INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE | Re-telling climate change stories

Colorado Creatives

Lisa and Matt Bethancourt

Westword Magazine

Power couple and RedLine INSITE project grantees Lisa and Matt Betancourt head Mouse & the Billionaire, a game-coding collective uniting ideas, bending rules, playing with perceptions, and bonding art and science. For INSITE, the couple is creating an interactive rocking chair experience inspired by the Pando, a natural phenomenon in Utah, to debut next October in Boulder.

As in their work, the Bethancourts don’t operate on a single wavelength. They’re polymaths forever seeking truth, in the mold of Da Vinci. Find out who they really are as they answer the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.

Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?

Lisa and Matt Bethancourt: A lot of our inspiration comes from long conversations with good friends. We’ve known so many people (you know who you are) who are willing to sit up late into the night talking about things ranging from the absurd to the sublime. These are magical moments when forces align for true connection and discovery of insight. So many things need to be in place for this to happen – trust, openness, an interesting idea to start with and willingness to invest in an intellectual journey.

Most of our work closely examines the nature of time and space and how we choose to experience it. These are big ideas that delve into so many adjacent disciplines. Our friends have gone along with us on many meandering thought experiments. They listen when we ramble, contribute their points of view, push back on ours and still love us. We couldn’t make creative work without the people in our lives who spur us on through conversation and friendship.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party and why?

Love this question. We’re going to go with all living people with the hope that this might actually happen in the near future. To us, the most exciting dinner-party guests are always the polymaths: people who can hold court on all sorts of topics and contribute those unique points-of-view and insights. There are quite a few people with whom we’d love to drink a bottle of wine and chat until late in the evening, but here are three that immediately come to mind.

First, you gotta have Brian Eno. He’s a genre-defining influencer in both art and music, and he likes to think and write about deep time. The Long Now Foundation, of which he is a founding board member, has had a major impact on our work.

Second, we’d love to meet Maria Popova. If anyone knows how to go deep on a topic and look at it from every possible angle, it’s Maria. She is poetic in both the written and spoken word. One thing Maria’s work has taught us is that it is possible to deeply understand someone even after they have died.

Last, we’re inviting Questlove. His ideas on creativity, food, music, life and more are so amazing, and he’s obviously just incredibly cool.

Also, everyone knows that a good dinner party needs a dozen people to really sing, so we’re going to cheat and add (after ourselves) Richard Feynman, Agnes Martin, Anthony Bourdain, John Coltrane, Thomas Merton, Zadie Smith and Shigeru Miyamoto.

What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?

Probably the best aspect, and the one that has surprised us the most, about the local creative community is the cross pollination between the arts and science. For our current project, we’ve been doing research in many different fields (ecology, geology, astronomy, archaeology and anthropology, etc.). When we’re looking into a specific topic, more often than not, a world class expert in that field is within driving distance of the Denver Metro area.

It happens so often, it’s not even surprising anymore. Not only that, but there are also so many excellent groups working to foster interaction between the arts and science, just to name a few — EcoArtsArctic Arts ProjectNESTInside the Greenhouse. It is humbling and encouraging that so many brilliant people see value in the arts and understand its power to meet people where they are.

How about globally?

Now that’s a big question, and not one we really feel qualified to answer, but here’s a few thoughts. One of the best things is that it’s possible to find art in unexpected places all the time, not just in museums and galleries. There are so many new avenues to create and show work. Finding art out “in the wild” naturally broadens the scope of how art can be defined. That’s really exciting. Artists can use just about anything, anywhere to connect with people and communicate on a deep and powerful level.

We don’t love pointing out a problem without offering a possible solution, but the fact that the success of art is linked so closely to its commercial value is stifling. It’s a big problem, and it means that a lot of good work never comes to fruition. This is a big reason why we are so excited to see new forms of art being shown in surprising places. It makes art accessible to so many more people. Art needs an audience, and a bigger more inclusive scene is better for everyone. Read more ...