Brain Pickings

Street Art: From All Sides & Five Continents

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The urban anthropology of creativity, or why copyright law is a sad case study in swimming against the cultural current.

In 2008, Beautiful Losers — a documentary about contemporary street art culture from director Aaron Rose — made serious waves at SXSW. This year, the film is finally making its full-blown national screening tour — and we think it’s a must-see.

Based on the eponymous and equally excellent book, the film explores the creative process and cultural influences of iconic artists like Barry McGee, Jo Jackson, Mike Mills, Brain Pickings darling Shepard Fairey, and many more.

The greatest cultural accomplishments in history have never been the result of the brainstorms of marketing men, corporate focus groups, or any homogenized methods; they have always happened organically. More often than not, these manifestations have been the result of a few like-minded people coming together to create something new and original for no other purpose than a common love of doing it.

We think Beautiful Losers is important for two reasons: For one, it’s a genuine piece of cultural anthropology that captures some of the rawest, most powerful creative genius of our time.

But, more importantly, it’s a brilliant testament to the importance of the cross-pollination of ideas — you begin to see the influences of various subcultures, from skateboarding to street fashion to graffiti to indie music, on these artists’ original creative output. And this matters, because it’s real-life proof for the power of remix culture — something essential to the ability to harness our collective creativity, yet unfortunately hindered by current copyright law.

For an even deeper perspective on the global, cross-cultural influences in street art, check out Street World: Urban Culture and Art from Five Continents — another excellent book, exploring the emergence of a new global creative culture driven by the advent of the Internet as a cross-pollination platform for wildly diverse subcultures and modes of self expression.

Thanks, Amy!

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