Week 1 – Time Travel with the Doctor (Spoors)

How often do we truly realise that many of the ideologies and thoughts that we so easily accept today – the rights of the individual, for example – didn’t simply appear, freshly formed, in our prehistoric minds, but were instead the result of thousands of years of societal evolution. Not often, which was what made Dr. Spoors centuries spanning exploration of the perception of Creativity so fascinating! After all, what other characteristic, besides basic physiology, is as innately unique and species defining as humanities creativity? And considering the fact that we’ve been the lucky possessors (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) of this fantastic trait since at least 290,000 BCE (“Bhimbetka Petroglyphs – Auditorium Cave and Daraki-Chattan Petroglyphs”, n.d) we should obviously know all there is to know about our creativity by now.

Bhimbetka Petroglyphs, Venus of Willendorf, Venus of Schelklingen

From left to right: Copule and Meander Petroglyph – The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters (“Bhimbetka Petroglyphs – Auditorium Cave and Daraki-Chattan Petroglyphs”, n.d), The Venus of Willendorf (24000 – 22000BCE) (Whitcombe n.d.) and her less famous older sister, Venus of Schelklingen (Hohlefels Höhle - Cave or Rock Shelter in Germany in Baden-Wuerttemberg -n.d.)

Nope. Turns out the definition of creativity has been on constant flux since man first dragged something sharp across a smooth surface. The thing that seemed to strike me through-out Dr. Spoors lecture was the slow movement of creativity from being recognised as something externally derived (be it divine, shamanistic or the result of outside intervention ) to something so wholly internal and intrinsic to our humanity that we even use it as a measure of the effectiveness of certain AI (Artificial Creativity, n.d.)

Although hopefully not too creative

Hopefully they don't get too creative...

In the modern sense, the definition of creativity has expanded in ways to include not only the obvious associations – such as the arts language – but in modes of thinking, the methods we perform business and our day to day lives. We are all, in a sense, creative, in that we may all be given the same task, and yet apply ourselves to it in a myriad of unique and different ways – a definition perhaps influenced by our modern technology. After all, it is possible to run the same program with the same variables a millions of times, and always end up with the same answer –

blue screen windows seven

er....most of the time....

But give a human being the same materials and same direction and the possibilities are endless.

Which brings me to my next point.

Where to next? Eko Pams’ lectures on Design History (Design Foundations: Design History) often emphasises the effect the availability of materials and certain technologies have on the type of art produced by a society (for example, you would never find evidence of delicate ice-sculptures produced in Ancient Egypt), so how will our creativity be defined in the future? Will it be expanded to include the works not only of non-human players (such as Ruby, one of many elephants who have developed the ability to produce art ), but of non-living or cognitive players as well?

But is it art?

Paintings produced by the little turtle robot AARON (Cohen, n.d.). Sure it's pretty, but is it Art? Is something that lacks drive and motivation really capable of expressing itself if it has nothing to express?

Speaking of technology altering our perception of the world, this weeks reading ‘Cocks Crow’ was interesting for a modern reader such as myself – one unfamiliar with the idea of the night as an almost inaccessible place – alien and bereft of the comforting glow of streetlights. While certainly romanticised to a degree, the author wastes no time in enunciating the previous ills of the ‘old’ night, along with its peaceful benefits, before eventually lamenting the loss of what he sees as the ‘fanciful world of our dreams’ and with it, a ‘better understanding of ourselves’. While I do agree that the loss of the night may have altered humanities creative endeavours from its previous methods, it is also entirely possible that new, unthought of avenues, would come to only emerge as a result of the recession of the night. The rapid globalisation, for example, could only have happened if the communication between, for example, Beijing and Chicago were permitted to accommodate massive time differences due to lighting and the internet. But, as with all new technologies, from the automobile to the cellphone, there are prices to pay. The fact that most of my mornings only begin because my phone has started to vibrate is one of them. The twenty-four hour lifestyle that Ekirch only briefly hints at in his passage is now the norm. And with it, a new, constantly ‘switched on’ generation that lives in a world that never sleeps has arrived. The night has vanished, and taken with it our privacy, our intimacy and, perhaps he was right, just a little bit of our previous humanity. Not to say that we haven’t in recompense, been furnished with something new and novel – a way to connect with people we would never have previously connected with. A means of encouraging social examination and political upheaval where before, such ideas would never have been given the chance to grow. In a way, despite Ekirchs obvious lament for a lost age, the new age, while different from the previous one, is a positive one. After all, who wants to work by candle-light?

On the subject of work (I’m kidding), this weeks tutorial focussed on our creative selves, it’s relationship to the rest of the world, and if we felt creativity was something divinely or internally produced. Personally, I like to believe I’m a creative person. Sure, that’s probably a biased opinion, but it’s one that continues to motivate me through some of what people would consider the less enjoyable aspects of life. I don’t mind the wait at the restaurant, because (if I’m still waiting for someone), I can just whip out my sketch book and attempt to draw people without making the subject vastly uncomfortable (a surprisingly difficult thing to do). A stint in the doctors surgery is a fantastic time to imagine the various life-threatening diseases (are they all?) that the people around me are hypothetically suffering from. Really, being a creative person is perhaps the only reason I haven’t gone completely mad, and taken as many people with me. Or perhaps I have, and don’t realise it yet.

As for where I believe my creativity comes from, I certainly don’t believe it to be anything religious in nature. Certainly, I was lucky enough to grow up in an extremely rich cultural environment – and as religion was a large part of it, many of the stories and fairytales my mother would tell me were very different from the sort many of my Australia friends grew up with. In that way, I might be seen as creative from some of the stories and narrative conventions I take for granted – but only when viewed by someone who didn’t grow up in a similar environment to mine. In the same vein, I don’t really put much stock in the idea of a muse, or some other entity that inspires me to create. However, inspiration – whether as the result of pure chance or extensive meditation, is definitely something I’ve experienced. The pure brilliance of that ‘aha’ moment is what drives me seek out new and varied experiences – to do and experiment with things in ways that I’ve never tried before. Which is why while I like the idea of inspiration from an outside source, I don’t particularly buy into the ‘muse’ aspect of romanticised sources of inspiration.

After all – in most instances, I’ve found, it isn’t inspiration that finds you. It’s you that finds the inspiration.

In Soviet Russia, Waldo finds you!

I feel there's a Mother Russia joke here somewhere....

The one source of creativity that I feel hits very close to home is the idea that sometimes, loneliness and suffering are essential to the creation of good, if not then at least interesting, works. Human beings have always been interested in the ‘other’. Too often we forget the miracles present in our own lives. But how often have you been absolutely mesmerised by something completely alien to the norm? Furthermore, possessing a sort of loneliness or ‘otherliness’ often allows an artist or creator to view the world from a different perspective – that is, from a place outside of the rest of society. But of course it’s not essential. Just another aspect that could be used in the production of creative works.

And finally – how does the passage of the day affect my creativity? Well, quite a lot actually. I am physically incapable of getting anything decent done between the hours of four and five thirty pm.

Deal or no Deal

Or as I like to call it: The Deal or No Deal hour ("No Deal for Andrew O' Keef", 2008)

And inexplicably, my best ideas seem to arrive at that precise golden moment when I’m shampooing my hair and have nothing to write on. Or while I’m driving and have nothing to write on. Or while I’m half awake at four am with nothing to wri- you get the idea. But other then inspiration hitting me at only the most inconvenient times, I find that the time or night or day has very little bearing on how creative I’m feeling. If anything, I can be creative at any given moment (provided, from evidence, that I have nothing to right on).

Eckhart was right. There are no more nights. Only occasionally dim twenty-four hour days.

Additional Reading:

References:

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5 thoughts on “Week 1 – Time Travel with the Doctor (Spoors)

  1. Hrafn says:

    Not many that can write an article about creativity and live to post the entry (tough subject). Nice one. And thanks for referencing me, glad I could provide some info.

    • And not many can read through the whole of it and live to tell the tale either – thank you! And no worries – thank you for making the topic so accessible. It’s strange that, much like Intelligence, we have a difficult time defining what exactly creativity is. It would be fascinating to leap forward a few hundred years to see how our concepts of such things have evolved from now.
      But then, I’m just looking for any excuse to leap forward (through time) to finally receive the hoverboard hollywoods been promising me from the late eighties.
      Also, on the topic of creativity in ai – would you suppose that any creative works produced as a result of ai be considered the work of the (let’s use the word) robot or the artist (that is, the robot would be considered one of the artists ‘tools’ for the creation of art). Sort of in the same way nobody would attribute a work of art to the painters paintbrush. What do you think?

  2. bethwyn says:

    I like it! And I agree with the ‘inspiration finds you’ idea. It’s funny, it always strikes at the worst moment!
    You have a different reaction to the sleeping patterns concept than I did. I never quite realised it but you’re right, our phones are on all the time. We never switch them off when we go to bed and, if someone calls at 1am, most of us actually answer the call. We’re never disconnected to the technical world so we get less and less time to be alone and let our minds take over.
    Then again, with all this delving into creativity, I’m finding my mind has changed it’s default setting from ‘vacuous rubbish’ to ‘scholarly insight’. I spent fifteen minutes last night thinking about why first-world white men are the typical writers of alien invasion stories and why (possibly because they’re terrified that something that their ancestors have done for so long will come back and bite them in the behind), instead of my usual idiotic humming and thinking about what I’m going to wear.

  3. It actually upsets me a little that many of my younger family members never seem to get bored the way I used to as a kid. Not for any reason other then nowadays, there is just so many forms of entertainment they can indulge in! From television to their computers to their consoles, every waking moment is filled with some pre-fabricated form of boredom destroying action. Which is sad cos boredom was once one of the most common precursor to many of the grand adventures my sister and I would have. You’re right that we’re so connected that our conscious minds have little to no freedom to wander.

    And you’re definitely gonna find the Creative Psyche reading interesting in that case – which mentions the kind of projecting you were thinking about in that ‘alien invasion’ scenario.

  4. thortownsend says:

    Love it, love the quirky remarks very cool

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