I was trying to explain to a friend the other day that everything that is exists is observable in some way, regardless of whether or not we can observe it. A simple example of this would be bacteria that went undetected by us until we had the power of a microscope to observe them, which was in 1676.
Bacteria existed well before we as a species and is a fundamental component of our own bodies yet, without the resolution enabled through advancements in technology, it "didn't exist" in our narrative. And we all live by narratives that explain our world from our perspective, a story we live by even though there are vast swaths of information that we have very low or no resolution on, no clarity, no understanding. It doesn't necessarily mean we don't think we have an understanding though.
I think that this is especially true today where we are able to gather information very easily that has been packaged into a consumable and shareable form that depending on our perspective, can convince us to strengthen or weaken our narrative. It is interesting to note at this point that a lot of people rely on secondary sources of information as "ammunition" to back up arguments, even if they themselves have no experience observing the area at all. This is common in science-related areas, as many have very limited experience in the area, but the availability of information makes people feel they know. A fair amount of Dunning-Kruger effect is present, especially on the internet when it comes to what people believe they know.
I think this is where I will segue into the topic of originality that I was aiming to speak a little about. It is often said that there is no such thing as a new idea, and it might be interesting to see where this actually came from, a writer of some infamy, Mark Twain. But there is more to the quote that is oft left out.
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages."
He is right of course, each of our ideas, no matter how spontaneous and creative we may think them to be, are born from old ideas that for whatever reason, have synthesized something that is new - to us. The inspiration and catalysts of this progression might be external inputs that we may not actually recognize. For us, it is an original idea - but it is only incrementally so. This however doesn't mean that the same idea hasn't been had at some other point in time by some other person, but for us as an individual, it can be a new leaf on the branch of thought.
We weight originality as very valuable, which is why a painting by Renoir is far more valuable than a print of the same painting. Originality matters and any artist worth their salt will look to be an original. However, the "no new idea" concept throws a wrench into the works of the concept of originality, as if there is no new idea, there is no such thing as a truly original piece of work, as each uses the known building blocks to create the piece. So, what does it mean to be an original artist if to some degree, we are all copying from the past?
I think that this is an interesting area to explore in regards to content on Hive for example, as "non-original" is quite obvious, as it is just a copy and paste of someone else's idea, like plagiarism and then for me at least, there is the "spun" content that is the rewording of someone else's content, which I see a lot of when it comes to science-based posts. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with using someone else's text as a source of inspiration, but without adding anything personal into the conversation, it is not original, not thoughtful it is just a rehash of another's ideas. It is not creative in any meaningful sense.
Going back to the Mark Twain quote,
We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.
This is where the value lays, this is what defines an artist from an idea thief. Each of us have a unique kaleidoscope of experience that is able to imagine and reimagine all kinds of other ideas that get filtered through it. While there is perhaps no new idea, the way we present our imagination to the audience is unique to us, it is an original filtering of the information. A real artist and creator will have a sense of this as they will take some level of self-respect in their process of reaching the conclusion of their work, they value their personal originality, which is why they don't print the painting of another and declare it their own.
We value originality ourselves and an artist is looking to add their voice into the conversation. It might be handy to look at the etymology of "artist" is:
Cultivation is the preparation (skill) for growing a crop, with the "crop" of the artist being whatever conversation they are adding to, whether it be in fine arts, science, technology or any number of other expanding areas. To grow by definition, one has to add to and expand the conversation surrounding the topic. This means that to be a "true" artist, one has to bring something new to the table to talk about, even if it is a combination of old that hasn't been seen before, used in this way or cross-pollinated in a new combination.
I have potentially invented this concept of "promiscuous thinking" where thoughts bang together to create other thoughts - it is the way we all think, it is the kaleidoscope in action, but at least for me, I can do it intentionally or at least, create the conditions for it to occur. The basic conditions for my own promiscuity of thought is to be a creator more than a consumer, keep processing my thoughts from various angles until I discover something that is new for me, which then becomes part of my growing collection of colored glasses that filter and blend to create more. I am very selective with the amount of information and quality of information I let in, but make sure I am also surrounded by a great deal of randomization of ideas through the company I keep, which is highly diverse.
I don't want to be right, I want to be creative. Always being right means to never explore the unknown - the future. What this means is that I observe my world and then explore my own experience to expand my own understanding of the world which I then observe again with a new personal perspective, even if only slightly changed. It is a continuous feedback loop that means that my "art" (skill) is expanding and my "artistry" is increasing the conversation. For me, originality is vital in this respect and while I will quote others from time to time, I spend far more time in my "own" thoughts (through the kaleidoscope of experience" than consuming the thoughts of others.
As said, everything is observable and I personally value the exploration to gain clarity and resolution, even if it isn't in areas that are interesting to others. Then, I present my unique perspective to the world in a way that leverages the various skills I have, my art, to hopefully add something to the conversation around the topic approached. Even if it isn't a new idea in the space of ideas, it doesn't mean it isn't a new idea in the minds of us as individuals.
The core concept of art is to expand our awareness and a "public artist" looks to introduce their own perspective into the public discourse to be considered by others, not just themselves. Some artists are better at presenting their ideas to an audience than others, another skill - an art form in itself.
For me personally, I can only present as me and I take personal satisfaction in being able to develop my thoughts into some kind of coherent framework and introduce my own views into the public discourse. whether they influence the minds or behaviors of others is not up to me, it is up to them and their responsibility, but I do hope that in general, people are helped more than they are harmed, that the value I add has a more positive valence than negative. This my contribution to the art world and I have no say over how it is received.
Again personally, I see the rehashing of other's ideas as not creative or artistic at all, as it adds nothing to the conversation surrounding the topic - even though it might introduce the ideas into the awareness of some who haven't heard it before. However, when ideas of others are filtered through the unique kaleidoscope of an individual's perspective, there can be immense value - as the "original author" may never have considered it or meant it to be considered from that perspective at all. Not only that, the new presentation of it can be more tailored to an audience, something like the retelling of an old story through a new movie.
Originality is a difficult thing to understand as there is no purity of thought, it is all tainted in a billion ways throughout our individual experience, but what I think an artist would consider valuable is that their own retelling of an idea is colored by the introduction of their own unique kaleidoscope of perspective. What I have also learned through observation is that the most creative and artistic are those who consume the least, while the least creative are those who consume the most.
Don't be an art critic. Paint. There lies salvation.
Many of us are critics these days while being very, very uncreative ourselves - rather than add our own voice into the conversation of expanding the artistic pursuit, we criticize what is presented without actually having the experience in creating it or the observational skills to compare. Instead, we learn how to criticize through the consumption of critics, and think it is us who are giving an opinion. I observe this in many aspects of society where people who are "just giving their honest opinion" are actually using the expressions that have been newly introduced into the public discourse. It seems that "honest opinion" is spoken through the words of others.
Again, I can only speak from my own experience and learning through observations of my own experience, as can we all - but I do think that we as a society are far less creative and for more counterfeiters than we might acknowledge. With the internet, it is very easy to expose ourselves to highly creative thinkers and creators and then believe that what we consume is ours, that we had a hand in creating it when in actual fact, the only hand we played is in its repetition - it is why good memes are so "quoted".
Each day new, but we live a life that is absolutely influenced by our own lived past. What we do with what we have gathered is up to us and we can either look to intentionally combine our unique history to create something new, or live life on a default setting that is influenced by unknown sources, usually based on our consumption. Me might think our life is ours, however, if we are working on the programming of others without consideration and expansion to make it our own, we are acting as machines.
If you are copying the work of another, are you an artist?
Creating art isn't in the mechanical skills, it is in the ideas behind the work. Copying the ideas of another isn't artistic, any robot can do it.
I feel that while we all have the potential to be creative forces of some kind, the engineered world has reduced most of us to the consumer level, repeaters in the system. While some are talented artists looking to add to the public discourse, there are many talented artists looking to use what they know to control the discourse, to influence the public narrative and direct the behaviors of the masses - and it is working. We value what we can consume because it makes us feel special in some way, when in actual fact it is a meme pushed through society for profit. We graze from the field of ideas because we are scared of the jungle and then wonder why we are getting milked and slaughtered for everything we are worth.
I cannot say if these thoughts are mine or those of another, but it was I who sat down at a blank canvas and began my day using all the colors I have available to me, from all the experience I have and filtered through the kaleidoscope of my own creation - inspired by a conversation I had, based on my own observations - I do similarly every day, because I value my own originality, my own creative path. I do not know where, when or by whom the influence of idea has been injected into the narrative, but the combination and the presentation is unequivocally, mine.
We reap what we sow. Most these days only consume what another grows.
[ Gen1: Hive ]