Our Drive to Create Beauty, Justice Through Filmmaking and Hot Dog Related Altercations.
Filmmakers Spencer Chumbley and Erik Ljung have shot for organizations like VICE and Al Jazeera. I caught up with the guys just before they debuted their film, The Death of Cory Stingley a the Milwaukee Film Festival.
Humans make things, we always have. But, we don’t just make, we create beauty. We pay attention to symmetry, form and detail. Why is that? Darwinian theory says it’s simply a form of “peacocking.” More specifically, our creative predispositions are merely “fitness signals.” For example, if you write a novel, create a moving peace of art, or compose a great song, it’s simply a uniquely human way of showing off your intellect in hopes of attracting a mate, like a peacock with it’s innately douchey bouquet of feathers.
I fucking hate this idea.
But, let’s be fair. It’s totally undeniable that ego and social elevation are often intertwined with creative accomplishments. So, being an artist can also be a mating advantage (history has plenty of dick-slinging poets and long-tongued children teeming with Simmons DNA).
However, if art is at it’s root a way of showing off our viability as a mate, I have some questions. What about people who create art for little to no personal gain or notoriety? When my grandpa paints watercolor landscapes, is he just peacocking? Is his drive to paint just a misplaced, leftover evolutionary imprint from some Mick Jagger-like ancestor I don’t know about?
Perhaps my view is born of an oversimplified view of fitness signals, or a personal bend toward the whimsical, but I prefer to think of our drive to create beauty as a uniquely human phenomenon that facilitates deep communication, shrinking the gap between us and our fellow men. The beauty of art affords us feelings that soar beyond reason and language. Moreover, the greatest art is often born through cooperation, not competition. It’s roll in competing for sexual domination, then is more of a happy side effect, not a cause.
And that my friends, is a roundabout, ranty way of introducing my guests on this show, who, incidentally, create beauty– Filmmakers Spencer Chumbley and Erik Ljung. They’ve shot for VICE, Al Jazeera and a bunch of other organizations. Despite their success, I truly believe that their craft moves them to keep creating because it results in a clear benefit for other human beings. As you’ll hear, they often specifically target under-represented stories. Spencer and Erik also wear a great deal of emotion on their sleeves when discussing the more tragic, human element of their particular brand of documentary filmmaking. But hey, maybe they’re just peacocking subconsciously.
When I spoke with the guys, they were just about to debut their tragic film, The Death of Cory Singley at the Milwaukee Film Festival.