I have been reading a book called Linchpin by Seth Godin that essentially addresses the question of what it is to contribute in a meaningful and individual way. He encourages and exhorts people to be artists.
If I've read him right, he defines art as being that which people do despite everything else. Despite what you receive in remuneration.
What then is art?
Is it just creativity? Does it apply to any walk of life?
Can an accountant produce artistic accounting? It that the same as creative accounting ;-)?
Can a traffic warden issue tickets in an artistic and creative way?
The message is: Yes. Art and creativity is adding value without any expectation of reward; a spontaneous expression of individuality, no matter what the medium.
Art and creativity are always personal . They have an individual spin - it is the antithesis of the collective, the normal, the average, the prescribed. Particularly the prescribed.
That's why copies aren't applauded or lauded. There's no individuality or originality in them. They require no input other than reproduction.
But does that mean that all self-expression is art?
If you didn't have to earn a living, what would you do? Nothing? Or something bizarre? Would you raise peacocks, or learn how to carve, or sing, or watch soaps all day while obsessing about your purpose without actually trying something.. anything?
If you could have a go at trying out your wildest dreams - would you?
Apparently, the majority of big lottery winners end up miserable and unfulfilled. You would think that the lack of imperative to earn a daily living would release people into the freedom to explore their wildest dreams and urges. Perhaps they don't have any talents other than the suburban and parochial and the aquisition of wealth that releases from the obligation to be a drone, reveals nothing more than an ingrained conditioning that is too deep for them to be able to be able to express their individuality.
Perhaps. That's a shame... if it's true. No. It's a tragedy. To be released from the daily grind, but fail to use that freedom to create; to contribute.
It begs the question then - what is necessary for art and creativity... for individuality to flourish and express?
Art and creativity need no conditions - they pay no heed to monetary security or familial responsibility ... to cultural mores or restrictions - perhaps it's a human imperative that flourishes regardless.
In spite of.
So, if creativity is not dependent on individual conditions, what is the deciding factor in the definition of art; of creativity? If one person loves it, is that enough to define something as art?
Is it just intention? Is it when it is offered, or when it is received?
If no-one appreciates it, what does that make it? Creative wanking?
Does it matter? What is the purpose of creating?
The act of creation and the act of appreciation of the creation is its own purpose. That is its own reward. It's a closed and perfect system.
It creates connection. And that is the purpose of art; IT CREATES CONNECTION. A dialogue. A dialogue that may not consist of words. It consists of understanding. Understanding that infers appreciation.
When you do something humdrum (or that you think is humdrum) to the best of your ability and effort, and it is unexpectedly appreciated by someone else, even though you consider it your duty, it transforms it from responsibility and duty into an act of creativity - just by the very fact of appreciation.
When someone notices what we do, even if we do it as part of the chores of the day, it focuses attention on what we thought we were doing as part of the ordinary and makes us consider the option of being able to deliver a bit more. It lends a credibility to our efforts, sanctions our ability and encourages us to continue to deliver, and to take it a little bit further. And really that's all it takes... a personal contribution that connects ... not just in one direction - from creator to recipient - but a feed back from the recipient to the creator.
Art and creativity is 'effort that is appreciated and valued'. It needs no benchmark or standard - the very acceptance and appreciation of it creates its own benchmark and standard; reciprocity, appreciation.... flow.
Individual expression makes a difference, it matters - literally - it 'matters' - it makes real the intention; makes it something unique. It holds no conditions and can't be predicted. To be truly effective and impactful, it's produced without any expectation of specific feedback.
So the next time someone appreciates something you do, praises an act that you carry out, see it as a pointer to your ability to contribute in a unique way. Take your inspiration from that - don't pass it over; appreciate their appreciation and allow it to feed your creativity.
Whatever you do, however you do it; make it art for art's sake.