2. August 2007 | Connections

Art and Creativity

von Ilaria Riccioni. Bozen (I)

Art breaks order, instilling a disorder that leads to a new order.Creativity introduces different perspectives than the ones commonly established in society.Thereby, art re-discovers reality, whereby the moment of re-invention is a mysterious moment, according to Ilaria Riccioni: A moment when the mundane enters in connection with the universal.

Lesezeit 6 Minuten

In his work Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson introduces the issue of order and disorder publishing the dialogue with his daughter Cathy, where she is concerned about “order” and “disorder” in the world. As she says: “Dad, why do people always mess up things of the other people?”, he answers: “well, it is not as easy as it may seem. At first what does “disorder” mean?” and then the Metalogue goes on facing a long series of questions and answers, concerning crucial issues that reveal the importance of mentality and its cultural references in approaching any kind of problem. What is now important for us is exactly this: what is order and disorder? We may say that creativity has as a first outcome that of breaking the rules and repetitiveness of tradition, this first break-in of an apparently dis-ordered way of thinking, acting and responding to the common shared social action. As a second consideration, we should say that the dialectic of creativity is between a given order, a following disorder where creative factors act as change motor, and a new phase where a new kind of order is restored, until the next innovative and creative factor emerges again to change the “evolution” into a “revolution” of factors. At this point we may remember T. Kuhn´s “Structure of scientific revolutions”, where the innovation factors are represented by these creative factors breaking the repetitive flux of science, as well as traditions and knowledge in general.

In the case of creativity, change is not given as a mere adaptation to new events, as we can also experience nowadays with immigration, but, on an individual level, this experience of surprise calls for a creative re-elaboration of the individual experience itself in a wider and more general, I would say a universal, kind of experience, thus transforming surprise into a real “other”. Creativity is a way of thinking, which may otherwise be called “divergent thinking”, but not only: creativity is an act which brings something into being, which was not there before (Popitz 2000: 98). In other words, creativity has to do with fantasy but is more than that: it is the capacity that only human beings have to “das Seiende au?erhalb seiner selbst als ein Anderssein, als eigenartiges So-Sein zu erfassen” (Popitz 2000: 98-99). From this point of view we have to consider two different levels of interpreting creativity: on one side the social level and on the other an individual behaviour. Holding on to this distinction metaphors used in artcrafts are essential transformations where empirical data are turned into universal meanings, like a work of translation from one world of meanings to another.

If we accept that creativity is some sort of order, but a different kind of order concerning emotional reactions and feelings translated into intellectual comprehension (Read 1962: 204) we may start a dialogue about the function of creativity in our organized and “totally bureaucratised” society, speaking in Horkheimer’s terms (For a critical appraisal of this concept in Horkheimer’s work see the introduction of F. Ferrarotti to the italian edition (ed. Utet, 1976) of M. Horkheimer “Studien über Autorität und Familie. Forschungberichte aus dem Institut für Sozialforschung“).
Art is one of the possible ways through which creativity can be used and shown. Pollock, when he was painting “assumed that the value of what he did was lay in his way of doing it. (…) He had found the means, he believed, to generate content beyond what the mind might supply. (…) What was essential in creation, he declared, was to maintain “contact” with the totality that was in the course of being formed. So long as the contact was sustained, the picture would take care of itself” (Harrison 2000: 129). Therefore the action of the artist is some sort of dialogue in the process of the work of art, and as far as this dialogue is kept in tension there is no apparent possibility of “failing” the creation, because the dialogue in course is the outcome as form of art. So: who is talking with whom? What is this dialogue about? From this approach the work of art is a dialogue on what usually cannot be seen and said. The artist is usually concerned with emotions and logical distortion of the reality and all that takes place as a work of art. To create means to be able to “re-invent” reality from an empirical fact. The artist is that kind of human being that starting from a highly empirical and existential moment is able to create, in some sort of strange and mysterious way, a metaphor that connects everyday life events to a universal world of meaning. The use of metaphor is one of the more typical characteristics of artistic process. Creativity, therefore can be defined as the capacity of reading through reality beyond its empirical data, and the artist, with the use of metaphor can be considered as a self-exiled, who keeps in touch with an over – reality, thus creating a universal world from little and common events. This capacity of creating is, in a certain way, the merging of the elaborated experience and the use of imaginary processes, and can be considered the only possibility for a society to produce innovation. Innovation in itself cannot emerge from nothing, as the axiom of Lavoisier in physics: “in nature nothing is destroyed and nothing is created from nothing, but everything is being transformed”. In a totally organized and bureaucratised society, as Horkheimer called it, creativity is the element that provokes dis-order and may act as a blocking agent of all the organized social system, enhancing change and proposing innovative and more adequate styles of life.

As a matter of fact, speaking about creativity we have to specify that it is not casual and it does not belong to what in sociology is called “serendipity”, especially looking at R. Merton’s work, which is the mysterious process of research that, without any dialectic passage, while looking for something one finds something else: by chance. In the intent of this paper, creativity is considered as a quite complex phenomenon: it is a cognitive process, which needs the active participation of the individual, in order to transform emotions, reactions, feelings, physical perceptions as well as visual and acoustic empirical data into a form which is intellectually organised. From this point of view its social relevance is directly connected with its capacity to create new structures of meaning that belong, to a certain extent, to the community, and with the ability of giving shape to deep and vital issues that a specific community is experiencing. Creativity would be considered the only way to innovation in a totally organised society such as Western societies owing to its capacity to melt into one form both the rational and the sensitive part of human experience.

© Ilaria Riccioni, 02.08.2007


About the author

Ilaria Riccioni is currently Researcher of General Sociology at the Free University of Bozen. She received her Ph.D. in “Theory and Social Research” at the Dept. of Sociology, at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” discussing the subject of sociology of avantgardes, with a special interest on the social action of futurist mouvement as the cultural anticipation of postmodern society.


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  • Riccioni I. (2006), Arte d’avanguardia e società, l’Albatros, Roma.

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