Marilyn Wilson Interview – Finding Inspiration at the Intersection of Nature, Fiction and Online Communities

I’m pleased to share my recent interview with longtime friend and fellow creative Marilyn Wilson. Marilyn runs the fashion and lifestyle blog Olio By Marilyn based in Vancouver. After spending time on Hornby Island during the pandemic, I recently moved back to the city and have been immersing myself in Vancouver’s dynamic arts community.

Marilyn was quick to welcome me back and connected us for a thoughtful discussion about my eclectic career journey so far. In the interview, I discuss pivots from web development to photography to exploring generative AI. I also share details about current projects like my MÖTLEYKRÜG podcast, inspirations, and goals for the future. It was wonderful to reconnect with Marilyn and reflect on the many roles I take on at the intersection of creativity, technology and community building.

I’m grateful she took the time to dive deeper into my multifaceted work. Read the full interview below to learn more.

MW – You’ve had quite an eclectic career journey, from web development to photography and now AI. Could you share some pivotal moments and how they’ve influenced the work you’re involved in today?

KK – Hey Marilyn, great to reconnect with you, especially after nearly more than a decade and probably going on two of friendship and watching each other evolve in our careers. Speaking of evolution, it’s funny you mention change because it’s been the cornerstone of my journey as well.

I got my start in web development while attending university in the late ’90s, transitioning into entrepreneurship by launching an interactive agency in the early 2000s. That venture led me to Silicon Valley for a stint, before I found myself back in Vancouver to helm a new project—Bryght. Eventually, Bryght got acquired by Raincity Studios, where I took on the role of president.

After some time, I felt the need for another pivot and gravitated towards photography. Over the past decade, my camera has been my passport to some of the world’s most riveting events—think TED Talks, Olympic Games, world Fashion Weeks (Paris, NY, Beijing), Burning Man and more!

When the pandemic hit, it was another cue for me to adapt and reinvent. I invested time into mastering machine learning, and AI, which has not only redefined how I approach my art but has also evolved into agency specializing in Online Community Engagement & Social Media Marketing .

So here I am, still a photographer and digital artist at heart, but also an AI-savvy community consultant helping fellow creatives harness the power of technology.

PHOTO (Caption: Kris Krüg walking the Grammy’s red carpet with artist Roy Henry Vickers and Chief Ted Walkus where Roy was up for a Grammy Award)

MW – You appear to have a vast range of interests and skills. Can you share a little about all the different things you do and unpack the synergy between these different elements?

KK – Look, it’s true that from a distance, my life might seem like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from different boxes. But let’s be real, I’m older than I look Marilyn and I’ve had the time to collect these pieces and see how they fit together in a unique way.

My sweet spot lies at the crossroads of art, technology, community engagement, and activism. In my photography, I’m not just about creating pretty pictures; I’m invested in weaving a narrative and community around them. I leverage the digital landscape for this, having had the privilege to work on groundbreaking global projects.

Now, adding a bit more colour to your query, I’ve always been enamoured with the DIY ethos. It’s an ideology I’ve soaked up from punk rock scenes to maker spaces, and it has even led me to splitting my time between the serene Gulf Islands and the urban pulse of Vancouver. We’re living in an extraordinary era anything is possible. Remember Neo in ‘The Matrix’?

That’s how accessible information is today, and we’re edging towards an AI renaissance that takes this up another notch. This instant accessibility of information doesn’t just empower me; it revolutionizes the way I operate across multiple media formats, be it text, audio, or video. So, yeah, I may be tinkering in various spaces, but it all feeds into a grand mosaic that I’m continuously assembling.

PHOTO: (Caption: Kris with New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell backstage at South by Southwest Interactive circa 2015.)

MW – When it comes to the intersection of art and technology, how do you see this landscape changing for artists? Can you speak to the challenges and opportunities unique to this new paradigm?

KK – You and I both know we’re navigating a sort of Wild West in the arts and technology sectors. Everything’s in flux—the way we work, how we make money, even how we define ourselves as creatives. Take the traditional gallery scene; it’s no longer the mainstay for art consumption. In fact, today’s most intriguing artists might very well be coders and data scientists, not just painters.

I’ve got musician friends making a living by selling stems to other DJs, illustrators adapting to digital art forms, and even a voice actor exploring the possibilities of voice cloning tech. Yet, amid this rush towards the digital, there’s a palpable hunger for the handmade, the tangible, and the authentic. This isn’t a dying breed—it’s just another facet of how we’re evolving. A friend of mine became a world-famous knitter-influencer overnight by selling a unique knitting pattern online. So, it’s a thrilling but complex mosaic right now, with everyone carving out their own paths in unpredictable ways.

And to cap it off, I can’t help but be incredibly optimistic about this era. Whether it’s the internet revolution that’s already shaped us or the ongoing AI renaissance, these are times of unparalleled opportunity for artists. We are more empowered than ever to find our voices, build audiences, and get our messages out there. It’s a golden age for cross-pollinating ideas with like-minded creatives, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

PHOTO: (Caption: Kris with a group of visual artists he mentored as part of the KAN Music Festival Artist in Residency Program)

MW – How did you end up becoming a contributing photographer for National Geographic? Can you share about your favourite shoot for them?

KK – I’ve had the privilege to work on some amazing projects, but one that really stands out is my work with National Geographic covering the BP oil spill. It was a monumental event that needed immediate attention. The opportunity arose in an unexpected place. I was touring Asia with a group of tech enthusiasts for a program called Geeks on a Plane. We were visiting cities like Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, and Tokyo. During that trip, the oil spill was reaching its 100th day, and desperate measures like ‘Operation Ramrod’ were failing.

At that time, I was sitting next to Robert Michael Murray, the VP of social media at National Geographic. In a moment of unfiltered courage, I told him, ‘You’ve got to send me to the oil spill. I’m the guy who can get the real story; I have no strings attached.’ He liked my audacity and took me up on the offer. Soon, we had organized an expedition that took us through Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. We were boots on the ground, gathering material that eventually made its way into several NatGeo platforms, from online essays to magazine features. I even had the honor of presenting my findings at TEDx Oil Spill at the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C.

MW – I understand you recently launched a new podcast?  Can you share a little bit about it? Who would be your ideal listener?

KK – Marilyn, you’ll appreciate this journey. Let’s rewind to 2006—Greg Narin and I were Vancouver’s podcasting OGs with ‘Beer Casting’ at Subeez. Imagine, a quartet of geeks around a table, beers in hand, dissecting the universe. Now, fast forward to today, and I’ve circled back to podcasting, thanks to some dope advancements in generative AI. This isn’t your granddad’s radio; it’s a modern twist where the machine joins the conversation.

That evolution feeds into my latest endeavour, Motley Krug. It’s named after a nickname from my good friend Derek Miller, back in the day. Picture it as a petri dish where art and tech cultures meld, specifically focusing on online communities, web publishing tools, and—you guessed it—AI. Motley Krug is a stage for me to learn out loud, experiment, and let anyone who’s vibing with me learn along the way.

But here’s the kicker, Maryland: it’s all building towards something monumental. I’m in the throes of constructing a digital clone of me. I’ve been gathering every digital breadcrumb I’ve dropped in the last two decades—be it blog posts, videos, or even personal texts—and funnelling them into this AI system. This isn’t about creating a parrot that’ll just squawk back my old takes. The aim is for this digital doppelgänger to reason, predict, and respond as authentically ‘me’ as possible. Hell, I’ve even got a voice clone so legit my mom can’t tell it’s not me. Now, that’s some next-level stuff, wouldn’t you agree?

Kris Krüg’s MØTLEYKRÜG Podcast

MW – When it comes to your creative work and photography what are the key inspirations that inform your work?

My sources of inspiration are ever-changing, but some constants guide me. Nature, for one, is a constant muse, especially given my split time between the city and the Gulf Islands. I’m drawn to communal living and alternative lifestyles—think solar punk ethos, growing your own food, and a culture that values making and fixing things.

In the world of arts, I find myself leaning heavily towards the speculative fiction genre. Works like Black Mirror really resonate with me as they help interpret our complex world. I find myself steering away from consumptive forms of media and gravitating towards anything that’s collaborative or creative.

One of my most cherished sources of daily inspiration is my Discord server. It’s an ecosystem of over 200 artists, entrepreneurs, and creatives from various fields. Whether it’s a channel focused on photographic experimentation or one for podcasters helping each other gain traction, it’s a collaborative space that fuels me every day. The sense of community and collective ingenuity in that digital realm is something that constantly invigorates my creativity and world-view.

Photo: (Caption: Photo generated in Midjourney AI and edited in Photoshop by Kris Krüg)

MW – Thanks KK. What’s on your horizon as we wrap up this conversation?

KK – Absolutely, Marilyn, I’ve got a lot on the radar. So, here’s the scoop: I’ve migrated back to Vancouver, set up shop in a quaint house off Commercial Drive. Don’t get me wrong; Hornby Island still holds a slice of my soul, but the city’s magnetic pull was too strong to resist. My calendar? Jam-packed this fall. For starters, I’m moderating a panel on AI with the U.S. Space Force’s CTO—yeah, you heard it right—on September 6th.

That’s just the appetizer. I’m then jetting off to New Mexico for Dent the Future, a gathering I’ve been entangled with for a decade. This time, I’m not just the eye behind the lens; I’m also leading the photo walk. Then it’s off to the Big Apple for a transportation hackathon. I’ll don the dual hats of mentor and documentarian, emphasizing the social fabric in these emerging projects.

And let’s not forget L.A. for the Future in Review conference. That’s my 9-to-5, where I play ringmaster for their online community and steer the social media ship. Sprinkle in some collabs at the Glacier Media offices with my buddy Kemp Edmonds at his startup, Weatherhood, and you’ve got a whirlwind of creativity and tech.

I’m stoked to catch up with old pals and immerse myself in Vancouver’s pulsating creativity after my island sabbatical. So, yes, I’m back in the game and loving every minute of it!

Photo: (Kris with friend Jared Qwustenuxun Williams at an indigenous foods workshop on Hornby Island)

I would love to close with your favourite quote or mantra. Why is this one special to you?

Thanks for asking. Lately, I’ve been deeply invested in a mantra I’ve repurposed and dubbed MBOs, short for Most Benevolent Outcomes. Sure, MBOs usually stands for Management By Objectives in the corporate world, but I’ve reimagined it as a call for positive, equitable futures. This prayer helps me keep my ego in check, inspiring me to envision outcomes that benefit not just me, but the collective.

When it comes to technology and AI, my MBOs mantra takes on a life of its own. It becomes a daily affirmation, urging us to consider the greater good for all living things. It prompts us to infuse technology with empathy, kindness, and a sense of unity that transcends cultural and national barriers.

So, Marilyn, as you continue to use tech as a force for empowerment, may you experience the most benevolent outcomes—both for you and the vibrant community you’ve nurtured in Vancouver’s fashion scene.

PHOTO: (Caption: Kris Krüg and members of Cyber Love Garden after Closing Circle at Otherworld 2023)

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