Volume 92, Issue 82

Thursday, March 4, 1999


NOJO sands jazz grain

Grip Inc. solidifies its hold on heavy metal

Creativity qualms are unoriginal

Indie band tests shallow waters

Night Train misses intrigue station

Creativity qualms are unoriginal

During slack week I had a chance to see a few art shows at York University. The shows were good but I noticed there was very little contrast in the works presented. While many people accuse contemporary art of lacking originality, they do not further their claim by providing reasons why. Well, why?

It is considerably beyond the scope of this column to assume this question can be answered but there are a few things people should consider. While I thoroughly enjoyed the vision and commentary of the pieces presented at York, I had difficulty understanding why so many of the works were similar in texture and mood.

Art from any given time period is a representation of the ebbs and flows of a society. For example, big band jazz was the most popular form of music in the 1920s. The "confessional" novel flourished at the end of the 18th century. The 1990s have a diversity of different artistic talents and styles, so why is it that in film, visual art and music there is still so much parity and dissonance?

The answer to this question can be approached by considering this simplistic idea. Original thought is and always has been pushed to the fringes of society, where it has traditionally been kept at a safe distance from mainstream culture. A society will only assimilate an idea into its fabric when it no longer considers the idea a threat to its apparent stability.

When women's pants which featured zippers in the front appeared on the market, those who wore them were considered rebels. By now they have become standard. This initial oppression of creativity is the reason why many artists feel afraid to do things which deviate too far from the norm.

Now consider these ideas in the context of the York exhibit – the artists I saw there are merely suffering from their adherence to the societal belief system. They are trying to create new ideas which express their individuality and talent, but are encumbered by the idea that creativity is somehow threatening or wrong.

This art can be deemed creative in the sense that it builds on past trends and reflects a pseudo-Marxist historical placement. German expressionism and cubism are examples of time periods which reflect this idea. Artists of any given time period pinpoint the central concerns of a society. The result is a collection of works which are connected stylistically and/or thematically – a representation of a specific time and place. In another sense, the art of a time period has a homogenous quality and consequently lacks in originality.

The trend in contemporary art is no different from those displayed in traditional models. Right now it may seem as though creativity is lacking or at the very least buried, but this is the natural progression of artistic expression. The more complacent art gets, the more ripe it is for the picking by creative fringe culture.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999