The figure of the Genius looms large in our contemporary thinking about art and creativity. Art is a gift given to the masses by those fortunate few who are capable of creating something from nothing, of inventing forms and sounds that the rest of us simply couldn’t imagine. Well, maybe that’s overstating it a bit. But whether or not we believe that great art and ideas emanate from so pure a source, there is certainly a tradition in the West which places the individual at the center of creative production.
In this episode of Off Topic, we explore the ways in which the idea of the singular Genius belies the importance of collaboration, emulation, and appropriation in the artistic process. In particular, we ask how piracy and the open-source, give-and-take culture of the internet is forcing creative producers of all kinds to rethink their relationship to the crowd. We speak with writers, internet activists, and artists, to see whether this change is helping or hurting the cause of Art in the 21st century, and to figure out what it means for people trying earn a living from their creative work.