Creation and Creativity
Department of Computer Science
Trinity College, Dublin
The previous issue of Crossings saw the introduction of a new type of contribution: the artist's work-in-progress statement. In this issue, we incorporate artwork into the journal format with the addition of the featured exhibition. Whereas the work-in-progress statement describes creative work that is ongoing and as yet incomplete, the featured exhibition presents work that has reached a final form. Eduardo Kac's The Eighth Day is our first such exhibition, and our presentation of Kac's work here is a virtualisation of a physical exhibition held at Arizona State University in November 2001. Kac defines himself as a transgenic artist someone who works with genetic manipulation for artistic purposes and his exhibition features several synthetic life forms that have been genetically and/or mechanically engineered. Kac's exhibition and accompanying statement are provocative in more ways than can be summed up in this introduction, but suffice it to say that The Eighth Day implores us to think not only about biology, ecology and genetic engineering but also about philosophical and cultural issues raised by our use of technology for creative and other purposes.
At the centre of Kac's world is the Act of Creation. Many of the questions his work raises have to do with the creative act, the nature of the creator and the created and the relationship between them. When life can be created as art, what (if anything) distinguishes life and art? If synthetic life forms can be called art, what about conventional (evolved) life forms? And on a more ethical and almost religious note, what are the responsibilities of the creator towards the created? Matthew Causey's paper addresses such questions, first by placing Kac's work in a number of critical and historical contexts most notably the trajectory of late modernist art practices and then considering the theoretical and ethical implications of Kac's practice in terms of the concept of posthumanism.
Michael Cronin's paper explores the importance of technology and tools as components for the development of humanity and argues that the tools produced by human beings constitute an externalisation of human memory which is indissociable from human language. Focusing on translation and its role in human society and culture, Cronin uses an example from post-apartheid South Africa to show how technology fosters the commitment to a multilingual society. For Cronin, translation relates both to the generalising movement of technology and the particularising drive of culture: while it opens works that would otherwise be inaccessible, it also raises awareness of the cultural worlds which those unable to unlock the code of a specific language cannot access. Despite the fact that Cronin's main focus is on translation, his observations have merit in a greater context. Underlying the idea of technology as vital for moulding humanity are questions about the kind of humanity we are (and could be) creating and what ethical issues this awareness implies. These questions are not unlike those raised by Kac's work in transgenic art.
Creativity is also the focus of Thomas Hylland Eriksen's paper. Using the authors Salman Rushdie and V. S. Naipaul, Eriksen links the multi-ethnic and technological revolutions in terms of their effect on creativity. He establishes a dichotomy between two modes of creativity: one based on multiplicity, diversity and the view that everything new is a (re)combination of the old; and the other on rootedness, coherence and a stronger belief in individual inspiration. He also observes that the structures of meaning developed with new media tend to fall into the former category and that technology of many kinds can be seen as an enabler for cultural mixing and hybridisation. These ideas resonate very well with ideas presented by Cronin that culture can be seen as a force that separates and technology as one that unites. Indeed, Eriksen provides useful historical contexts for understanding, developing and questioning such a dichotomy.
Linda Candy and Ernest Edmonds address the role of technology in the
creative process in their discussion of interactive artworks and the processes
through which they are developed. In their paper, the two authors cover
theoretical as well as practical ground by proposing a classification scheme
for interaction in art and presenting works by four artists as examples.
Candy and Edmonds also share their experiences with an artist-in-residence
programme and discuss another type of interaction: that taking place among
the participants (artists, technologists, audience) in a collaborative
creative process. The two authors conclude their discussion with thoughts
on future technology for the support of the creative process and hence
strike some of the same chords that Cronin did in the context of translation:
the identification of the tool as a crucial determinant in the creative
development of the user.
The ethical implications of creativity emerge again in this issue. This
theme has been visited before, most recently in Elisa Giaccardi's paper
in Crossings 1.2 where she dwelled on the importance of ethical
responsibility during every act of creation. Given Kac's work in transgenic
art, it is clear that this perspective is as relevant as ever. Kac clearly
alludes to divine creation in many of his works, and The Eighth Day,
which features the inception of a new world comprised of newly created
beings interacting in a biosphere, takes the biblical parallel even further.
The tone of Kac's work, however, is not one of megalomaniacal usurpation
of divine power. The effect of his art is to provoke a re-consideration
of the wider implications of human creative acts in the realms of art and
science, and to force an acknowledgment that such acts always come with