Why We Do Creative Stuff
This isn’t an entry about the artist over at iComp who used to go by the handle Shadow of Death.
This is something else entirely.Just thought I’d get that out of the way first.
I’ve recently been thinking about the mission of the artist a lot, in as much as I have been teaching a class full of novices how to produce videos. It’s a 12 week course that I’m teaching so it’s hard enough getting through all the technical aspects, but I keep on having to digress to talk about the whys and wherefores of approaches. That is to say, I’m busily trying to impart a method, only to be forced back to the raison d’etre of creating anything in any medium.
An artist or writer or musician will come fact to face with their work only a limited number of times in their life. This is why death makes the price of artworks by a particular artist go up. There is no such long tail with cinema and film making, but the opportunities to do anything are even more limited than if one’s means of production were more readily accessible. The flip-side of that it is arguable that every time you pick up something to do anything creative is an important moment.
I’ve also been telling my students that whatever it is that they choose to do or make, they have to work it with the utmost of their artistic convictions – otherwise they are cheating not only the audience but themselves of the opportunity to do something truly transcendent. The good news is that as Frank Zappa says, if you can put a framework around it you can call it a work of art. at one end is the austere challenge of doing something worthwhile and at the other is the liberation for all approaches; I sort of wonder if my students can keep both things in my head.
The truth is, I tell them so many things I don’t know what is sinking in and what is washing off like water off a duck’s back. All the while the elephant in the room seems to be the challenge to do something worthwhile. They asked me if I was a tough marker. I said no, but in looking at how I’ve marked their essays, I have to admit that I am tough. In turn, Ive been sitting on a desk job for 3 years now just to pay the rent and as the summer rolls around, I’m beginning to feel a real yearning to go back to a creative life. Perhaps my own creative frustration is seeping through unfairly.
I don’t offer any new insight into any of this except perhaps all of this is in sharper focus for me this month because I have had to think about this stuff more with students at hand. We do what we do because it pleases us, and we do what we do because we want it to delight somebody. If somebody did a sculpture of a dog turd and called it art, it probably has somebody who takes delight in the object sitting in an art gallery as art. The point is do more, do as many, mean it when you do it because you don’t know how many shots you get at it.
In any case, all our work – be they films, songs, novels and poems – mark out time unto our ultimate ends. All our creative works are done in defiance of the impending doom, affirmations of a life lived under the shadow of death.