Creativity Without Purpose.
October 21st, 2008 by Lex

Funding for technology and media start-ups is severely drying up, as the main available business model (advertising) is taking a nosedive with the rest of the economy. This will, hopefully, raise the bar. What happens though to all the unspent creativity? What do people who are marginal losers in this situation do instead?

Perhaps it goes into some pool of reserves energy, to be brought out next cycle. Or maybe people give up their dreams of color and font, and become accountants. It must be aesthetically satisfying to practice such an act of self-denial: the economy has got me down, and I have no choice but to abandon my freedom.

They must practice it in small ways. Sneaking in synchronized excel formatting. Switching up the paper for their PowerPoint presentations. Wearing a green tie to work.

Or maybe, and this is a hopeful maybe, we can divorce the practice of creativity from actual “practice”. We abstract it, and make it its own pursuit. Goals, results, etc etc, are by-products; and if they are that much harder to reach in this environment, why not indulge in pure and meaningless art?

April 10th, 2008 by Lex

Question. Is Destruction a creative process? Let’s sidestep the nuances of the question (inherently creative, specifically creative, occasionally creative) for now.

Answer. No, destruction is never a creative process.

Definitionally, destruction is the opposite of creation. It is a process of undoing, of taking away what was there, breaking down something into nothing. It is the logical negation of the creative process, which places something where there is nothing.  You build the sand castle. I knock the sand castle down. I did not “create” a sandy pile from a castle; rather I took your effort and negated it.

We see destruction in daily life among many disciplines. We are numb to it, because it is often an “exercise” that we have to go through. For example, the recent layoffs across the US economy, particularly in the financial and housing sectors. We are offered platitudes, and other trite commentary often taken for wisdom. How helpful is “what does not kill you makes you stronger” or the concept of “creative destruction”? Mostly, not very helpful. We try to ascribe to destruction positive aspects so that we can cope with it. The metaphor of the immune system comes up often. Dealing with an immediate challenge today and the destruction of some aspect we like will in the long run be meaningful, and will also put us in a superior position relative to that of today.

Look, the immune system is a concrete real thing. It is not an overarching karmic balancer that turns a destructive vector into creative one. While we may choose to respond in a way that strengthens, the receipt of a destructive action is a negative event. It undoes some part of you. Why celebrate it? Why is death necessary for rebirth? A sober re-imagining will do.

In the visual arts and other creative disciplines, destruction is often isolated and appreciated on its own merits. For example, a performance artist may build a structure and then painstakingly annihilate it. She will destroy the object, and the traces of that object’s creation, making a statement about the creative process. Or perhaps a statement about time, and impermanence. Does this mean that destruction is creative? Again, not at all. At most, such a gesture is crude. It mocks others who take joy in creating, and in their commitment to building. Surely one can show what it means to be good by an example of evil. Darkness implies light. But that does not mean that there is light in darkness. Similarly, destruction on its own is devoid of the possibility of creation. The fact that it touches on something aesthetic by mere logic does not grant it intrinsic value.

Nonetheless, destruction is a tool, just as creation is a tool. Either can be used to affect things in a desirable way. For example, through exercise we destroy fat on our bodies to create a healthier lifestyle. Thus the action of exercise yield a process of destroying something negative and creating something positive. One can imagine destroying something positive and creating something negative, or any combination of the two. Therefore destruction is not inherently good nor bad. Rather, it is simply never creative.

The Three Branches.
March 13th, 2008 by Lex

All the recent news about Hillary, Obama, Spitzer, corporate CEOs getting fired, etc., leads one to think about functional divides–specifically the role of the executive. It seems that the executive is an easy target, a metaphor for the rest of the organization. It is also a role of ego and star power. But is it a creative one?

Our three branches: legislative, executive and judiciary. These are tried and true functional categories that are applicable to more than just governmental division of power. On way to generalize them would be as follows: creator, decision-maker, and critic. It is easy to see how this is applicable to both the corporate world (producer, manager, the market) and the art world (artist, agent/gallery owner, critic/market/academic).

The producer-artist has the most access to creativity and originality, but is the least powerful. She is subject to immediate judgment from the decision-maker, and the secondary judgment of the critic or audience. She is the one with the highest aspirations, and the lowest probability of those aspirations coming true. Our troubled executives fall into the second category. Their power lies in controlling the lever, driven by a relentless ability to decide YES or (more frequently) NO. They control the floodgates of culture, economy and political power; but arguably are akin to a computer circuit. Judges, whether legal, academic, or mass-audience, are blessed with an unmatched longevity. Unlike the twitchy executive, their decision is final and historic, raising or sinking others permanently. It seems though that this is mostly a role of consumption, cynicism and editing, and not one of creativity. On the other hand, judgment can turn to revolution.

Of course, these distinctions tend to blend together. For example, Presidents and Supreme Court Justices do love to legislate. And all artists have decided long ago that they are, and will be for all time, the best.


PS. Interesting to note that the concept of God has the characteristics of both creator (thought up the world) and judge (is the arbiter of ultimate truth). Yet there is no executive power! One could say then that the executive is defined by her ability to err, and is thus truly unique to humanity. Conclusion: the credit crisis is a metaphor for human nature and free will.