Last Thursday all of my professors seemed to have read the same memo. After our morning class, I went straight to Philosophy of Creativity and then to Philosophy and the Good Life, and in each class we discussed creative origin and if there is such a thing as originality. Needless to say, after that five hour run, my head was oozing with philosophical juices, which made for a pretty bad headache. Don’t get me wrong, I love pondering unanswerable questions, but pondering the same unanswerable question in three different classes was a bit much for the second week of classes.
Now that I’ve had some time to digest the question of originality, I’d like to ask what are the criteria for an original act? It would seem to me that to be original, something must reference the familiar (like we said in class), while adding a “newness” to a previous tradition, as well as have an author/artist’s intent that may or may not be fully known by the artist at the start of their creation. This is my temporary criteria, being that I’m likely to change my mind and because there is so much that I don’t know. To demonstrate my temporary criteria, I’ve attached a YouTube video, which I stumbled upon, being that I’m a YouTube addict.
Turing on a light switch is a routine. We do this every day, several times a day, and usually in the same way. Is it creative or original? Does it reference the familiar- Yes. Does it add a newness- Yes, only in the fact that it’s a new act for that specific moment in time. Does it have an author/doer’s intent- No. A routine is often done without thought, relying on muscle memory, so turning on a switch with your hand, like always doesn’t need intent, and by that I mean consciousness. Now, is this guy in the video turning on the light creatively? Does it reference the familiar- Yes, we are all familiar with the objects and situation at hand. Does it add a newness- Yes, the combination of a light switch and pulley system isn’t an everyday normality, or at least not a pulley system we make ourselves. Is there intent to this- I’d say so.
However, this begs the question; does turning on a light switch in a purposefully unique way remove the creativity from the action? For example, is an abstract painter creative, if the reason he paints abstractly is simply to be different? Different for difference sake? Does that lessen the work’s value? I’m honestly not sure. Haven’t decided. All I know for sure is that this guy in the video may have too much time on his hands. Just saying.