Friday, 30 August 2013

27.08.13 Reading Group - "The Commerce of the Creative Spirit" from The Gift by Lewis Hyde

From now on each reading will be chosen by a member of the Art Academy from books or journals that they already own - bypassing the problem of sourcing texts for free, and we will take it in turns to choose a text. This will also function as a way to get to know each other better via our reading habits, or at least the kinds of texts that we collect and intend to read.

Present: Sara Nesteruk, Lauren Velvick and Natalie Bradbury

For this month's reading group Sara chose an extract from The Gift by Lewis Hyde entitled "The Commerce of the Creative Spirit", presenting a theory of creativity that depends on the bestowing and receiving of gifts. The artist receives the gift of inspiration, and with their creativity makes an artwork which they must then give away; "The gift must stay in motion. 'Publish or perish' is an internal demand of the creative spirit, one that we learn from the gift itself, not from any school or church". p.148

Hyde imagines mysterious origins for inspiration and creative talent; "there are few artists who have not had this sense that some element of their work comes to them from a source they do not control" which we discussed in terms of intersecting meanings, and the 'flashes of inspiration' that they engender, when research comes together and starts to make sense.

Natalie raised the issue of creativity decaying somehow, if you don't make adequate use of it; "it is the talent which is not in use that is lost or atrophies"p.148, discussing strategies for making when you don't feel particularly gifted. In practical terms, there are creativity exercises that you can do that might not provide assurance, but do make it more likely that the afore-mentioned intersection of meaning, or flash of inspiration will take place.

Hyde also approached the problem of 'writer's block', citing Allen Ginsberg, and suggesting that creative work requires some time prior to, and separate from evaluation for 'the gift' to flourish; "all art involves evaluation, clarification, and revision. But these are secondary tasks. They cannot begin (sometimes they must not begin) until the materia, the body of the work, is on the page or on the canvas."p.147 We wondered what this could mean in terms of the 'crits' that we conduct once-a-month, and how we can know when a work is ready to be critiqued, or when it is past the point where it can be, and is ready to be published - can you bestow a work, and then take it back to work on some more?

Sara described how she had initially chosen this extract because she is interested in the relationship between the maker and receiver of art, and art as a form of communication. In the text Hyde discusses this in terms of individual artists, giving the example of Ezra Pound directing his 'gift' toward a canon of previous artists stretching back in a lineage through history, and Pablo Neruda dedicating his poems specifically to the working people of Chile. Here, the act of bestowal is discussed in the abstract, and can mean different things, without referring to one particular action.

There are times when the text seems contradictory, or overly romantic, which we found hard to reconcile with the practicalities of living and making. Natalie cited a Ginsberg quote used by Hyde, that seems antithetical to the concept of bestowing; "write things down which you will not publish and which you won't show people. To write you can actually be free to say anything you want...It means abandoning being a poet. abandoning your careerism"p.147 that is nevertheless good, though difficult advice. Sara suggested that the ideas presented in the quote could be applied within any creative project, whether as part of paid work or not, in terms of a mindful attitude toward research, and avoiding a preoccupation with goals.

Finally, we considered the concept of an unwanted gift - a selfish kind of gift. In bestowing or publishing a work, how much is the recipient considered, and how does the meaning of a thing change when it transitions from private to public, or mine to yours/ours?