Saturday, June 26, 2010

Beauty in the breakdown.

The outsiders. No, not a group of greasers trying to belong while finishing a fight they did not start. I'm referring to the burden-driven, self-trained artists who will forgo everything else in life to manifest whatever is hiding in a dark corner of their soul demanding creation. Over and over. Painters, writers, musicians… famous tortured artists in general even have a Wikipedia page.

Crazy? Probably. Intriguing? Yes.

It's been a while since I've delved into the fine art side of my career roots, but while walking Canyon Road in Santa Fe, it was inevitable. Every corner of the road is filled with soul exposure. The road itself is a vision. Weathered doorways and brilliant colors. It's as if you're walking inside an artist's mind. Canvas walls, sculpture paths, and evolving environments.

I've never been a fan of art for art's sake. There should always be a concept or reason behind art and it should serve as a means for communication. But, there's something about the outsider art movement that blurs the line. Sometimes the concept is just the craziness. And it's beautiful.

I was reminded of a great movie, Junebug. It revolves around a Chicago art buyer trying to connect with her completely opposite in-laws while attempting to sign an outside artist. The movie is a little slow at times, but as a character study it's phenomenal. The subtle complexities inspire consideration from multiple points of view.

"Phil Morrison, who directed this movie, and Angus MacLachlan, who wrote it, understand how people everywhere have good intentions, and how life can assign them roles where they can't realize them." – Roger Ebert
The artist is burdened by his own eccentricities, but he boldly displays them in art. The other characters are also burdened, some hide it more than others. Confrontation with whatever they're hiding inside is unavoidable. As Roger Ebert captures brilliantly:
Consider a guarded moment between Madeleine and Eugene, her father-in-law. She observes cautiously of his wife: "She's a very strong personality." This is putting it mildly. Eugene replies quietly, "That's just her way. She hides herself. She's not like that inside." And then he adds two more words: "Like most." Thank God for actors like Scott Wilson, who know how those two words must be said. They carry the whole burden of the movie.
The eccentric outsiders of the world do not necessarily follow society norms, but they quietly live out loud. When you break it down, burdens are always there. Might as well find beauty in them.

[The title of this post was stolen from Imogen Heap.]

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

The 3six5 Project: 365 days told by 365 different people

What happens when crowdsourcing gets personal? (Actually, collaborative storytelling is more like it. Or how about human-centered digitology?) So far it's generating diverse content and capturing an even bigger picture.

Chicago-based digital strategist Len Kendall and social media manager Daniel Honigman are coordinating this amazing participatory project. Through 365 perspectives, they are daily life streaming 2010. The end result will be an eclectic journal for the year.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to engage with the project. You can read my story here. It's a very personal connection between observation, participation, and culture. Enjoy.

[An impressive variety of authors have and will be participating in the project. I recommend you follow the daily journey at the3six5.posterous. There's also a great interview about the project by BBH Labs.]

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

HOW enthusiastic?

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of inspiration unleashed at this year's How Conference. For the most part, every speaker brought something interesting to the table. I've got miles of notes and links to slides with more to follow. But before I get into the sorting and revisiting, I'd like to think about the big picture while it's all still fresh in my mind.

One quote that really stuck with me was from the author of IdeaSelling.

"Selling is simply a transfer of enthusiasm, from you to the decision maker." – Sam Harrison
This is the underlying reason that we go to conferences. It's the transfer of enthusiasm from the speaker to the audience. And from peers to peers. Yes, there's a lot of new knowledge transferred as well, but what we walk away with is a renewed hunger to do something amazing. Armed with a new game plan and random vendor swag (bummed I missed out on the Yupo bags by the way), we are prepared to transfer this enthusiasm to our work, our co-workers, and our clients.

We all get into slumps. Things get in the way. Deadlines. Budgets. Life. But we have to find a way to push through and pursue the extraordinary. What is your genius work? The work that causes you to get lost and lose all track of time. Find a way to do whatever that is.

This quote also got me thinking: 
"Whatever you do when you're procrastinating is probably what you should be doing for the rest of your life." – Jessica Hische

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