Brian Eno on Scenius and the ecology of ideas

March 8, 2014 — 2 Comments


During Austin Kleone’s keynote at South by Southwest yesterday, he brought up the concept of Scenius, and it really got us talking after the presentation.

If you think about the world’s great geniuses (e.g., Einstein, DaVinci, Beethoven), many emerged from connected cultures, likeminded thinkers and an uplifting environment that helped them perfect/hone/achieve such great success.

It led me to look up this interview with Eno about the concept of Scenius.

MORE DARK THAN SHARK: Brian, could you reiterate your word “scenius” and perhaps tell us how, in times to come, we might evaluate that seed you’re trying to plant?

BRIAN ENO: So he’s asking about the word “scenius” – and I’ll expand a little bit on that word.

So, as I told you, I was an art student and, like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.

As I looked at art more and more, I discovered that that wasn’t really a true picture. What really happened was that there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving lots and lots of people – some of them artists, some of them collectors, some of them curators, thinkers, theorists, people who were fashionable and knew what the hip things were – all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work.

The period that I was particularly interested in, ’round about the Russian revolution, shows this extremely well. So I thought that originally those few individuals who’d survived in history – in the sort-of “Great Man” theory of history – they were called “geniuses”. But what I thought was interesting was the fact that they all came out of a scene that was very fertile and very intelligent. So I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. And I think that’s a more useful way to think about culture, actually. I think that – let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while, let’s think about the whole ecology of ideas that give rise to good new thoughts and good new work.

via Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK.


Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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    […] you dig Brian Eno’s concept of Scenius, you’ll surely appreciate Google’s approach to innovation in 2014 by tapping into many […]

  2. SXSW 2014: Quit looking to others for the next big thing. Go make it yourself! « GREG SWAN - March 26, 2014

    […] keynote presenter and artist Austin Kleon shared Brian Eno’s concept of Scenius (genius coming from a collaboration of a group, culture or movement; a community that is critical to …) and shared his opinion that many people waste time trying to make connections rather than getting […]

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