Seth Godin meet David Byrne .... Art, Innovation, Creativity .... Genius

Seth Godin: The Icarus Deception

Seth Godin: The Icarus Deception

I have immersed myself in Seth Godin's work lately having been drawn in by his focus on art and artists. Seth's definition of art is broad, "art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another".  To Seth art and the artist are not on the fringe but in fact right at the center of the post-industrial economy -- "creating ideas that spread and connecting the disconnected are the two pillars of our new society, and both of them require the posture of an artist".

David Byrne: How Music Works

David Byrne: How Music Works

 On Wednesday night I stumbled across How Music Works, a new book by renowned musical artist David Byrne at the Strand in NYC. It is David's attempt to recount what he has learned from his many years as a musician. In this book he says, "I have.....looked for patterns in how music is written, recorded, distributed, and received - and then asked myself if the forces that fashioned and shaped these patterns have guided my own work.. and maybe those of others as well".  What caught my attention was David's own broad statement about art - "context largely determines what is written, painted, sculpted, sung or performed". In the case of music "context" for David means the characteristics of the venue where it will likely be played starting with the caves of early humans, to the chambers in palaces eventually to opera and symphony halls but not to exclude CBGB or even the digital devices, the private venues, we carry in our pockets today.

Reflecting on my own art which is teaching innovation, the ideas I am sharing with MFA students at the School of Visual Arts in NYC are about the art of entrepreneurship. Seth doesn't focus on entrepreneurship but he often mentions the entrepreneur such as he did in The Icarus Deception in a section entitled "The Artist as an Outsider".  After mentioning the "successful writer" as an outsider he goes on to include "programmers, entrepreneurs, graphic artists and others who make a ruckus", a ruckus being a key characteristic Seth attributes to artists.

A word that gets used or at least gets included in a question that is often asked about art is "genius". In The Icarus Deception Seth says, "art is a leap into the void, a chance to give birth to your genius and to make magic where there was no magic before". David on the other hand qualifies genius in a very interesting way, "genius - the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work--seems to appear when a thing is perfectly suited to its context." David goes on, "when something works, it strikes us as not just being a clever adaptation, but as emotionally resonant as well. When the right thing is in the right place, we are moved." 

It is the next thing that David says that to me is a deep insight. "In my experience, the emotionally charged content always lies there, hidden, waiting to be tapped, and although musicians tailor and mold their work to how and where it will be best heard or seen, the agony and the ecstasy can be relied on to fill whatever shape is available." For Steve Jobs, the Apple computer, for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, for Sergey and Larry, Google, all fit perfectly in the emerging contexts of their moments. For myself and my students this question is so important - look around, what is the emerging context you can fill - that will create emotional resonance - as you create your art - your entrepreneurial designs for social innovation?