These Days, Who’s Beat and Who’s Lost?

There’s something I’ve been wondering about for a while and have discussed with a few people. Through the years some places have been centers of creation, places that produced many artists, writers and musicians or drew them together from various countries, in both cases you can see those loose groups creating whole new types of art, styles of writing, influencing their period.

From around 1860 with Monet and Manet to the first World War it was Paris with Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge. Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Cézanne, Seurat, Signac, Degas, Vuillard, Dufy, Picasso and Braque all lived and created around the butte.

In the 20s some of them like Picasso and Modigliani moved to the Montparnasse neighborhood and were joined by Miro, Kandinsky and many others. Not far from there the Lost Generation was named by and loosely gravitated around Gertrude Stein. It included Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Henry Miller and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In the 40s and 50s it was the Beat Generation in New York and San Francisco with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

In the 60s Warhol’s Factory in New York with Mick Jagger, Lou Reed and Truman Capote.

In the late 70s and 80s there was another Factory, this one in Manchester with Tony Wilson, Joy Division / New Order, The Durutti Column, The Happy Mondays, James and (briefly) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

In the 90s Nirvana led the rise of Grunge with Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden all based in Seattle.

Also in the 90s there was a bit of simmering activity in eastern Europe, especially with the expats in Budapest which has lead to books by Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Safran Foer and Arthur Phillips. Although including them here is kind of pushing it as they were specifically trying to duplicate that Lost Generation “feel”, not creating something new.

Currently New York and London could probably be targeted but that’s a general statement, there is no specific movement going on (that I know of).

I’ve mentioned groups that were painters, writers, musicians, in each period but I’m sure there were others, some of you might be insulted at a list with both the Montmartre crowd and Grunge side by side, I probably made some mistakes in associations within groups and most of them weren’t necessarily based in the cities and neighborhoods I mention, they were there for a while, met in other cities, possibly did most of their work in other places. The point of the above list is not absolute exactitude, it’s to show that there are always places where creativity was burning especially hot. Which leads me to two questions; first, where—if anyplace—is this happening currently and two, which of those effervescent periods/places did I miss?

Before letting you answer though, back to the discussions I’ve already had and a theory. Steph first brought up the internet as the virtual place where creative people meet, people don’t feel the need to move to a specific place, they can live and be influenced by whatever environment they prefer and interact through the interweb. Now I love the net and all it’s brought but, call me romantic, I don’t think a virtual “place” can be on the same footing as those centers I’ve mentioned.

Also, it should be noted that when I (and Steph I’m sure) mention the net and it’s creativity and collaboration I don’t necessarily mean what is visible on the web, I mean the ease of communication and loads of content and how they influence everyone that has access to it. Might be a painter reading up on techniques or discussing ideas with someone on the other side of the planet, might be a writer posting chapters of an upcoming novel and getting feedback, might be a film maker offering a trailer to find financial support, might be graphic artists swapping photoshop files from one continent to the other, could be a group of programmers creating a revolutionary piece of social software, etc.

Last week Karl brought up a fine tuning of the net “theory” or actually added to it and it kind of brought home the idea for me. He reminded me that travel plays a part in that globally interacting virtual meeting place. Yes, the internet lets folks from everywhere connect, yes there is a lot of creativity being stoked by those communications but it’s wrong to see it as only virtual. Thanks to those connections and cheap travel there are meetings everywhere, conferences or individual encounters. More and more bloggers set up meetings, get personal tours and come in contact with locals thanks to connections they’ve made with readers and other bloggers. Kino film makers keep in contact by email and use cheap travel to create cells everywhere in the world. The Fray publishes stories by writers from around the globe and meet in person once a year in Fray Cafes held in various cities. Those are only a few examples, I’m sure there are others.

So, lets hear what you think about the first two questions and lets add a couple more; do you have examples of easy instant communication and cheap travel combining to create virtual and/or temporary creative bubbles? Are there any that we’ll one day look back on as we now look on the Beats, the Lost and the Grungy?

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