Malcolm McLaren: The Quest for Authentic Creativity

In ear­ly Octo­ber of 2009, Mal­colm McLaren was near­ing death but did­n’t know it yet. He showed up at the 2009 Hand­held Learn­ing con­fer­ence feel­ing fatigued, but man­aged to deliv­er a provoca­tive and heart­felt speech titled, “Nev­er Mind the Bol­locks, Here’s the Txt Pis­tols,” in which he reflects on his life grow­ing up in post-World War II Eng­land and express­es dis­may over the rise of what he called “karaoke cul­ture.”

“All pop­u­lar cul­ture today,” said McLaren, “goes to great lengths to pro­mote the idea that it’s cool to be stu­pid.” He cham­pi­oned instead the “messy process of cre­ativ­i­ty” in which strug­gle, fail­ure and the acqui­si­tion of skill and knowl­edge are val­ued above instant fame. You can watch the com­plete speech above. A few days after it was giv­en, McLaren went into the hos­pi­tal and learned that he had can­cer. He died six months lat­er, on April 8, 2010. The next day Hand­held Learn­ing founder Gra­ham Brown-Mar­tin  wrote:

The talk from Mal­colm at the Hand­held Learn­ing Con­fer­ence 2009 will, I believe, stand the test of time. The speech does­n’t elab­o­rate about the peri­od of the Sex Pis­tols, New York Dolls, Vivi­enne West­wood, his impact on design, fash­ion and music cul­ture and many oth­er impor­tant achieve­ments of Mal­colm’s life that will be report­ed in obit­u­ar­ies over the com­ing days. Instead and in keep­ing with the theme of the con­fer­ence, Mal­colm dis­cuss­es in his inim­itable style–his life, learn­ing, authen­tic­i­ty vs karaoke cul­ture and what we gain from the expe­ri­ence of fail­ure. Iron­i­cal­ly, fail­ure was some­thing Mal­colm nev­er achieved. The talk was any­thing but ordi­nary, it polarised our audi­ence and instant­ly trend­ed glob­al­ly on Twit­ter but what else would you expect?

via TED/Best of the Web


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