Together with my colleague Ramon Vullings, I had the chance to interview some great speakers at the Creativity World Forum (thanks Flanders DC to make this possible). We will give you the full interview that we did with Guy Kawasaki, Tom Kelley, Frans Johansson, Robin Chase and Marco Tempest. And of course we did something special. Instead of asking the ‘regular’ questions to give a summary of their talk or share some things about their latest book, we prepared 21 beercoasters with a question. The speaker could pick a number and decide which question (s)he got.
This is the interview with Marco Tempest. You can find his bio at the bottom of the page. And we have asked Marco to write down his personal mantra. You find the picture of his mantra at the end of the interview.
Cyriel: #7. Do you believe in luck?
MARCO TEMPEST: Yeah, I think so. I think a lot of people’s achievements we see are based on luck. So luck is a really big factor. There’s always a good way to explain why, like in hindsight.
Cyriel: Yeah, afterwards.
MARCO: Yeah, chance or luck is differently – you could also say serendipity. But then again, you can structure your life to have more serendipity.
Cyriel: I believe that you can – and of course, not everything, but I guess that the main way you can attract more coincidence, if you’re open and look with different eyes.
MARCO: Sure. But now you’re talking. (laughs)
Cyriel: Yes, that’s true. I’m sorry. (laughter)
MARCO: No, but you were picking up what I wanted to say, is there are actually people who look very deep into this, like what kind of concentration of chance encounters do you need to have innovation happen. There’s a project, for example, the Downtown Project in Las Vegas, where they design the space and the way of living so you have more interactions, which they call collisions, which can lead to serendipitous interactions and discussions, which might lead to innovation. They definitely lead to community, and community has a lot to do with innovation, because innovation doesn’t happen so much by the lonely inventor in a lab. It happens in groups, and usually it’s based on culture. Like there’s certain university campuses which have a certain culture, which lead to things. Then from that, you could infer that chance can be planned. So there is a thing like chance, yes, but there are conditions which might lead to it. And that’s all I can say.
Cyriel: Chance favors the ones prepared. Perfect, thank you. Different number.
Cyriel: What’s a book that everybody should read? And you can’t mention your own things that you have. What’s a book that everybody should read?
MARCO: That’s a good question. The best book is always the one you just read, I guess.
Cyriel: Or just any case of short-term memory?
MARCO: Yeah, so I just read Walter Isaacson’s Innovators, which I thought might not have done Ada Lovelace justice all that much, other than that it’s a wonderful book to get a little bit of a feel of what’s happened so far. Computers have greatly influenced our lives and will much more, and I think it’s really interesting to see where some of these things came from and understand where they might go, especially when it comes to things like artificial intelligence or robotic – the unfulfilled promises which might stay unfulfilled for definitely decades, maybe even longer. So I just finished that.
But also I might want to take a little sidestep from that. I love podcasts. I travel a lot, and reading a book to me seems a very physically involved process, especially when you’re in a shaky plane. So I love podcasts, and some of the ones which I really love is Radiolab or Stuff You Should Know, This American Life, Intelligence Squared.
Podcasts I think are a really life-enriching thing. It’s a beautiful way to – I think books can be very introverted. They take a long time to read, take like 10, 20 hours you’re spending by yourself, and then it’s very hard to start a conversation from that. It’s just too much stuff – unless you take an anecdote from the book.
But a podcast might be like 20 minutes or 40 minutes, with three subjects, so it’s a wonderful way to ask people around you what they think about that subject and make it a conversation starter. The same is true for TED talks, where you can have something which might just be a spark for something which takes place between humans and is not so much study. For me, reading a book feels like studying, unless it’s science fiction.
Cyriel: Perfect, thank you. Different number.
MARCO: Be yourself, maybe. I think for an artist, if you consider magic art, or what I do – it’s kind of an intersection between humanities and technology or science. But if you can show an audience what you truly love, that in itself I think is inspiring. Like if somebody can see somebody who’s that outlier, maybe, who does something moderately successful, or at least happy, really happy about being weird, that can be super inspiring to others. Because it gives other people hope.
It’s like when you see an older man, and he’s cool. That gives you hope; you’re not so afraid to be old. So when you see somebody on a stage and you can tell he’s not doing it because of the marketing aspect of it – it’s like you meet the person and truly meet that person – I think that’s of really big value, and that’s worth more than that person’s achievements, maybe, or it’s more inspirational than based on this big company or whatever. That’s kind of what I like to get closer and closer to.
Cyriel: #20 What’s the craziest thing that you ever have done?
MARCO: I don’t know… I did a few crazy – I decided to produce a high-definition television series myself in the early ’90s, when there was no high-definition television anywhere in the world except in Japan. I decided to produce it myself, and also distribute myself, without any knowledge of that industry. Which took a little longer than I anticipated, like 5 years or so to complete that project. In the end, it was a success; it was the trend. The show ran in like 60+ countries and led to a lot of great opportunities.
But that was really stupid to start. It almost killed me, it was just so much. So much pressure. Like the deeper you get into…
Cyriel: The point of no return?
MARCO: Yeah. And you’re just forced to go forward. You have to do what the next step is, and there’s no money. It’s a kind of startup college kind of thing. You cannot pay the paperwork. All that stuff happened in that project.
Cyriel: I can imagine it, yeah. And probably you’ve learned a lot of things during that period. Good things and bad things.
MARCO: Yeah, you learn about yourself.
Cyriel: Last number?
INTERVIEWER: Who is a hero for you, or a person who does remarkable things? Could be alive or not.
MARCO: There are a few. One of them is definitely Nikola Tesla. He’s somebody who’s lost in history, kind of, and deserves maybe a little bit more recognition, not only because he was an absolute genius and had like 700 patents to his name, he also was really wonderful. He saw Utopia, where energy would be free and where we would not be burdened, the poor would not be oppressed by the rich anymore because there was some sort of equality. So he was really quite special.
And he had to deal with a lot of obstacles. He had some mental problems, he had hallucinations, some sort of synesthesia. There’s actually a piece – I made a piece about him. There’s a TED talk about Nikola Tesla. I created a pop-up book, like a little set which comes to life with projection, and it tells his life story and his experience. It was worthwhile doing an homage to him. So maybe you want to look into that.
Cyriel: Also, Tesla is also another good name for a radical new way of looking at autos.
MARCO: Yeah, Elon is definitely a poster child for being a modern entrepreneur. Tackling really hard problems in a really straight-on way. They just recently made everything open source.
Cyriel: Yeah. Again, it was already disruptive, and now again…
MARCO: Yeah. I like it when rich kids turn into…
Cyriel: Radical mavericks.
MARCO: Yeah. You can say that I said that. (laughter)
Cyriel: And maybe to finish, we would like to share the word nearling, maybe you can do something with it or not. A nearling is something that people did with the right intentions, but which has not led to the right results. So you could say lots of times we think if we do something and it works, it’s a success; we do something that doesn’t work, it’s a failure.
MARCO: Yeah, but that’s also a way to deal with failure. Then you say “Well, God, it led to this.” Within the world of creativity and innovation, people like the startup culture, I’m not really a big fan of it. I think this kind of serializing of how it should be done, like a pie recipe. It’s like all these movies are a certain way because they are Hollywood movies, right? So if you do incubators and startup and this and the other and get your pitch right and do this, then they have success. I think the danger is that the real heroes are for me not Mark Zuckerberg; for me, a hero is a guy who gets funding for a Large Hadron Collider. That’s a hero. Wow. He works on something which in his lifetime will lead to nothing, but in 300 years if we’re still around, if we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t be able to go to the stars, right?
So I think visionary – it doesn’t have to be 300 years, but visionary research and thought experiments which go beyond your own lifetime, which cannot be applied and cannot be a product next quarter needs to be really celebrated. Conferences like this, I really love it to see real scientists which might be a little bit less polished, but there’s something about it. And it belongs in this culture. We should be aware of this.
Cyriel: Yeah, it should be an integral part.
MARCO: A piece of this mechanism. And some things, especially when it comes to changing the culture, like if it’s things which bleed into the political arena or a cultural practice, how we live our lives, it’s a matter of how will we have a sharing economy. And all that stuff, that will not go so fast; that will be slower. People will need to learn a new way of talking and a new way of interacting and a new way to deal with foreigners and all that stuff. I really appreciate people who work on that kind of stuff, and I think they should be on this stage and be fully represented.
Cyriel: I agree. Thank you Marco for this nice interview.
Marco Tempest is a cyber illusionist, combining magic and technology to produce astonishing illusions. He began his performing career as a stage magician and manipulator, winning many awards and establishing an international reputation as one of the world’s most unique performers.
His interest in computer generated imagery led him to incorporating video and digital technology in his work. The internet took it from there, providing more opportunities for digital illusions, augmented reality and ways of interacting with audiences.
Marco is an open source advocate, working with artists, writers and technologists to create new experiences and research the practical uses of the technology of illusion. He performs around the world, is a media consultant and lectures on the psychology of deception and creative thinking.
Interested in more inspiration. Check out the following interviews: