"In the last few years, there have been a few different books with the title or subtitle "The Last Man Who Knew Everything." These books are mainly biographical, but carry a hint of exoticism towards the idea of the successful polymath; often they suggest that such achievements are no longer possible. Of course this is fiction; the institutionally authorized sources of learning benefit from this myth of unbreachable (and hence unquestionable) expertise. What I think has faded is the culture of polymathism. Where intellectuals once strove to achieve in disparate fields, now most choose to remain firmly enclosed in their discipline, or create cross-disciplinary approaches that unify their areas of interest. I don't believe this shift from multidisciplinarity to interdisciplinarity is true of the arts. Art is always a polymathic enterprise.
One of the people who taught me the most about filmmaking had 3 rules for being a filmmaker:
1. Take drum lessons.
2. Do physics.
3. Watch 2 movies a day.
Which is to say, learn to feel rhythm deep inside yourself, to improve the rhythm of your cuts and your sense of music in the world; be a student of the world, and an observer of the way things work around you; and keep your mind sharp with the techniques of your art. I do my best to keep to these rules (the spirit, if not always the letter) because they are, in a way, an extension of my polymathic impulse."
I wanted to release myself from these definitions that one finds on the epitaphs. This act finds its origins in a problem which I always have: how to defend the individual against society, against the group. My example is to take the Lark, a bird which I love a lot. If one takes a lark and asks it whether it can sing, it will answer: “Naturally I can sing! I am a Lark and all Larks can sing!” If one asks the same question to a human being, they will answer: “You know I belong to a species which sing—because the human being can sing—but me personally I do not sing at all. There are specialists who dedicate their whole lives to the practice of singing and they do it so well that it is not worth the sorrow when I sing. Then I attend their concerts, the specialists.” It is the same thing everywhere: the normal human being is specialized and consumes the works of the professionals, the virtuosos. It is certainly not ideal. Naturally, one cannot do everything like a virtuoso. But then, virtuosity also becomes questionable. Now, I am really interested in applied arts because, before, all the arts were applied. There was not this idea of free art, aesthetics, etc, which is not completely free in any case today either. Art is useful; art should always be used for something. But the question of virtuosity, of specialization brings us to this separation between the art that everyone made, popular art, and art where virtuosity starts, the art of the artist. Now one says “Folk art” which is pejorative! When I began this act of de-specialization, I did not have very clear ideas yet, but the ideal was to become again a child who is not yet specialized and thus is open to all the possibilities that the human animal has…