Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone



Now that increasing numbers of people are stuck at home and sheltering in place, I figured I’d do a little series. Every weekday for the duration of this intense period, I’ll post a short definition of some term in/related to aesthetics and philosophy of art. Let’s see how this goes! See them all here.

This week, we’re looking at terms that have to do with artists themselves. Most of these words will be ones that actual practicing contemporary artists think are off-limits. So buckle up for a sacrilegious week!

Terms of Art #33:

Pronunciation: KREE-ay-TIH-vih-tee

Definition: Creativity. That thing sought by every artist and thinker and entrepreneur and investor and influencer. Everybody wants a piece of the creativity pie.

Unfortunately the word is so over-used that it’s almost meaningless. But here are a few things creativity seems to involve:


Creativity or just incompetence? [source: Damnit Phyllis…]

(i) creation – making/generating something
(ii) novelty – something new
(iii) usually also quality – something at least somewhat valuable or good

Maybe the last one is surprising. But, look, we don’t typically call someone creative if they merely create new stuff. A person who designs a car with bananas for wheels might have a very NEW kind of design. But it would be weird to call it a very creative design.

Some questions people ask about creativity:

  • Are there rules to it?
    Usually people think no.
  • Can it be taught?
    “Six ways to UNLEASH YOUR CREATIVITY!”… Is that all just bullshit?
  • Can we measure it? How?
    Sometimes psychologists measure it through pure novelty of thought patterns. Which means that people with certain mental disorders come out very high on the creativity scale.

so creative! paradigm shifting!

Why artists think it’s a dirty word:
It’s connected with genius, and with the idea that there’s some essential spark of creativity present in some but not others.

From interviews with art students (Sarah Thornton, Seven Days in the Art World):

The students wrinkled their noses in disgust. … For these students, creativity was “a lovey-dovey cliché used by people who are not professionally involved with art.” It was an “essentialist” notion related to that false hero called a genius.

Related terms:
1) create, duh.
2) content creator – you know, that ill-defined internet role of producing shit for people to consume (like AFB); only used by people who don’t do anything or don’t understand what it is that they do.

Car image modified from original under CC licensing.

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