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Posted: 2:58 p.m. Friday, March 7, 2014

SXSW Keynote: Austin Kleon on creativity and sharing influence 


SXSW Day One, 03.07.14
Writer of "Show Your Work" Austin Kleon delivers a SXSW Interactive keynote.

By Omar L. Gallaga

In his keynote presentation on Friday, local author and artist Austin Kleon tackled the big themes: death, creativity and, most importantly, "Has SXSW gotten too big? Is it over?"

Austin Kleon whose new book "Show Your Work" is an examination of sharing your work in order to spread influence and bust the myth of genius creators, spoke to a receptive, full Exhibit Hall 5 audience in the Austin Convention Center in a presentation that was also live-streamed for free online.

Kleon started out by showing examples and a time-lapse video of the work he's probably best-known for: "Newspaper blackout" art in which he takes an article from the New York Times every day and blacks out all but a few words to create poems. 

Two he shared included, "In Texas, there is nothing but Texas" and one about the Titanic: "I mean yes we're sinking but the music is exceptional." He's been doing that work for nine years.

Kleon said that as a SXSW keynote, "I feel very much like a camper who just got promoted to counselor." He's been a long-time attendee and has been not only a fan but a cartoonist for sessions at past festivals.

The session was largely in tune with the themes of the book; that most artists are not really geinuses, they're hard workers who share their work with others and have found a scene of other creative people.

In tackling the subject of SXSW's growth, Kleon suggested making more human connections, sharing instead of self-promoting all the time and avoiding "Vampires," people who drain your energy instead of energizing you. 

In a festival that has increasingly become known for the scale of marketing efforts, Kleon suggested that creative people learn to promote their work, but not become a product or a "Human spammer." "This is not a reality show and I'm not a reality show contestant. I'm here to make friends," he said.

He said many successful artists in today's world get good at posting bits of their work and sharing their creativity online rather than hoarding work and engaging in the ivory tower of the tortured genius myth.

And as he said in an interview last week, he suggested SXSW attendees stop chasing the new, next big thing and think about longevity, the creative work that will stand the test of time.

Tweets about the presentation, hashtag #ShowURwork.

Omar L. Gallaga

About Omar L. Gallaga

Omar L. Gallaga writes about technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman. He was a technology correspondent for NPR's "All Things Considered," helping originate the All Tech Considered segment and blog.

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