Our culture puts a lot of emphasis over the virtue of 'originality'. In the modern art world, many people think a piece is good if it is 'original,' or at least that it cannot be good if it is unoriginal. Here is my criticism of originality.
1) Originality is a red herring.
This criticism is the most obvious personally, but just because something is original doesn't mean it's any good. By highlighting only the originality of a work, we have lost our ability to critique and analyze a piece of art based on its merit, skill, and contextual history.
2) Originality is a lie.
If you think of an idea and you think it is 'original,' chances are, you have deceived yourself. The creation of ideas is about the combination of other ideas and other 'stuff' in new ways. The way you combine things can be original, but a thing itself cannot be completely original. Many mythological creatures are combinations of real life things (i.e. unicorns or centaurs). Their origins in other created things does not make them any less magical or mystifying. Most of the time, if you can't track down the sources of your idea down to two simple things (horse and human makes centaur), that doesn't mean you were not influenced by other people and other things, merely that your idea is such a convoluted combination and soup of piles of observations you have made for years upon years that you can no longer hold it down to a particular source.
3) Originality ignores a basic fact of life.
Humans were made to live in community and to build on each others' ideas. The fact that we have language allows us to do this very thing. Artists and creators seldom are purely individualistic. The sound of the Late Beatles changed significantly after they met with and heard the music of Bob Dylan. Writers have their guilds and impressionists their Salon des Refusés. The fact is that not only do we use each other for our creativity, we need each other for our creativity. Even Shakespeare has his most famous works rooted in previously written tales or historical events, and sampling in hip-hop music is used not to copy, but to appreciate. Overall, creation is a community activity and we all have some part in it.
I think the key here is to just create. We learn by doing. Don't worry about being original, just be amazing.
This blog post doesn't claim originality in the least. This was influenced by a "Theology and Arts" class I audited with Fuller Theological Seminary, the works of Makoto Fujimura, and a bunch of videos from the extensive works of John and Hank Green.
Wow– The summer is fully in swing! And whereas some people picture the perfect summer break as being full of outdoor excursions, beach trips, and picnics, mine includes being able to freely read, watch, and listen to more of what I love (among those other activities as well :)). So here's some of what I've been consuming, and some of my thoughts!
Godel, Escher, Bach (Douglas Hofstadter) : This is sort of a cop out since I started this during the end of the school year and I'm still not done reading it, but if you've ever seen this book, you'll understand why. A 700+ page book full of mathematical theorems, artistic rendezvous, and casual classical music history all bundled up into a fantastic intertwining of Lewis Carroll-inspired dialogues and longer descriptive chapters that try to create an argument for artificial intelligence. At least, I think. I still don't completely understand how everything is working to that end, but every page I read is a new revelation. Highly recommend.
Caravaggio: A life sacred and profane (Andrew Graham-Dixon) : This biography outlines the life and artwork of Michelangelo of Caravaggio within the context of a counter-Reformation Italy. I enjoyed getting to learn more about this period of time and this book definitely helped me fill in some gaps in my understanding of history. I am also in wonder at the life of Caravaggio, who was said to live 'as if there were only two seasons- Carnival and Lent". My only downside to this book is that some portions went (in my opinion) too into depth as far as all the proceedings of various trials, sometimes including entire pages just of quotations, which didn't feel necessary. But if you're willing to skim past that and you're interested in art, definitely worth reading!
Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith (Eric O. Jacobson): I read this book for a class I'm taking from Fuller Theological Seminary on Theology and Art. Essentially, it speaks to how, contrary to popular Christian belief, the gospel is most accurately modeled in a city environment and the communities created by city living. Being a New Yorker myself, I found much of Jacobson's text gave me the language I needed to describe some of my own ideas. If you live in the city (or don't), please read this book.
Chance the Rapper's "Coloring Book": If you know me, you'll know I don't often listen to rap, but I this album is a masterpiece. Inspired by gospel and spirituals, songs like "How Great" and "Blessings" spoke to me in their juxtaposition of describing Chance the Rapper's persistent faith despite some of the realities of his life and how he grew up.
Pink Floyd's "The Wall": This is a classic and I'm surprised it took me so long to get into it. My father and I saw a Pink Floyd exhibit a few weeks ago at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and it absolutely blew my mind. Have a listen. Favorites within: "Another Brick in the Wall" parts 1 and 2.
Mozart (just generally): I have been listening to a lot of Mozart while reading or studying, and after reading the History of Classical Music, I have loved seeing some of the context I have learned at play.
The New Season of Doctor Who: It's amazing to me how this show has gone so long without making me feel like I'm watching the same plots over and over. I don't think this was my favorite season, and there were definitely some plot twists that seemed like cop-outs, but I think that the writers did a great job in exploring the vulnerability of the Doctor as a continuation but in a different way from the previous season.
La La Land/Beauty and the Beast: I finally watched these while on my flight back from the UK. I did genuinely enjoy both of them despite my assumptions coming into them. I will say however, one of these assumptions being that the singing of the main actors would be atrocious, I much prefer the La La Land production's choice to use "okay" voices naturally over the Beauty and the Beast's decision to auto-tune and pitch correct Emma Watson like crazy. She's joined by some phenomenal performances and that very much cheapened it.
Well, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it's some of the media that has been in my mind. I'm excited for some of the books on my "To-Read" list, and if this post does well, perhaps I will do another post like this toward the end of the summer!
Remember, if you have some extra time, please check out my podcast! The episode that has just been released is one of my favorites; we talk about comfort and pleasure and how it shapes much of our life.
Click here to listen to "Treat Yo Self: Indulgences, Minimalism, Productivity, and Comfort ft. Nadia Iqbal"
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