You’ve seen the snow pictures and the charts diagramming science and poetry, and now you are asking yourself, “What motivates these geeks?”
I have an answer. Actually, the world’s preeminent geek-turned-rock star has an answer. On his blog, David Byrne has a terrific post about art as a form of sexual selection:
Art, amongst other pursuits, is, according to this idea, one of a number of gauges of deeper fitness, creativity and skill. The maker may have genetic fitness not immediately apparent, especially given the fact that the typical creative person’s uniform is not a power suit. If he or she can afford to expend mucho time and energy on aesthetic pursuits, for example, the person must be doing O.K. in order to be able to “waste” such time and effort. That is, they have time and energy left over from basic survival.
I’d make a joke here about doing all of this for Cat Power, but my wife isn’t finding those jokes funny anymore. Instead I’ll link to this article where Cat Power talks about her humiliating photo shoot with Avedon:
I was so drunk I could barely stand up. My organs were so messed up from drinking I was in physical pain. I couldn’t zip up my pants because my stomach was killing me. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t wearing underwear until the magazine came out. I had to explain to my grandmother that this was the definitive photographer of the 20th century. (see the picture here).
Speaking of Avedon, he took one of my all-time favorite snow pictures:
W.H Auden, 1960
When Auden was an undergraduate at Oxford, he was close friends with the poet Stephen Spender. Spender was insecure about his writing talent. ‘Do you really think I’m any good,’ he asked Auden. ‘Of course,’ Auden replied. ‘But why?’ ‘Because you are so infinitely capable of being humiliated. Art is born of humiliation.’