Category Archives: art theory

Innovation and the Artistic Process

Whilst on annual holidays and beset by some pretty rainy weather, I had time to think about the nature of innovation further. I found myself turning more and more to my time spent in amateur theatre and how (in hindsight) innovative the process of low budget theatre-making is. First of all I might need to explain my theory of art. I might add that this is not necessarily a complete theory but it is one that I keep coming back to.

Art is intuition-based decision making inside a framework.

Firstly – I believe that you cannot create a work of art without rules and a frame of reference. Given unlimited time, money and freedom, I posit that an artist would not be able to create a work of art – there simply isn’t anything creative without some form of constraint. For example the act of putting a sunrise on a finite piece of board has very material constraints (space) or painting a portrait using only three colours. A framework could be stylistic, moral or political – sometimes the most innovative art comes when you are constrained socially. In order to push the boundary, there needs to be a boundary to push. Some frameworks are technical or format based – eg. radio or 30 second tv spot etc. The point being that creativity is fueled by constraints because knowing what you can’t do in a sense gives scope to what you can do. Even if someone says “create whatever you want” at some stage you will have to invoke personal contraints (time, energy, etc.) and choose a framework (be it a medium or method) anyway.

Secondly – decision making because a framework comes with oportunity costs and therefore as “art happens” each decision realises the artists goal by reducing the artists freedoms. I might go so far as to say that the work is finished when you have nothing more that you can add before you start undoing or obfuscating the work. There is another issue that I feel needs to be put in the decision making category – random is not art. A lot of emphasis is placed on interpretation of the audience/viewer and that art happens when a beholder beholds. I don’t dispute this assertion, but art has to have some level of communication, there has to be a message that moves from artist to viewer. Random is not a message. If someone interprets something that is purely random and finds meaning in it I would say that if any art happened it was more to do with the viewer acting as artist – what they are experiencing isn’t a connection between two minds rather, the self responding to a lack of message and therefore filling the void using its own means. I’m NOT talking about random in the sense of the artist choosing say red paint or blue (although I don’t consider that random really) I mean random in the sense that the artist defers making a decision at all and leaves it up to a device or entity that has no interest/stake in the process and that changes for the sake of change with no regard for context or to enhance the message. For example, a computer program that generates random sounds that doesn’t have any notion of movement from state to state (eg. random) is not music (art). A computer program that uses random to introduce controlled variation that use the state of the work to determine its next state has the decision making in the code itself.

Finally – Logical and rational decision making removes the artist from the work. What I mean by this is that if ten artists paint an image each based purely on objective rules then each image should be the same therefore making it irrelavent who the artist is. An artist creates with sense of self awareness – mood, passion, homage, experimentation, temperament etc. The artist makes subjective, gut decisions to bring out the message or focus of their work. The process of making art is personal and therefore subjective.

I consider that innovation and art are in fact linked. The scientific method relies on the repeatability of events. Art is a “spark” event and uses innovation to differentiate itself from prior art.

Failure is merely an indication that something greater is trying to emerge and it is blocked. (Gina Mollicone-Long)

Innovation occurs when the mental space is created and the fear of failure is removed.

In great attempts it is glorious even to fail. (Cassiu Longinus)

* The limitations and boundaries of the solution should be dictated by the inherent framework rather than the limitation and boundaries of the people seeking the solution.