Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

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I think it’s fitting that my first post here should lay out some thoughts about the changing nature of media, at a microcosmic level: the level of an active participant in the swirling media landscape. Specifically, I want to say a few words about curation, and what it is coming to mean these days. I do so partly to make sense of the hifalutin title of chief curator that Gerd has conferred on me as part of our on-going cooperative work, but also to suggest some thoughts about the nature of gathering and disseminating ideas.

The title of this post is the oft-quoted ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’, which is generally attributed to Pablo Picasso. However, no concrete proof exists that he ever said those words. Some researchers, including Nancy Prager, believe that the germ of this idea can be attributed back to TS Eliot:

Eliot, T.S., “Philip Massinger,” The Sacred Wood, New York: Bartleby.com, 2000.

One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

I am not really discussing poetry, or even art: at least in the way it is conceived in our time. What I am interested in is today’s curation: when we read and analyze a wide range of other authors’ works, and then toss the choicest bits into the stream, adding to them, arguing with their premises or conclusions, or simply passing them along for others to explore.

The curators work is something like that of a poet, then. We all return to the same themes, and we build upon the thoughts of others, trying to bring some added value, helping others to gain some new insight, or finding distant analogies to underscore another’s thoughts.

So, I will be offering up a daily take on what I have seen stream by, with special attention to the areas of investigation that Gerd and I are most involved. Areas like the future of media and other crucial aspects of modern business, like sustainability.  And we will be looking into what I call post-futurism: facing the future, but with considerably less science fiction and boundless technological optimism.

Wish me luck!

TFA Team

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