Creativity - How to Get Well-Hated
Before we're off and running...
There's a little something I'd like you to read and consider.
Or you can read it at the end of my commentary - whatever's right.
Frank Zappa: Misunderstood, Underappreciated, Misfit
Jessica Olien set off some memories and thoughts...
- Creativity is rejected: Teachers and bosses don't value out-of-the-box thinking.
In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve J
Jessica Olien Makes Plain What Many Don't See
What I suspected all along from experience - creativity is its own punishment.
Fun Memory #1 from 1991:
I missed graduating cum laude and they had to reprint my BFA diploma because a painting instructor had a little talk with me about my pictures of people having "accusatory eyes." The eyes in the paintings and drawings followed and fixed you - very Spanish in tradition, really, but he wasn't familiar with that and not interested when I drew attention to a few books for reference.
Diego Velazquez - self-portrait with "accusatory eyes."
From 1991, we drop back to 1987 and I'm not making with the "happy face," either.
So, I missed cum laude by .03 of a point.
My entire art school career at UGA and GA State were like that. Worse, really, but who cares. I wrote a 50 page manifesto and esthetic theory and put it in a handmade book of paintings and etchings, turned it in, got violently, loudly cussed out - literally - by a grad student (pet of the prof) in group critique while he sat back and smiled. "Who do you think you are, you son of a bitch?!" shrieked the student.
I got asked that a lot. Always have.
The ashen taste of victory.
Later, the prof and his uncle-in-law, head of the printmaking department, threatened to bounce me out if I ever did anything like that again. I hadn't even spoken during the critique - just sat there and took abuse. Then they told me they could keep me in as long as they wished and not allow me to graduate - and so it took me 7 years to get the BFA. But when I did, the head of the art department forced them to apologize.
Philosophy liked me better... for a little season.
After that, I took an MA in Philosophy at GSU in Atlanta, and they were far more open to my quirkiness and love of exploring ideas, working out new explanatory theories, and reconciling older ones in new ways.
But once I hit UGA for the PhD, the department was solidly Anglo-American. I am a Continental philosopher under the influence of Jose Ortega y Gasset. This means nothing to you civilians, but let me sum it up for you easily: they mix like oil and water. Anglo-American philosophy is very much a sort of "toe the line" orthodoxy that performs much of its work in symbolic logic. Or what I call a mix of alphabet soup and calculus.
It doesn't sit well with me -- it's a sort of sleight-of-hand I won't discuss here.
For that and circumstantial reasons outside my control that are unimportant, I never felt the need to go back after a year in the program to complete the PhD. No point. I continued to educate myself at home and later taught philosophy with an MA.
Maybe there is a touch of pettiness or touchiness or even crankiness involved in being creative -- but I think, if there is, it is self-defence against being told there is no place for you in the world at all... a thing one runs up against regularly because you "don't play the game correctly."
As if there is only one way to play any game.
Marcus Aurelius would get it.
And then we jump ahead a few years and I'm still in trouble....
"Happy story" #2, 2001-2006:
Same sort of nonsense when I wrote political essays for the local paper in Georgia and got hated for it by the whole community until I was forbidden to sell any more essays. Why? They were too "controversial."
You know, I didn't approve of torture or the United States unconstitutionally spying on its own citizens or an unjust war in Iraq based on lies or the very idea of the suspension of habeas corpus and "indefinite detentions" and kidnappings. The little things.
But I got lots of mail from people afraid to speak out, encouraging me, agreeing, telling me they wished they could put into words what I did. I was never alone, just lonely.
Be sure to read the most spineless paper in America, folks.
Welcome to the Freak Kingdom
It's always been like that from point go as a child. Poor. poor pitiful me. Really? Hell no. I don't know any other way to be. Do it right or go the fuck home.
And doing it right rarely means doing it like it's already been done to death or in the same way everyone else does it. Otherwise, what's the point of my work being mine? What am I offering worth paying attention to? I'm not a "dime a dozen" type. I'm a freak. You want government issued, stamped out, conservative stuff, it can be had easily, even very cheaply. You want a weird perspective that will make you consider and reconsider things or simply throw you off - come to me. I'm your man.
"Uh, he does WHAT?"
I make philosophical comic books that you'd never know are philosophy - there's no preaching; just satire or fiction. I show, not tell. And I'm funny even mocking myself. Every page I make I pray some "normal" grad school pet of authority is going to see it and wet themselves in horror and inability to comprehend.what I'm up to. I pray it will go down on my permanent record. My God, my permanent record takes up floors and floors of a federal building by now.
All because creativity sucks and we don't want anything that looks risky and different. Not just quirky and random and posing as creative, but the Real Thing, the true bet that something might be a dud but, if not, it may also be the deadly torpedo beneath the waterline that sets about a chain reaction of righteous change. Change is scary as shit.
Read 'em and weep.
"This will go down in your permanent record."
I like to imagine stamped on the folders of my permanent records are the words, "Scary as shit. Oppose at each opportunity."
It would explain a lot.
It would mean my life was something worthwhile.
Richard Van Ingram
5 November 2014
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