Media: My Essay-Creative Vivisection-In The Daily Constitutional, NYC, USA

Daily Constitutional #6 CoverThis publication ran from 2006-2009

Daily Constitutional Launch - By Proxy (Issue 6, Summer 2008, Saturday, August 16, 2008, 5:00-7:00 pm.

Printed Matter, Inc. is pleased to announce a launch for Issue 6 ("By Proxy") of the Daily Constitutional, a bi-annual magazine devoted to providing a platform for artists projects and writings. My article Creative Vivisection is part of Issue 6. The launch will take place on Saturday, August 16th from 5:00-7:00 PM. Printed Matter is located at 195 10th Avenue (between 21 and 22nd Streets) in New York City. Support this innovative, creative and intelligent journal which poses all the tough questions about the contemporary art market and the real experiences of today's artists.


Creative Vivisection

NB March 2008: This essay appears in The Daily Chronicle's Issue 6 (June 2008) as is.

Today’s editorials exude the illusion that creativity is a tame beast. The proponents of managerial utopias busily recruiting creativity to sell their message are often shocked when they try and harness this beast primarily for economic or corporate prestige. When they look for the innovative idea that will save or raise the bottom line, they find that nature has a mind of its own.

Since Harvard’s MBA professors anointed ‘A’rtists as the next wave of business accessories, the word ‘innovation’ has been doped with steroids.One of the current solutions helping senior management everywhere to avoid introspection and self-honesty is to harness ‘creativity’ or creative individuals as engines of change. Most often this change is economic, although thankfully the buzz that accompanied Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class is giving way to the sober realization that creativity doesn’t actually work unless there is a grain of sense to it. The public today will simply vomit it up.

False innovation rhetoric
turns our reverie into a revision controlled outside
of the privacy of our inner world.

Sadly, creative people also find their process being harnessed to support the corporate and political ethos of some pretty shallow goals.

Anyone who rents a DVD knows that creativity can be entertaining and make loads of money. What they forget is that creativity is also a dialogue with ourselves. In this dialogue we unlock the door to change, where the beast of indecision, confusion, and chaos lie waiting. Hardly great news for risk management analysts. Creatively-deficit benefactors also do not realize that, like a Medusa, staring at truth means losing control. This is naturally the opposite effect of harnessing the engine of creativity for profit.

A battle is therefore being fought in the popular mind about the role of creativity that has not been seen for some time. But is this a Renaissance or a Rort? And where does the artist find themselves in this new marketplace of ideas? Creatives or artists usually spend years getting to know this beast, and either befriend it or train it to serve their ends.

The third option of course, is that the beast tears you apart, and you make great fodder for some Indie screenwriter to turn your life into a biopic. That is, of course, if you distinguish yourself past the millions of other artists simply screwing up their life and dropping dead without an obituary. But if you have survived a few years of artistic travel without too many addictions, your skills as an animal trainer make you a valuable asset to HR managers eager to look innovative for the top brass.

Creatives recruited to serve the new innovation bandwagon, however, risk becoming deaf to their inner dialogue if they allow the most shallow managerialist gurus to redefine creativity for a society bereft of meaning. In our technological Disneyland, functionality is only a part of creativity. Yes, it dominates the growing list of skills required from creative recruits, but Robert Putnam has done much to help us understand that ‘social capital’ has a crucial role to play in how we administer our resources.

Utopians who rationalize creativity to fit in nicely with ideas of ‘economic man’ or some management guru’s twist on game theory that he thinks he can market in the business press, risk sterilizing their little pet. And despite the discomfort of domesticating it, society needs this animal to evolve in order to unleash that social capital into society. False innovation rhetoric turns our reverie into a revision controlled outside of the privacy of our inner world. Certainly creativity and innovation is needed in the world. But we should pay heed to that core of self-honesty that comes with living with the beast.

History has many lessons of powerful leaders, societies, and ideologues that have used creativity as a spearhead into the population to increase their power and influence. When Nazi propagandist filmmaker Leni Riefendstahl was asked about the Holocaust in her 1997 interview with the New York Times she said, "I did not know what was going on. I did not know anything about those things." To say it’s about selling out doesn’t even come close.

Creative practitioners are both educators and gatekeepers to this knowledge. They need to know the power they possess, and that havoc and inspiration paint from the same brush. We need to acknowledge the seduction of our benefactors’ adulation and our role in being co-opted as functionaries to managerialist fads. In the diminishing sense, we need to protect the sacredness of creativity from the hungry, but one-dimensional perceptions of the innovation-obsessed.

By avoiding reflection on the role of creativity in people's lives, we risk turning the innovation bandwagon into a false Renaissance. It is a revolution, but as we have seen throughout history, change that rides on the black market of creative vivisection can destroy, as well as create.

Artists should bear this in mind before they take off on holiday and leave the beast with neighbors they don’t trust.


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