Sunday, April 27, 2014


I speculate on phases that I think each artist has to pass through, developmental phases like that of an infant to an adult. For example, I think each artist has to reach a stage where they are willing to actually put their work out there for consumption, another usually later stage is learning to ask people to pay for your art.

I'm not sure where it is, but I think an artist needs to free themselves from a yoke of originality. Which isn't particularly fair to label as 'originality' I just lack a better word. But that's perhaps why I feel compelled to write about it. I was watching a certain somewhat popular band play the supporting slot for Erykah Badu when it hit me, the trouble with originality.

As an ideal, it tends to be overstated. I mean, people often treat 'originality' and 'creativity' as synonyms which isn't fair, being creative if merely engaging in the act of creating. It doesn't necessitate being original as well. Many creatives are dedicated to very rigid forms, the beauty of what they create driven by the adherence to the rules of those forms.

But when I say 'originality' is over stated, I think many artists get into their head the pursuit of some holy-grail. Some wholly original work, a quantum creation plucked from the ether that bears no resemblance to any preceding piece of art. An immaculately conceived idea.

Hok sput.

It's bullshit. Hogwash. Quantum breakthroughs do occur. But it's rare. The problem I have with artists caught up in originality, is as near as I can articulate this:

It doesn't produce good art.

Whatever that means, here's what I mean - 'originality' isn't an aesthetic as such. It just means without precedent. You wan't your art not to resemble anything. It doesn't matter how it doesn't resemble anything.

That's a very hard thing to try and imagine. It's a very hard thing to avoid by accident, it would take a lot of research to figure out every form thus far created, and then avoid them all. I don't think anybody does it.

What artists tend to do when aiming for originality is attack the problem in very predictable ways. They attack the foundations, break the forms. A much lighter challenge than taking an existing form or genre and then creating a wholly new iteration of it.

So they attack the underpinning, and create... a mess. Those striving for the original tend to produce shit that hurts the ear drums or waters the eyes. They take existing rules and break them. But it's always the big obvious rules. Not a partial deconstruction, and the original works wind up being predictable and cliched. The contemporary and avant garde tend to resemble each other as much if not more than the works of antiquity.

Those striving for originality so rarely achieve it. Which is to be expected.

I find the pursuit quite juvenile, in the egocentric moody teen years of being an artist. Where one draws or paints or writes or composes to express themselves as unique, special, a rebellious identity. They create in an attempt to create themselves, a self they hope is worthwhile.

Just create because you love creating, that you deal with a subject you are into. If you can't manage that, create because you are getting paid.

I often think about Einstein and just what chain of events lead him to sit around contemplating the curvature of the universe. I mean would it ever occur to you to think about that? The geometric qualities of space and time itself? It never occured to me, and I probably got taught more in year 11 physics than was understood by most physicists of Einsteins age. Admittedly a year 11 student is never going to go deep. But I raise Einstein because that's imagination. Almost an unrivaled imagination, but I don't know. Maybe you mixed in the right circles and curvature of space and time seems a very obvious thing to concern oneself with.

I'm going to postulate that Einsteins are rare, and I imagine it takes that kind of imagination to come up with something truly original. The vast majority of people don't have it. What we see at the cutting edge of art I think, are people who aren't obsessed with being the cutting edge, and never were. They were obsessed with something, something forgotten or overlooked by most, but was commonplace to somebody somewhere. And through their obsession with this overlooked subject they made it new again.

That's not originality, that's love.

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