Maps of scenius
The networks of creativity
I have written to you several times about “scenius” — a portmanteau Brian Eno coined to describe the communal origin of creativity that arises out of a scene. Scenius is the backbone of my book Show Your Work! and is usually the starting point of my talks. It is my belief that most people who want to be creative would be served best not by worrying about genius but by trying to create or join a scenius. (More here.)
Something I don’t spend a lot of time on is listing or describing particular examples of scenius. Doing so would be its own full-time job, as once you go looking for scenius, you start to see it everywhere.
Just this week I was made aware of “The Diane Fink School,” named after the landlord of the NYC building at 368 Broadway where Greta Gerwig, Lena Dunham, the Safdie Brothers, the Neistat Brothers, and other filmmakers started their careers:
mutual appreciation and friendly competition
the rapid exchange of tools and techniques
the network effects of success (cf: “shine theory”)
There are times and places in which the conditions are ripe for these kinds of sceniuses to appear. On a large scale, you have ancient Athens, or Renaissance Florence, or Elizabethan England. On a smaller scale, you have Gertrude Stein’s salons or Max Planck’s house parties. On an even smaller scale, I think even a single household can be a scenius, like The Wyeth Family.
One thing worth doing is to re-map “geniuses” and locate them within a scenius. Emily Dickinson, for example, is famously thought of as a recluse, but she was really a “networked recluse.” (More recently, the lone genius myth of the painter Hilma af Klint has been questioned.)
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Austin Kleon to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.