Saturday, 30 January 2010

Creativity: G325 Questions on production work

One of the possible areas you could be asked about in the exam is creativity. The projects you have undertaken will hopefully have felt like an opportunity to display your creativity, but you will need the chance to discuss what you understand by creativity and what it might mean to be creative.

The assignment options at AS and A2 all offer constraints for your work, whether it be making pages for a music magazine, the opening of a film or the packaging for an album; one of the reasons why you aren't offered total free choice is because people often find that working within constraints gives them something to exercise their creativity, whereas total freedom can sometimes make it really difficult to know where to start. It's why genre can be interesting- how has something been created which fits with certain structures and rules but plays around with them to give us something a little bit different?

The word 'creative' has many meanings- the most democratic meaning would really suggest that any act of making something (even making an idea) might be seen as a creative act. In more elitist versions of the term, it is reserved for those who are seen as highly skilled or original (famous artists, musicians, film-makers etc). an interesting third alternative is to think about how creativity can be an unconscious, random or collaborative act that becomes more than the sum of its parts.

An example would be the surrealist/dadaist game 'the exquisite corpse' which you may have played as 'consequences'. In this game, a group of five people each contribute a line to a sort of semi-random poem. There is a structure or set of rules, which each contributor has to follow.

The first contributor writes down 'The' plus an adjective, such as 'Exquisite', then folds over the paper to hide their contribution.
(the game is quite useful for learning parts of speech too if you'd never been taught formal grammar)
The second contributor writes a noun such as 'corpse' and folds over their bit, so each successive contributor has no idea what was written before.
The third writes a verb, such as 'drinks', then folds it over
The fourth gives the game another 'the' and an adjective such as 'new'
And the fifth writes another noun.

The paper then goes back to the first person who unfolds it to reveal the full one sentence poem.
Thus in the first ever version of the game; 'the exquisite corpse drinks the new wine'. This collection of words can make sense, can be bizarre, can be anything! It has a structure, from the rules, but is essentially random from the choices of a group of collaborators who are unaware of what each other is doing. Hopefully, if you worked in a group on productions, it wasn't like that, as your products did have to make sense; though it might be possible, for example to make a music video from a combination of random contributions from collaborators.

When I tried the game with a group of teachers recently, we had some interesting results:

The cold book exploded the magic beach
The furry tooth crawls the fabulous cake
the dynamic basket rolls the pretty television
The stupendous dog ate the minute tree
The glamorous monkey strikes the old heaven
the lovely traffic cone shook the coconutish pupil
the phenomenal raisin sucks the shiny tiger
the exploding statue juggles the foolish house

I'm willing to bet if you google any of them as a full line, they will not appear in their entirety anywhere else, showing that even a short sentence can be unique- probably never uttered or written down before.

The web has offered far more opportunities for such random art work however. If we take that set of lines and drop them into the engine at, it will make a picture out of them, for which I can alter the shape and the colours. Here goes:

Notice how it has eliminated all 'the' without me asking it to do so. No effort on my part, so is it creative? hmmmm there's a question.

A great shared site for creative random art with some effort is on Flickr with the shared CD meme pool. This is a game where you create a CD cover for an imaginary band and upload it to Flickr; the trick is you have to create it from 'found' materials, again following a set of rules.

1. Generate a name for your band by using WikiPedia's random page selector tool, and using the first article title on whichever page pops up. No matter how weird or lame that band name sounds.
2. Generate an album title by cutting and pasting the last four words of the final quote on whichever page appears when you click on the quotationspage's random quote selector tool. No matter what those four words turn out to be.
3. Finally, visit Flickr's Most Interesting page -- a random selection of some of the interesting things discovered on Flickr within the last 7 days -- and download the third picture on that page. (Even better: Click on this link to get a Flickr photo that's licensed under Creative Commons.) Again -- no cheating! You must use the photo, no matter how you feel about it.
4. Using Photoshop (or whatever method you prefer), put all of these elements together and create your very own CD cover, then upload it to the CD memepool

Here's my one!

The teachers who wrote the lines above finished their day by making a video made up of post-it notes- a collaborative task where they had to write or draw what they would take away and use from the day. We then filmed it live on an iPhone. How creative do you think they are?

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