Words of Wisdom From Revolutionary Creatives

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Jefferson Hack and Joan DidionArtwork by David Johnson, courtesy of ROADS

What do the world's greatest cross-disciplinary thinkers have in common? More than you might imagine, according to a bold new book. AnOther takes a closer look...

In time, the digitally generated algorithm might come to be seen as the soothsayer of the 21st century; no impassioned opposition can disprove its technological accuracy. Consequently, Gianluigi Ricuperati’s algorithm-defined collection of some of contemporary culture’s “most daring cross-disciplinary thinkers,” which the author has compiled in a new book entitled 100 Global Minds, is an objective and compelling read.

The concept behind the book is simple, Ricuperati explains: “The most adventurous intellectuals, both today’s and tomorrow’s, are those who push through borders, trying with visionary pragmatism to move between one discipline and another without ever losing the reins of their language of origin.” The author used a specially designed programme to signal names which are frequently referenced outside of their primary field of interest, in order to flag the names whose multi-disciplinary focus will shape the future. The resulting group of 100 spans the genres of art, science, linguistics, technology and literature, including some of the greatest thinkers and innovators contemporary society has seen. Below, we select five of the most prolific, AnOther and Dazed founder Jefferson Hack among them, to share some gems of wisdom that have defined their output thus far.

“Breaking rules isn’t interesting. It’s making up new ones that keeps things interesting” – Christopher Nolan

Director, screenwriter and producer Christopher Nolan knows a thing or two about breaking the rules. His films possess a deeply cerebral quality, and yet they straddle the realms of experimental and mainstream cinema with an apparent ease; take his 2014 movie Interstellar, for example, which continued the legacy the filmmaker established with his 2010 work Inception, in transforming complex temporal shifts and non-linear storylines into a challenging but compelling visual narrative. His embrace of digital technology to distort and enhance in-camera effects continues to surprise his critics and his fans alike, while his capable wrangling of philosophical ideas places him above many of his contemporaries.

“I don’t know what I think until I write it down” – Joan Didion

Journalist, essayist, novelist and short story writer, Joan Didion’s incisive form and clarity of expression resists containment in just one genre. All the same, she was more than willing to confess, in the 1976 lecture from which this quotation was extracted, that she writes primarily as a means to assess her own position. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,” she said, “what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” Fortunately, as she seems to share her position with that of many of her readers, this original form of storytelling has propelled Didion through a mightily successful career. Now aged 80, she continues to publish, and her at-times difficult life has drawn such fascination from the media that 2016 will see it immortalised in a film by her nephew, Griffin Dunne, ticking off yet another medium on her list.

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all” – Noam Chomsky

“Noam Chomsky is perhaps the only living thinker who is known equally for his scientific work and for his political activism,” begins Ricuperati’s reflection on linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky, and the seemingly grandiose statement is in this case entirely apt. From his opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1960s to his powerful support of the Occupy movement in the past couple of years, Chomsky succeeds in voicing the hopes and the concerns of both his own and many other generations, both through public speaking and through the 100 books he has already published in his lifetime.

“As an artist I’d choose the thing that’s beautiful more than the one that’s true” – Laurie Anderson

From an early career as a professor and art critic through to later work as an author, composer, photographer, visual artist and most famously a performance artist, they don’t come much more cross-disciplinary than Laurie Anderson. Such is her belief in the power of beauty in art that in 2007 she was awarded the Dorothy and Lillian Gish prize for an “outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” What more wonderful achievement is there than that?

“The next big revolution in media will be the moving image, which is no longer the domain of directors or massive studios” – Jefferson Hack

Jefferson Hack met photographer Rankin when the pair were studying at the London College of Printing in the early 1990s, and within two years had condensed their fascination with underground subcultures to found Dazed & Confused. In the 25 years since, the then-monthly fanzine has evolved into Dazed Media, a multi-disciplinary champion of the newest and most innovatory phenomena across fashion, music, film, literature and design. This year Hack's impassioned support of the power of the moving image – "I want to be disruptive in that area," Ricuperati quotes – resulted in the world's first digital magazine cover, with the S/S15 issue of AnOther Magazine, and doesn't show any sign of slowing.

100 Global Minds by Gianluigi Ricuperati is available now, published by ROADS.