Saturday, 28 January 2012

Originality and The Internet: Creative Brainworms

So. I've got this group exhibit coming up at the Centre for Craft and Design. It's called Home to Roost and it promises to be great - because it's all about birds. Birds as a subject. Filled with creative potential. I'm psyched. Or, rather, I should be.

I have a lot of unformed ideas in my imagination. Unformed Ideas. This is art-speak. Code for "I don't really have anything". In real life terms this means, for example: "I have unformed funds in which to pay my credit card bill". Or: "I have an unformed ability to come to work today". The underlying meaning of this multi-purpose phrase in my case is "I am pathetic and have nothing to give".

I've been inspired lately by the art of a local guy, Gary Addicott. Gary was recently juried by the Centre for Craft and Design and his work enthusiastically received because of the freshness of his creative vision. While he looks to other art - pop, op, dada, indigenous etc - how he incorporates these influences are clearly "Gary". This is a Ghostwalker beetle. If you could see the detail work in the patterning it would take your breath away. Truly original.

Ghostwalker Beetle by GaryAddicott
Take a bow, Gary.
Now back to me!

Traditionally, when faced with a crisis of creativity I turn to the internet. It has always been a creative tool and friend in my most desperate hour. I troll, spiral, and stumble upon things. Bask in the blue glow of possibility. However, like sleeping in and chocolate, I'm starting to think it's something I've got to give up. And here's why:

Last summer, my creative-co-conspirator Teena Marie Fancey and I worked on an installation for Lumiere -  a free night of public art in Sydney (it's a cousin to Nuit Blanche). Our concept was a challenge to ourselves - to take plastic garbage we'd collected off our respective beaches in Margaree Harbour and Gabarus - and using nothing but our keen imagination and our soft little hands - make this crap into something resembling an imaginary marine world. At the time it may have been more of an excuse to spend the summer walking the beach.

Teena was more dedicated than I, truthfully. By summer's end she'd scavenged carloads of stinking plastic trash which she dutifully cleaned off and untangled. She had "the vision" Her husband was about to put her on that show about hoarders. I hated to admit that I'd had the vision but must have dropped it in the sand somewhere and lost it. I only really had one thing to bring to this installation: plastic jellyfish bottles. I could see a sea of gently floating blue-glowing bottle jellies that our viewers would wander amongst, enraptured. This is a perfect example of the concept  "unformed idea".

We worked hard, Teena and I, to "form" this idea. After 50 bucks worth of helium and balloons we couldn't make them float. $200 worth of cheap Chinese novelty lights couldn't get them to glow either. There were moments of desperation.

We did, though, make them into these things that cast pretty amazing reflections of actual jellyfish, caught in nets.

Jellyfish wall, squash court, YMCA Sydney

They were pretty cool, along with an ocean floor of interesting "corals" and "shoals" made out of shotgun casings and detergent bottles and old rubber gloves. All Teena's work, btw. Teen's an idea "former". You want her on your team.

Imagine, then, dear blogplodder, the day I search the internet for some new inspiration and I find this artist, half way around the globe, has stolen my idea....a year before I even formed it. How could she, Miwa Koizumi, be reading my mind into the future? I can't even read my own mind past lunchtime. Plus, she'd read my mind so very carefully as to put even more detail into these bottle jellyfish than I'd known I'd visioned.

PET Project by Miwa Koizumi

And there you have the internet inspiration conundrum. At which point do you find the internet has gone a bit beyond creative tool to become a brain worm? Okay, I'm sounding a little unhinged with the brain worm thing, but think about it. When does the surfing, the absorbing, the unconscious borrowing of ideas and images taint your own authentic creative voice?

In my case, surfing the net and finding something so very similar to something I'd thought of independently was defeating. I felt I had to apologise to people as if I were a fraud. In this case the internet, which can be so good at creating a global community of like-minded souls, merely served to tell me that my idea was common, perhaps even banal in it's conception. It was deflating. Like a dead jellyfish on the beach.

So, does the internet inspire or influence negatively? Are there really any original ideas out there?

When I'm a wrasslin' with 'dem big questions I often turn to my husband who's a thinker and reader extraordinaire. He gave me 2 "great books" on the larger issues of imagination. And here they are. Next to them I have placed the t.v. channel remote. I am making a visual joke here.


 I then asked him to precis the books into a couple of good lines for my blog. He didn't. So, you go read them. I'll send them to you. Let me know if they answer these weighty questions. I'm a Google-head now. If it's more than 3 lines long and buried anywhere after the first page on my search results then forget about it. I've got an episode of Downton abbey and some pizza waiting.

Oh, and one other thing if I still have your attention. I'm looking for models for a life drawing open studio. We especially need men. If they want to cover their bits that's okay with us. $60 per session.

1 comment:

  1. some encouraging words I have for you. Miwa Koizumi merely had jellyfish as subject and plastic bottles as her medium. Her work and yours and Teena's are quite different and all great. I'm drawing skulls of various creatures. How many have done that,O'keefe, Susan Wood...but I'm not losing sleep over it. There's a term in biology that refers to plant/animal forms, similar in some way but unrelated due to evolving on different continents.
    On the other hand, like Linda lou, methinks we google too much!