Monday, February 7, 2011


So Melch had this to say about things that I've had to say:
Apparently, I vicariously read a lot of blogs through Pinto. He was reading about the value of creation and the idea that if you’re not creating things, you’re merely using other peoples’ creations to express yourselves. I find a lot of truth to that, but I don’t think that using other peoples’ expressions to express yourself is a bad thing at all.

It takes time to develop skills. When you mix that with different levels of “natural talent” and chance, it becomes probable that somebody else will have created something that expresses you or a subset of you better than you could have.

Tumblr has no comments, so let me say this about that... here.  This is unedited, so expect a bit of rambling.  No, I'm not high.  Perhaps I should be... =)

Firstly, the thing she's talking about is WhyTheLuckyStiff's quote: "When you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability.  Your tastes only narrow & exclude people.  So create."

Secondly, Melch and I are differing a bit here at a rather fundamental: the identity of self.  I took a course on this in college many moons ago, which is scant qualification to hold forth on the matter.  On the other hand, this is the internet so why should I let that silence me?

When you express yourself... what exactly are you expressing?  Is there some pre-existing, invariant identity that Melch merely lacks the ability to express via words, music, visual art or other means?  Is it that hidden reality that will be more professionally revealed by someone else?

I propose to challenge the invariance and amend the implied direction of influence.  Imagine the creative endeavor of basketball.  Imagine Michael Jordan looking back upon his efforts to create in that space and thinking "well, what I did was good, but I'm glad that Kobe and LeBron have come along to more capably express what I was about."

Perhaps Michael Jordan actually did a pretty good job of expressing himself, but... what self?  Did the 18 year-old Jordan possess the "self" that famously won the dunk competition with the foul line flight that lives on in every Nike sneaker that bears his name?  Or did the later creativity come as an organic result of tens of thousands of hours of practice, grinding, thinking and competing?

I think the path is two-way.  When you paint the canvas, the canvas is painting you.  You create yourself by creating.  Jordan expressed himself on the foul line using muscles that he created... by expressing himself. 

Did Picasso express himself with Cubism?  He had painted for decades before creating Cubism.  What self was he expressing before then?  Did those years simply enable him to create the language he needed to express what he had always been?  Or was he a different "self" after all those years?  Did the process of learning how to invent Cubism turn him into the sort of "self" that he used Cubism to express?  I think it's a two way street.  Picasso created Cubism and Cubism created Picasso.

Consuming is a raw ingredient for creation (think "standing on the shoulders of giants"), but it's an insufficient ingredient.   If you just consume various creations of others and then say "there's nothing left to do!  I'm that!" then you're not noting that they're expressing you.  You're passing on the chance to create an identity, preferring instead to freeload on theirs. 

I don't think anyone just "gets lucky" and finds that Picasso just happened to be expressing them too.
Cubism can't mean to you or me what it meant to Picasso.  We weren't there when the canvas was blank.

This tracks  back into Sapir-Whorf territory.  If you find someone expressing you, is it you that they're expressing, or is it their expression that you're using to create your own identity?  If you're using someone else's language to express yourself, then all you can be is whatever you can interpret from what they give you.

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