white photographs taken by Julius Shulman who helped spread modernist Southern California architecture with his “one-point perspective.”
Inspired by the technological blurred paintings of Gerhard Richter, Ryan 3D painted the house’s corrugated facade.
As you can see, Ryan’s contemporary redesign purposely blends in his with the house, making it look authentic. But it his short, hilarious Lebowski-esque film that takes the masquerade metaphor once step further, adding to the mystery of why the home could never sell. The Stahl House was finally declared a LA-historic monument in 1999, before becoming listed as National History place in 2013.