Article by Greg Cutler | TUE, JUN 4, 2019, 7:30PM – 9:00PM
Venue: Castro Theatre
Featuring: David Byrne
Each Long Now Foundation Seminar is a unique, one of a kind performance. The talks are never repeated. They can only be experienced fully in-person. They are live events. The world needs more live events.
David Byrne: Good News and Sleeping Beauties will be available as a podcast that you can listen to after the event, but the informal “talk” quality of Long Now Foundation seminars is what is so enticing about these events.
David Byrne is not an academic, in the true sense. He is an artist. As such, he is interested in exploring the breadth of human experience. When he discovers a story that intrigues him he delves deeper into why things transpired the way they did.
Sometimes, a broadly accepted way of thinking that we all have come to take for granted, gets lost. Sometimes, an idea gets proposed, presented in a scientific paper, recorded, and discussed, but was ignored or proven too outlandish to fit in with commonly accepted thought. Sometimes, they are forgotten entirely. Sometimes, they are discovered (often by searching for adjacent truths), re-examined and determined to be the ultimate truth that becomes the common truth of the matter. These are the “sleeping beauties” of knowledge. They are known knowns. They were recorded. They were forgotten. They resurfaced.
Byrne’s talk examines these “sleeping beauty” stories, one after another. Each story in his talk is more unbelievable than the next. His research into these stories reveals a common thread. Can we prevent this from happening? Ideas that are brilliant should not be suppressed because of politics, or the mob mentality of following a “divine” or “wise” leader. Life is hard. The average person looks to experts to tell us how to think and what to believe. We trust in people who have experience beyond our own. We attribute wisdom to wealth and influence. This seems to me to be a faulty way in which to progress our civilization. We must all work to be open-minded, not discount brilliant ideas, and be creative, critical thinkers.
The stories Byrne tells are numerous. His style of presenting is informal. He is a little disorganized. His slides got a little out of sync, but he soldiered on. He illuminated us on science and art. The art sleeping beauties struck a cord with me. As an artist, Byrne finds art that was lost or underground and by educating us about it, resurfaces it, breathing new life into it so that it can live on and inspire others.
The interview at the end of the talk, hosted by Stewart Brand, is to my mind, the best part of these seminars. Even though the Castro Theater was packed to the gills, a few people left halfway through the talk and missed the best part. Among other things, Byrne discussed how he searches the internet for inspiration. He finds art and scientific stories in a very organic way. He examines or listens to something that leads him to something else. He thinks, “Hmm, how did they do that?” or “Who did that?” and then he follows that trail. It’s like hunting for an elusive beast.
Finding gems of knowledge and sharing them with the world is also part of the mission of ArtsEarth.org; promoting the arts worldwide, at no cost to artists. In doing this, we think we are helping do the good work that Byrne and others are doing. We strive to eliminate the “sleeping beauties” of art.
Byrne is starting a new website called: Good News and Reasons to be Cheerful.
I invite you to listen to the full audio podcast of David Byrne: Good News & Sleeping Beauties available on June 11, 2019, on the Long Now Foundation website.
• Long Now Event Description: David Byrne: Good News and Sleeping Beauties