There are no “Creative Types”

It is in the categorisation and projection of a taxonomy of types, of the identification and overlay of social or economic roles and hierarchically-ordered personality or cognitive kind, that we assert creativity as being a rare orchid not attainable by all, some strange nebula or artefact of uncommon insight and inductive intuition that is always “other”, “over there”, a property or possession of creative “types”. We are all creative, it is how intelligence, sentience and self-organising emergent complexity functions, at base.

Much might me made of the manifold ways that through our institutions, our organisations, our vocationally-oriented educational paradigms, the ways that in narrowing focus towards a precise mission or discrete constraint, we inhibit the endemic creative aptitude of material, biological, cognitive and cultural systems that flows through us, as us.

We are all creative already; it is the meat grinder of conventional wisdom and a blindly-repetitive, continuity-seeking uniformity which drains this innate, living, exploratory talent from us.

We are all, each and every one of us, “creative types”.

Gothic Beauty

I am fascinated by the association of beauty and life with darkness and mystery from film noir through contemporary Gothic culture. Observe how the inflation of that symbolic and gestural space between those two polar opposites of creation (as fertility, attractiveness, beauty and desire) and destruction (as death, morbidity, decay and mystery) provides a psychological framework upon which to build narratives of identity and self that individuals can then inhabit. All cultural systems or sub-cultural entities provide similar matrices of information or conceptual symmetry within which we are then free to choose from the available menu of options and to create new forms of existence, experience and being – this recombinatory activity is the base method through which cultures, minds and (indeed) civilisations change and undergo metamorphosis.

An honest analysis of gestalt cultural information processing systems would probably have to arrive at a conclusion that not only do we live and inhabit those systems, but through our unwitting provision of useful energy and entropy to those systems (derivable from the sum total of our choices) – there is an essential functional inversion occurring by which those systems live through and inhabit us.

Desire and Fear

The dissonant inflation of that symbolic and representational space we cultivate (and inhabit) between concepts of beauty and horror, desire and revulsion is precisely the ambiguity and uncertainty through which culture, technology and (for that matter) systems of gendered identity or power relations autonomously self-propagate themselves.

In aspiring to cognitive methods of psychological certainty and epistemological closure, we seek control; in seeking control, we orient ourselves to an Object or pathological fantasy Other of, through and as desire (or revulsion); in desiring (or its symmetrical and affective inverse) we project that malleable and fluid coordinate system of difference and distance through which by defining ourselves reflexively we isolate and individuate ourselves but also as the semiotic technology by which we locate ourselves in the conceptual topology of a symbolic cultural and social space; in orienting ourselves towards an Object (or even towards that aspirational, internalised Object and Other that notions of individuation, subjectivity or Self invoke) we find that, as we are foundationally conditioned by, entrained in and defined through this coordinate system of difference and we can never, ever, allow ourselves to attain or obtain closure because in so doing, this consummation would be to utterly and irrevocably disassemble our own substantive existence, and along with it – all meaning and purpose or teleological endeavour.

So – beauty and horror are bound in our psyche in ways both fertile and destructive like Eros and Thanatos and we find ourselves imprisoned by the endlessly self-curated and hyper-inflating logical space of our own existential emptiness. We culturally encrypt mystery and aversion into symbols of beauty and desire so as to maintain continuity and to inhibit (or at the very least) delay and misdirect the inevitability and personal fact of corporeal entropy and psychological or material disassembly. In free-fall, we orbit the gravitational nexus of our Others, our fictions, our fantasies and our Selves and all of our representational or aesthetic matrices in gestalt self-replicate this symmetry.

We are bound by fear to our Objects and fantasies of Other and Self as much as by desire and there is a complex logical undercurrent and rationale to the ways that we (enigmatically) encrypt aversion into attraction and revulsion or death into fertility and life.

Carravaggio’s Medusa at the Uffizi

The Creativity of Cultural Erasure

The subtle or substantive subtext of this image (above), implicit and unspoken, is that of negation, deletion, erasure. What depths might dwell in acknowledgement of the fact that every creative act is simultaneously an addition and a subtraction, a multiplication and a division, an exponentiation and a recombinatory partition?

Every creative gesture, thought, action and symbolic or linguistic frame of reference is always, and indelibly so, both assembly and dissasembly. We recombine artefacts, concepts, words, referential or semantic systems and entities into new or information-laden (a.k.a. novel and new or unexpected and surprising) configurations and iterative, recursive reconstellations. This represents the hyper-inflation of thhe evolving metamorphosis of material culture and cognitive or conceptual vocabularies; this is the amplification and accumulative side of this equation.

On the other side of this is a necessary function of negation and erasure: every extension of a (logical) system of reference, representation and meaning is also that foundational and recursive, self-referential extensibility through which all material, mathematical and living systems expand their scope, presence and internal complexity. Each assertion of novelty is an extension, structiral challenge and logical negation of the preexisting matrix and methods of cognition and of ways of being.

A systemic extension of art and creativity is a logical inflection and erasure of the assumptions upon which previous cognitive and ideological methods have been cultivated. There is no end to this recursive logical erasure; it is how we all grow and live and it is how the Universe autonomously processes information and energy through the self-propagating shockwave passing through a transmission medium of material artefacts, cultures and minds.

Viewed from a holistic perspective, all novelty and procedural or developmental creativity represents logical inflection, systemic insight and, at paradigm-transforming moments, processes of axiomatic reconfiguration. At a holistic level of analysis, in fact, the process of logical negation being described here and that is implicit in all creativity is that mischievously self-inflected replication of an entire system of cultural, cognitive or material artefacts within itself. Systemic extensibility is implicit, endemic, distributed and recursively self-similar.

A Fascination with Broken Things

The damaged souls are always the most alluring ones. It is because in the transparent presence of their pain and their suffering that we recognise our own pain and suffering, that itch we just can’t scratch, that fact of eternal dissolution and interior emptiness that we never can accept. It is often easier to allow someone else’s pain into your world as a concept than it is to admit your own pain and fundamental misfit disconnect with the world. For this reason we are bound to worship the broken gods of our own desires.

The Abject Dissolution of Object Relations

Context: (Art) – “Lost Love” by Damien Hirst.

In so many ways – unacknowledged, subterranean, perhaps unintelligible – humanity’s relationship with knowledge, theory and science is deeply inflected by our basal instincts, our visceral orientations and our complex neurochemical and emotional experience, our essential relationship with the world and the endlessly extensible theories and frameworks which seek to explain it.

We find ourselves endlessly aspiring towards procedurally patterned symmetries of refinement in an iterated and accelerating aspiration towards beauty, knowledge and (what is at essence) control – of ourselves as much as of others or of the world. There is however a deep and problematic enigma here: our implicit orientation or angular emotional momentum towards an Object of desire, of knowledge and structured control is also that equation of difference by and through which our own psychological subjectivity and, further, substantive cognitive method or lived, emotional experience of sentience and self-awareness is defined.

What this means is that we are unable to ever attain our Object, our control or understanding or the completeness and resolute certainty we seek because in so doing, in acquiring that consummation of intelligibility or theoretical mastery we entirely, irrevocably, inevitably completely and utterly disassemble and invalidate our selves; this is to discover that you never were, that your dependence on and interdependence with that Object of representation, control, of that model of your own self that you cherish – although putatively real – was, is, could only ever be entirely insubstantial, built on shifting sands, and is in essence profoundly fictional.

We inhabit these self-inflating conceptual and emotional spaces of dissonance and it is through the difference and distance we find or cultivate here that we find a contingent, ephemeral or transient validation and certainty. The extent to which that certainty is fragile is endemic to physics and to mathematics or logic, in very special ways, so it should not be surprising that we find ourselves unable to find peace or satisfaction in any ultimate sense. The extent to which this provides cultural opportunities in an ecological niche of competitive and adversarial communication is self-evident: procuring narratives of certainty and completion invoke that psychological and subjective certainty by which we seek comfort in the face of the facts of endless material, emotional and cognitive disassembly.

Within You, Without You: the Computation of Material Culture

Consider all those things we surround ourselves with: all the buildings, vehicles, widgets, tools, decorative knick knacks, artefacts, images, words, symbols, appliances, devices and the like. It is quite possible that material culture in some sense performs computation, even if it is not immediately obvious. There are inputs, there are outputs, there are various transition states, compression libraries, recursive functions and subroutines.

Human beings tend to compare their own mental lives and function to that of the most advanced technologies of their time. For now, it is the computer; but what if it was not merely that intimate darkness between your ears that performed a natural and emergently complex computational process? What if material culture and the gestalt collection of artefacts and devices or information systems themselves which performed computation? A distributed and subjectivity-free information processing presence like this is perhaps not really all that surprising – the laws of physics that underlie our material reality appear very much to be engaged in computation and logical information processing.

A question which arises, and which seems perfectly natural to me, is that while we generally imagine that material culture is a consequence of the individual and collective mental processes and information manipulation occurring within our brains – to what extent are the information patterns or conceptual contents and cognitive grammars of our brains and our inner lives merely the inverse consequences of the information and energy-processing that is the external world and all of it’s shifting, scintillating diversity and effervescent kaleidoscope of metamorphosis and reflexive self-propagating shockwave of cascading and rippling computation? Does the plausible and probable distributed computation of the hyper-extended cognitive technologies of our material culture generate us just as much as we generate it?