Creativity - Mark Sheeky

“I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams.”1

Thus spake André Breton (or rather wrake, wroke, wrote). The very word 'dream' means to imagine, to muse. We can dream of a great future, and often do; people rarely 'have a dream' that is doomed somehow. To dream is to aspire, and so dreams, the word in English at least, is fundamentally linked with a positive force for creativity and imagination.

The lightning of Zeus strikes a marble altar. Upon it were carved the letters 'SIGMUND FREUD'. It explodes into a thousand fist-sized chunks.

Creative imaginative thought, is after all, the goal of an artist, is it not? Is it possible to be an artist, a good one, and not be creative?

No. The very role of artist is that of creator; that is its definition. The more creative an artist is, the better he or she is as an artist. The supreme artist is infinitely creative. Artists, in the tedium of actual life, are often specialists, but this is only due to a limited capacity for work and mastery of a certain skill. The ideal artist is a generalist; a master of all skills and all media, and infinitely creative.

The creative idea is any thought that differs from consensus. The more creative the idea, the more it differs from the consensus view. This reinforces the broad thrust of our earlier revelations on art; that good art is rebellious.

This understanding has important implications for artists because art is an industry driven by creativity, and industry, as a faculty of capitalism, which, when ideal, is the practical,  logical expression of the natural psychology of humankind, depends partly on popularity.

At its most extreme, an artist must choose between a creative idea, which is unpopular, or a popular idea that is uncreative. Working artists tend to need a degree of popularity to survive. There are many more uncreative artists successfully creating their mediocre, mainstream, poor artworks, than genuinely creative artists. The genuinely creative artists are necessarily working on unpopular ideas. Of course, not all unpopular ideas are good art, but they are always creative, and so, on some level, we could say that they are created by good artists. This at least indicates that a great artist can create terrible art. Great artists beware.

One must ask, what benefit does the supremely creative idea have if it is unpopular with everyone? Well, not all creative ideas are good art. There are many factors in a good work of art, creativity is but one, but one can say that an uncreative idea creates bad art. Using this logic, you can recognise bad art by its very popularity; bad art is popular as soon as it is born.

But of course, this can't always be the case because some good art is popular, and masterpieces can remain popular, as well as excellent works of art, for centuries. There are several reasons why this is the case:

Firstly, these great works were creative once. These began as obscure and original, and grew to become popular. These pioneer works are often imitated, and sometimes surpassed by their imitators, but the first new work in a series or genus always holds a special power because of its seed of originality.

Secondly, like the emotional contrast present within a great artwork, it can also contain new creativity within it; be of sufficient size, complexity, and originality, that new depth, new ideas, and new revolutions can be discovered and uncovered within it again and again. This is another factor of genius present in all timeless masterpieces.

It is also an important function of art that it drives trends. Art creates new, unpopular ideas, which become popular. Things that begin as popular, that fit in, that are normal, can never create a trend or instigate change. This is why creativity is important for society, it is the embryo of the future. Change is inevitable, and the creative idea determines what things change into.

I gaze up to the red grey storm clouds, dark and foaming. They boil like a vast brain.

When do we, as humans, as apes, need to be creative?
When we need to decide whether to fight or flee. When we need to find food or shelter or some other thing for our survival. When we need to make a choice. We need creativity when automatic thought is not an option. Conscious thought exists so that we can be creative.

In one sentence I have proved that the purpose of thought itself is art.

It is a curious fact that we appear to be more creative when hungry; Breton mentioned this briefly in his surrealist manifesto3, and a hormone produced when we are hungry, ghrelin, appears to stimulate learning and memory. Starvation is a life or death situation that demands adept thinking, so this makes sense.

This is an annotated extract from the 2018 book 21st Century Surrealism by Mark Sheeky, Pentangel Books, ISBN 978-0-9571947-6-2.

1. André Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism.

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