Recently I’ve been seriously thinking about the process of creation, the nature of creativity.
Where does it come from?
Whats it for?
How does it feel???
Not so much the act of creating itself, but everything that leads up to and underlies it. Leaving aside questions of fine art vs crafts vs galleries vs internet communities etc., so far my thoughts have run something like this:
All Creation starts with an Urge, the Urge to create. Even creations that are made for a commission are inherently grounded in this Urge, they start there. Many artists talk about the need to make art, as though it was as necessary as breathing, and almost as automatic in some cases, which is a good illustration of the existence of this Urge to Create. Other than artists, though, you’ve got creative people everywhere, who decorate their home, cook interesting things, write beautiful letters, say interesting things… all these acts are creative when they too are rooted in the Urge to create.
Every act of creation starts with this Urge, and this is true even in the case of commissioned work for several reasons, of which I shall mention two: firstly, an individual will be offered a commission because they express this Urge normally, and will accept because they can feel the Urge to create (except in cases where it is done purely for money, in which case its not truly creation, but even then the individual has chosen that method of making money, presumably, because they feel the Urge to create, otherwise they’d have chosen a different path). Secondly, the individual will only be able to start work on the piece when they have that Urge, when it rises in them and gives them something to work with.
This Urge is bodily, anyone who has felt it can tell you how it grips the muscles, makes your fingers itch to type, to mould, to paint, how your face responds to the feeling, how your stomach begins to feel tight… there are any number of ways you can feel it. A physical Urge to make physical manifestations. It unsettles you until you give in and find an outlet.
Sometimes, as when a creation feels like a response to an inspiration, it looks like the act of creation starts with an idea, but in fact that idea is part of what shapes the Urge as it becomes Expression through Creation. An inspiration may provide an outlet for the Urge, but in itself it does not initiate the act, otherwise we would have a great deal more creations floating around.
This Urge has to move through various Resistances before it can be acted upon. Internal Resistances include the skills of the individual, their beliefs and hang-ups and preferences around creativity, all things which, thankfully, get in the way of pure expression: thankfully because pure expression would simply be a formless mess. Our Resistances give shape to the Urge as it wells up and tries to move outwards in Expression. External Resistances also play a part, from the availability of time, space and materials, to the cultural limits and expectations around the individual, our form of Expression is shaped.
And at the same time there are Influences. Influences in and and the individual: elements which shape the form the Expression will take, including visual input, inspirations, the brief of a commission, the individual’s favourite mediums and styles, memories and experiences and so on.
All these things combine in Expression driven by the Urge.
The Urge rises, is forged by the Resistances, Influenced by the feelings, ideas, memories and inspirations of the individual, and it flows out of the person as an Expression which carries all these things.
At this point you have work, concentration, skill and so on, all going into creating whatever is being created. But where does the Urge to Create come from in the first place???
It seems to me that the Urge to Create is rooted in the Urge to Life. Every living thing has something we call a survival instinct, every healthy human drives towards life, longs to live, and will fight to stay alive. But living is more than just surviving, to live is to affirm your existence, to express that you are alive, and who and what you are. This Urge to live, to express, comes out in some people in the Urge to Create. Creation is a form of Expression, and, as evidenced by the joy we gain from creating, sharing creations, and admiring other’s creations, it is a remarkably social expression for something that is so personal.
Creation, then, is a form of expression which involves making something manifest, although the kind of thing it must manifest to be creation is a question for another time. It is social, and personal, shaped by personal make-up and circumstances and desires and yet speaking to others of something shared.
What do you think? How does creation feel to you?
Heidegger isn’t my favourite philosopher by a long shot, as you know. From the Hegelian/Marxist kind of perspective it seems like the big question to arise out of creativity is quite different.
As I understand Hegel, the nature of human life comes from the survival urge, which is desire, an urge to negate and consume in order to survive.
In order to fulfil this urge, we end up living, creating, producing.
By changing the universe, we come to understand it. So our understanding of how things work always draws from our experience, and ultimately, from the forms of production we carry out.
So what doesn’t just express who we are, it helps to form us. I’m still not sure that art can have a use. It seems to me that art, as useless expenditure, is about creation which isn’t for anything. It’s a way we can form ourselves as people who are not subservient to other things.
Of course, this is all very not orthodox Marxist. I feel duty bound to add that I should add the the majority of production is production to develop surplus wealth and that this means that economics, rather than art, is the primary means we have of understanding people.
Man, I’m tired. And so to bed.
“Heidegger isn’t my favourite philosopher by a long shot, as you know. From the Hegelian/Marxist kind of perspective it seems like the big question to arise out of creativity is quite different.”
Just to clarify, the above post isn’t from Heidegger but from my thoughts, I’m not sure whether he’d agree in the least with my characterisation of creation.
“As I understand Hegel, the nature of human life comes from the survival urge, which is desire, an urge to negate and consume in order to survive.”
Now see, thats interesting. As I understand people, the nature of human life actually comes from the urge to live, which is more than just survive. The survival-urge is a trait we share with most living things, but living is a bit different to surviving: currently I’m working with the idea that living is more about expression, not necessarily through creation, but through all the forms of life possible. This urge to live funnelled through the creative-expressive streak results in creativity… resulting in some cases in art. Art, then, is a result of the urge to express/live.
Now you could just say that creation is a negation of what came before, and thus return to Hegel above… but I’d disagree. Creation may involve a negation of how what is is, but it involves a desire to create rather than destroy (even if destruction is a part of that creation, see Michael Landy’s Break Down: http://www.artangel.org.uk/projects/2001/break_down . He was creating a statement through destruction. The point wasn’t to destroy but to create through destruction.)
“In order to fulfil this urge, we end up living, creating, producing.”
So we create because we want to negate? Why that way round, why not that we negate because we want to create, to express, to live?
“By changing the universe, we come to understand it. So our understanding of how things work always draws from our experience, and ultimately, from the forms of production we carry out.
So what doesn’t just express who we are, it helps to form us.”
I’m happy with this, either way round, creation, negation… we learn, we grow, we understand and are shaped by what we do… and so on…
“I’m still not sure that art can have a use. It seems to me that art, as useless expenditure, is about creation which isn’t for anything. It’s a way we can form ourselves as people who are not subservient to other things.”
Now here it seems like you’ve contradicted yourself. This shaping and expressing is a use, I’d agree that it wasn’t a function, like artworks aren’t necessarily functional in the way tools are, but the creative act has a point, a use, it is a way in which we express ourselves, as a result of our desire to live. As it is used to live it has this use, and so it fulfils something more than just being merely a waste.
Besides this, artworks themselves can change minds, open doors, inspire, intrigue, entertain, decorate, remind, comfort, shock, surprise, question, tell stories… and are often deliberately created for these purposes. How are you reducing all those things to simply useless expenditure?
“Now see, thats interesting. As I understand people, the nature of human life actually comes from the urge to live, which is more than just survive.”
Have you ever come across Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Humans tend to fulfil their basic desires first. This is a pure case of negation. We feel and absence of hunger, so we destroy food in order to negate the negation.
I would argue that humans start from the very basic objective facts of desire and the negation of desire, and from there they develop more complex concepts and urges which surpass but include the original survival urge.
The urge to create does not arise spontaneously from some inner nature, but develops out of the context of our relationship to desire and production.
“Now you could just say that creation is a negation of what came before, and thus return to Hegel above… but I’d disagree.”
I’m sure Hegel wouldn’t see art so nihilistically, I remember he wrote several long, confusing and very interesting chapters on art and beauty, though to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what they say. The Phenomenology of Mind ate my brain when I was reading it. I’m rallying my energy to attack it again.
But I think it would be fair to say that the desire to negate is a starting point for humans, but that the urge to create is a development on from that. In the same way that you can’t explain an artwork in terms of what it is made out of, you cannot explain an artwork solely in terms of the artist’s relationship with the economic basis of their society.
Good point on reduction. Art is not a simple issue at all. I think that architecture often becomes a form of art. And art can be produced for sale or for therapy.
Still, I think that what we value in art is that which is valuable in-itself. I find this hard to explain. Something that is beautiful is not necessarily functional for us, it isn’t necessarily possible to sell in order to make a profit and it won’t necessarily sustain us. Beauty can even end up hurting us, but it doesn’t stop being beautiful.
The reason I characterised this as useless expenditure is because I don’t think there is a primal urge that art expresses. The process of developing culture means going beyond production and desire and means that we develop needs that cannot be met within the narrative of history as production of surplus.
There is a contradiction here, people need beauty precisely because it is, according to our basic social needs, completely unnecessary.
Working on something unnecessary lets us create ourselves through our art as a being that is not determined by its social use. I guess, thinking about this, this means that the goal of art is not to express anything internal to ourselves or our society, instead beauty is about forming a soul.
Although I don’t like that phrasing. I’m going to have to think of a more mechanistic, nihilistic, fundamentally organised and proper word for “soul”. Yeah.