Tag Archives: Creativity

Communicating faster than creativity

I ponder in my isolation as only the digital era could provide the question of creativity in our time. We have it and use and present all over, yet I wonder whether we realize the shallowness it exudes in the newness of complexity that all these intersecting signals have created. We raced to get here as fast as we can asking not what it means but rather what it can do, or do better, or faster, or longer, or smaller. We threw our net wide and incorporated the world from streaming internationally to communicating globally. The Earth isn’t as large or mysterious as it once was, the universe too now shrinks more and more. We hunger for information, raw and unchecked, that we aggregate it all to measure its success. Yet through this conglomerate of what we can present we have lost something meaningful, something only human. In our hunger to know we’ve forgotten context and depth. What matters now is a false sense of objective knowledge crowd sourced to the masses. In that importance we deemed the editor unnecessary, the journalist a waste, and the critic ourselves. With the communication of the digital age we all became the critics and informants of our own world, assuming that because we can now get around the critical eye, the critical eye is no longer necessary. Why learn from a historian what you can google on wikipedia? Why read from a journalist what you can learn first hand from twitter? why pay to experience the new when you can create (or decide) it for yourself?

The internet and the digital age has such an ability to create depth and yet all it has been used for is breath. We are losing touch with creativity because we no longer know what it means to be creative. We trust that which we don’t understand and fear that which is unfamiliar. We are as lost as ever despite everything that is helping us get found.

In all these vague generalizations what I really mean to say is something rather simple: We have lost our desire to be challenged intellectually. The 20th century saw the childhood of this concept in art, modernism though born in the 19th century truly came into its self in the 20th. But in so doing it created a world of art that needed to be engaged, thought through, and then understood. Modernism isn’t easy art, you can’t look at it once and understand it, it takes time and thought and engagement and discussion and research and understanding, and an open mind above all. But with all the tools of communication at our fingertips we have no interest in spending time figuring something out, rather we’ll just google it. And in so doing, we fail to fully understand it.

I challenge us and myself to stop googling. I challenge us to return to our tried and true techniques of learning the hard way. Use what has come before us, trust the disciplined approach it takes to be called a historian or journalist. And if through the internet we have come to believe that these academic processes for creating measures of distinction in our society are truly damaged or corrupt then lets fix them.

-Huysmans

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What we can learn from Pixar

It is easy today to get lost in everything that is offered up to us. From social media to a high budget Hollywood films to episodic literary fiction there is so much to distract us, to placate us that I believe we have forgotten what we are capable of. I grew up with the internet, and love its potential… but I hate its reality. The internet and all its crowd sourcing power has changed the way we view the world ever so slightly, but in that slight change it has had a significant impact. We don’t trust the expert anymore. In the past news came from those who, through countless years of discipline, had earned the right to deliver it to us. Music was achieved through hard work and rigorous study…not song editing on youtube. And art… art was painful nuanced process that through careful analysis and inspired emotional revolution developed a modern sense. But it stopped there, it stopped because the world didn’t understand that modern sense and never tried to. Today we live without it, lost in a continuous recreation of the modern art world, not realizing that has already happened… multiple times.

Here is where PIxar comes into place. There is an underlying message in their films, and underlying push to challenge what is expected, what is believed to be wanted, and instead pushes for the new. Most literally this comes from Ratatouille where Anton Ego gives his review of the delicious meal he enjoyed. Additionally you could say that it came from an earlier scene where Remy confronts his dad about the ideas of change and nature. The message is clear that conformity and preservation are inadequate for a successful society. We must change and we must fight for that new change. Pixar may not have been directly attacking museums and our arts institutions with this film but I am. If we preserve art as something to be preserved we will lose it forever.

Let’s continue this. I have no link to explain where Wall-E fits except the credits. The credits tie the film to exactly what I have always seen it represent. The culmination of Disney’s dream, emotion through animation. For a large portion of the film dialog isn’t used to convey the plot, rather we visually follow the developing romance of two robots. Disney believed in the power of animation as a tool to convey emotion and he gave himself to his characters. In times past Disney has honored this tradition, the eyes in Pocahontas for example, but recently they lost sight of it. Wall-E set them back on the path by taking inorganic objects (robots) and giving them the emotion enough to convey an entire love story to us.

At the end of Pixar’s short Day and Night we find a radio broadcast defending just how beautiful the new is how scared we are of it. This example might be my favorite as the animation behind it is rather ingenious. Seemingly two dimensional characters are interacting for the first time and at first fighting but by the end are friendly. What makes it near breathtaking is the three dimensional environment that makes up their bodies, one filled by a daytime scene while the other a nighttime scene. As the two move throughout the film we see the environment their bodies are windows on change between day and night. Again Pixar uses no dialog save the radio announcement at the end of the film but is still very capable of telling a story.

Pixar is screaming at us to embrace the new, to fight for it and honor it. I imagine part of their interest is in their own image as the new, which isn’t far from the truth. They allowed for Disney’s second renaissance which is still going strong and pushed the boundaries of computer animation to such an extent that it now makes up the mainstream. But at the same time when in control of Disney’s animation studios, revived and expanded them to re-imagine the cartoon short.

Though this very well may be obvious to many I still wanted to gather my thoughts in one place and encourage further discussion on them. Pixar to me is a beacon of newness that is both pushing the boundary and making it popular at the same time. We need this level of creativity and risk to infiltrate more of the arts and move away from the idea that the arts is something to preserve. The arts is something that should challenge us and push our abilities both to create and to contemplate.

This is what I believe we can learn from Pixar.

 

-Huysmans

 

PS1 isn’t.

I finally made it to one of PS1’s Saturday concerts. I was disappointed. Sure the music and venue went well together and the $8 beer certainly helped remind me I was at a concert. But all in the art is limited in its appeal and lacking in its depth. I am now coming to terms with the idea that this particular museum houses the rejects from the more prominently located MoMa. But as far as rejects go this is no Salon of 1863, rather it is a conglomerate of artistic instillations that are nauseating in their attempt at  “ironic” art. Contemporary art cannot exist as a shadow of the violent and extraordinary gains of the 20th century. True that today we live in a post-modern world, a world where nearly every boundary ever to exist in the realm of art has been torn down. Yet that does not mean that everything today exists as art, in reality it is somewhat the opposite. With the boundaries destroyed and the internet thrusting communication to a instantaneous and global level, an artist today must be extremely diligent in getting recognized. PS1 and MoMa need to be beacons for these artists, they need to go out and explore the unknown, cast a wide net, and find the new. They need to protect the new and help it grow. We are hungry for the new, for the creative and provocative art of our generation. Stop giving us imitators of the modern! Give us the contemporary spirit that will create the next inspiring movement.

Become the now.

Huysmans out!

The Art of Teaching Part 2: Creativity

Creativity as a subject is as I mentioned last time not new, but perhaps has not been fulling understood or executed. The idea behind it is to create an art like class that does more than just basic visual arts, it allows for students to discover what exactly they are creative in. But the problem is it rarely focuses on creativity as much as it focuses on talent. In the examples I have observed students do better by finding the medium they excel in, not creatively, but rather as a measure of talent.

Rather what a class based in creativity should be is a measure of how to think on your own. Creativity is not limited to art alone, it is something that we uniquely bring to everything we do. There is creativity in even the most basic human actions of eating and moving. When we teach it, and we should teach it, we need to focus not on exercises of talent in any specific field or medium but rather on how to do something your own way. In a sense such a class would fly in the face of your traditional subject classes which take so much time teaching a very specific, formulaic approach. So yes this would be rather difficult to incorporate into any traditional system already in place.

But It is necessary all the same. Success in life doesn’t come from following the rules but from breaking or augmenting them. I’m not suggesting that this be a class to teach revolution or decent but rather that it focus on the simple idea of thinking for yourself and in your own way. Those two ideas, simple in presentation yet complex in execution, would form the foundation of a creativity class essential for cultivating independent thinkers.

Lastly such class would need be early in the educational plan, save time for teaching specific ideas for later. Once a student has mastered the concepts of creativity they are ready to engage in history and science on a whole new level.

Thoughts?

-huysmans

The Art of Teaching, Part 1

For the next couple of weeks and perhaps a lot longer I will engage this blog in a series of discussions on the topic of teaching. More specifically on the relationship between art and teaching. This relationship, though unyieldingly general, is extremely important when its specifics are identified. I am/was (depending on the NYC budget and its cuts) a middle school science teacher at an inner city school. In addition to my science classes I also taught an art history/ appreciation class. Therefore when I talk about art and teaching I mean much more than teaching art or using art to teach content. Ultimately there is no end to where and how art relates to teaching and perhaps that is why an art critic like myself ended up as a teacher… of science.

Therefore in the next few weeks expect these posts to take no general form and to be full of errors and contradictions. I DO NOT WANT TO EDIT THESE. I want the ideas to flow, the mistakes to be apparent, and the evolution of thought as I and whomever else wants to participate engage in understanding what exactly the role of art is in education.

Let me start with this:
Were I to rethink and redesign education from the bare bones I would do away with the assumed four core classes of ELA (English Language Arts), Math, Social Studies, and Science and introduce an alternative four core classes as follows:

Creativity

Observation

Analytical Thought

Communication

When one makes it all the way to high school these would clearly not be the subjects, and in fact by high school a subject by any of these names should not exist as an option. What I mean by introducing these four subjects (most of which are not unfamiliar to education) are to suggest that these four ideas should be the focus of lower school education. These are four ideas, four concepts, four activities of our brain that are at the route of everything we do and everything that makes us uniquely human.

Thoughts?

-huysmans