Meanwhile in Osaka


Yesterday we visited the houses we are working on for our community project.  Compulsory hard hat territory as they have already started to knock some of them down.


Built at the end of the ’50s these rows of houses, like post-war homes all over Europe, were constructed from prefabricated concrete.  Modern for their time, quickly built to replace housing lost in the war, they now up for demolition, subject to claims that they are not earthquake proof according to today’s standards.  Coincidently the space they occupy is also premium land for new development.


Full of rich memories for those who once lived there we are looking at ways in which something mightimage be preserved.  Given that land has to remain empty for 3 years after buildings have been demolished we are thinking about community gardens, growing vegetables, eating together and persuading the developers to leave at least one house as a cafe.

We will be finding ways to collect the ideas of the local community and the university staff (these were once homes for lecturers and their families).  And planning a farewell ceremony for the houses, the ghosts and the memories that live in them.


As many of the buildings are already being destroyed we’ll be using objects and materials we save from them.




Culture is Ordinary

2014-10-28 10.44.02

Today we started with four quotes:

Creativity is then not only about innate abilities in isolation from everything else; rather, it is a matter of knowing how to play the game in the field of creativity. It is also about being culturally and socially literate Bourdieu, 1993.

Every day is full of activities which although not recognised as art share the same ‘symbolic creativity’ as art practices. Signs, symbols, rituals, storytelling. Paul Willis 1990 Common Culture.

Every human society has its own shape, purposes, meanings… (and) … expresses these in institutions, arts and learning… A culture has two aspects: the known meanings and directions which its members are trained to; the new observations and meanings which are offered and tested’. Culture is Ordinary Raymond Williams 1958

Cultural learning means the acquisition and development of memories and behaviours, including skills, knowledge, understanding, values and wisdom by cultural means, or in a cultural context, or to a cultural end. Cultural learning is a lifelong pursuit. It is an affective experience where enjoyment motivates and enhances learning. Cultural learning is not the same as creative learning (learning that develops creative capacities), but cultural learning often encourages creative thinking, behaviours and attitudes. John Holden 2008 Demos Culture and Learning Towards a New Agenda

And discussed their implications for our own work in creative and cultural learning contexts.

We looked Willis’ notions of grounded aesthetics/symbolic creativity.  And decided to search for examples.

We went into the streets around Goldsmiths. Looking for examples of creativity and culture that we could ‘bring back’ and discuss.  We took mobile phones, cameras, pencils, paper to help us capture them.  We looked for surprises, for examples within different cultural contexts, .


We presented and shared these. Looked at what we imagined might have been the drivers for each of thee moments.  Spoke a lot about Bourdieu’s concept of ‘cultural and socially literacy’.  And questioned our role, and possible responsibilities, as socially engaged artists in bringing about both with our participants.  We examined the notion of ‘need’ within our projects.  Whose need?  Especially in projects that are driven by funders.  We touched on projects that had totally got it wrong with the participants.  Explored our role as ‘outsiders’.

We looked at some of the projects of the Museum of Non-Participation.

In particular the participatory readings the artists organised of Brecht’s The Exception and the Rule – and his insistence that we exam everything – even when it seems ‘normal’.

Being half term a number of our ‘children’ joined us.  They solved IT issues for us, joined in the discussion, made their own art.  Played.  Contextualised everything.





Boundaries, Limits and Tacit Knowledge



This week we started with a session run by Saioa Olmo.

The Line:  Limits, Boundaries and Identities.

“The Line” is a game that assigns different roles to different individuals within the group in order to explore concepts of limit, boundary and identity.  By setting up an imagined ‘territory’ in which participants have to improvise these roles it encourages us to look at group dynamics and the impact of limits and boundaries on constructed identities.  In particular it looks at:

  • Reactions to the idea of limit
  • Reactions to being part of a ‘constructed’ group
  • Reactions to binary ways of organising ourselves

Intro and Warm up

The game began with a warm up where we explored the space in which we were working: little by little however, through Saioa’s narration we were led to believe this space had become undefined space, without walls, a never-ending room with no limits in which we kept moving. We were encouraged to visualise this space. To decide how it made us feel.  To consider how we moved in it. We met other bodies in this space and were encouraged to think how they related to us.  Slowly we moved towards one of them and exchanged some words.  We said goodbye to this person with a gesture, knowing we would meet again, soon. And went on our way.

The Game

We were introduced to the objects.  One of these things was ‘ours’.   It was up to each of us to select ‘our’ object. Attached to each object there were clear guidelines for the roles each of us would play in the improvisation. We didn’t share these at this point so each of us was responding to our own guidelines while also reacting to the others.  The ‘play’ began.  

Roles & Objects:

Each role had a title, a mission and some tasks that needed completing.  The tasks were distributed between the roles and included: looking after the limits and performing authority in doing so, transmitting information, giving importance to affections, using narratives as tools of power, identifying peers, guiding people…

Participants, were not aware about the roles played by the others and, although some of their performance was marked, most of it was left to improvisation.


At the end (which did happen) we shared our thoughts on:

  • Sensations: How we felt.
    • Lost?
    • In the situation? Or not connected with it?
    • Relaxed?
    • Affected?
    • What do limits usually provoke in us? Have we felt that this time?
  • Behaviours and our ease or not with our guidelines
    • The use of authority (or avoiding taking it) by those who were supposed to apply it. Ways of authority: autocratic, democratic, laissez faire…
    • The Group influence on the individuals. If you have surprised yourself doing something that you had never thought you would do.
    • The place of outsider roles.
    • The building of the idea of “we”. If people with similar tasks have joint or not.
    • Dualisms & Confrontations… encouraging them, reducing them, using them…
    • The lever role of people that is uncomfortable.
    • Identifications and strategies of leadership.
    • The introjected control (Fertile supplier).
    • Radical behaviours.
  • How we might use the game.
    • What is valuable of this tool?
    • Does it have interesting defects?
    • Applicable to other situations? To explore other concepts?
    • Was it adjusted to the context?
    • Is it similar to other lived proposals?
    • The possibility of breaking the game.




The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…’ Isaac Asimov

 Dans les champs de l’obsérvation le hasard ne favorise que les ésprits préparés. Louis Pasteur

So, we decided to consider – do the arts and arts practice have anything particular to offer or should we be valuing creativity in every activity and every kind of learning?

We played a game.  Throwing a ball to each other catching it and creating our own similes.  This ball is like the earth, like the internet, like a quark because…………

When it came to the quark we recognised creative thinking relies as much on domain knowledge as anything else.

We discussed what was going on in the process of this game. Looked at importance of analogy and metaphor. Re-visited notions of domain knowledge, tacit knowledge, art form expertise within developing creativity. Wondered whether creativity is possible without knowledge? Asked what the connection might be between  creativity and seeking new solutions in scientific contexts. We looked at Simonton: [1] whose credits include – Distinguished Professor. Expertise: Genius, creativity, leadership, and aesthetics – the cognitive, personal, developmental, social, and cultural factors behind eminence, giftedness, and talent in science, philosophy, literature, music, art, cinema, politics, and war! Who suggests scientific discovery happens in one of three ways:

  • logic – creativity as part of problem solving, using empirical knowledge. But Einstein and many others may still say the creative scientist also needs to rely on their intuition
  • genius – the scientist who thinks more widely than others is imaginatively in way others aren’t
  • serendipity/chance – looking for something else etc. and discover what didn’t expect – penicillin probably one of best known
  • zeitgeist – (also called also multiple discovery) social need, contextual, inevitability of it happening

Simonton thinks most new discoveries are a combination of all these. Interestingly he also notes creative scientists are more likely to have wider interests and hobbies such as art, music, crafts, drawing, painting, photography, poetry. (c.f. Wellcome Trust interviews with scientists)  What implications might this have for artists? He also suggests good scientists also usually read widely, developing what he calls associative richness of thinking. e.g.:

Darwin: In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry (on evolution) I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population…. Malthus economist “Essay on the principle of Population” 1798. Central theme of Malthus’ work was that population growth would always be greater than growth of food supply, creating perpetual states of hunger, disease, and struggle.

We considered how this encounter with Malthus might have affected Darwin’s own thinking.  Tried to think what conclusions we might also reach about this statement. Wondered about possible solutions that might help us face this situation? Deconstructed our thinking process.  We also noted, with interest that Simonton also speaks about the amounts of money given to science to be creative, (to pursue scientific enquiry) and compares that with the funding for the arts (in US) We compared NESTA in UK, an initiative that originally had arts projects as part of it but decided to stop funding them – thinking it was better to go down the “innovation” route.

We looked at Polayni and the concept of tacit knowledge[2]

We examined the way Polayni had explored the role of what he originally called personal knowledge and then tacit knowledge and the way it works together with passion/commitment in scientific discovery. Looked at his notion that creativity in science is almost always a combination of the two. Tacit knowledge, he suggests, is that knowledge that we possess but may not find easy to pass on to others in traditional sense by writing down. Best learned by experience.

He acknowledges the role played by inherited practices (tradition) within this. The fact that we know more than we can clearly articulate helps to explain how knowledge is passed on by non-explicit means, for example via apprenticeship i.e. observing a master, and then practising under the master’s guidance. C.f. Brecht’s idea of the masterful copy.  Not a copy as such but a way of starting with what has gone before, acknowledging it, drawing on it and then making your own work.  Supporting the concept that creativity rarely comes from nowhere but builds up on what already exists.

We touched on Nonaka’s thinking about tacit knowledge in developing new ideas [3] 

Looked at his work on tacit knowledge: exploring its role the in bringing about creativity and innovation in the workplace. Considered his thinking that knowledge is: “a resource created by humans acting in relationship with one another”  within which the artisan, with her/his practical knowledge, can play an important role.

e.g. Imagine we were to design a new table for a learning classroom such as this. Nonaka might explain the process as taking place in these four stages:

  • we pool our tacit knowledge about tables (socialisation),
  • by explaining our tacit knowledge (externalisation) it becomes explicit knowledge between all of us
  • then we can combine our knowledge (combination) and try things out
  • then we live with the table we have made and think about whether it works the knowledge is absorbed again (internalisation) so it then becomes tacit knowledge that we all possess

We thought about the implications such a process might have in considering the stages of creative learning.  Wondered how we might best share our own tacit knowledge but also how we might best draw on the tacit knowledge of our participants.  Considered how this process might be reflected in a classroom activity.  Examined the implications for devising creative learning experiences.  Looked at our own art forms.  Asked what tacit knowledge we possessed.  Tried to recall how we had acquired it. (Drama, dance, visual arts, music?)

We ended with a glance at the QCA, (Qualifications and curriculum development agency) Personal, Learning and Thinking Framework (2007) Creativity: Find it, Promote It (2003)

In which they list ways creativity might show itself in behaviour:

  • questioning and challenging (curious, not always following rules)
  • making connections and seeing relationships (analogy)
  • envisaging what might be (imagination)
  • exploring ideas, keeping options open (risk)
  • reflecting critically on ideas, actions and outcomes (reflective practice)

Noting we should: Never lose sight of the importance of knowledge and skills. Pupils are only able to engage creatively and purposefully with the challenges they encounter if they have a solid base of knowledge and skills.

We wondered how much time each of these might be given in the current school curriculum.

[1] Creativity in science: chance, logic, genius, and Zeitgeist Cambridge University Press 2004

[2] Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy Polayni (1958)

[3] Managing Flow: A Process Theory of the Knowledge-Based Firm (Palgrave, 2008)


Divergent Thinking and Collaborative Creativity


What are the conditions of the creative attitude, of seeing and responding, of being aware and being sensitive to what one is aware of? First of all it requires the capacity to be puzzled. Children still have the capacity to be puzzled.’ Erich Fromm

This session we thought about those times when we felt we had been creative. Tried to consider what had contributed to these creative moments, informed our creative process? We began to think about ways in which every act of creativity is informed by our cultural background and our domain knowledge.

We looked at Guy Claxton’s analysis of the dispositions of creative individuals: including the ubiquitous acronym.  This one being CREATE.

  • Curiosity: wondering about things, living with the question
  • Resilience: independence of thought, standing out from the crowd if need be
  • Experimenting: playing about with ideas, materials, asking what if…?
  • Attentiveness: becoming rapt, becoming immersed in solving the problem
  • Thoughtfulness: having a respectful scepticism towards your intuition, being able to segue between dreaminess and focused thinking
  • Environment setting: being aware of what helps them at different points in the creative process, surrounding themselves by the right people

We discussed whether we felt there was such a thing as a Creative Disposition. And, if it did, wondered how we might create the circumstances to encourage it in others.  Especially if we were being asked to do it in relationship to more formal education.


Role of cultural knowledge in creativity.

As part of an experiment in divergent thinking we undertook one of Guilford’s Alternative Uses Test for Creativity (1967) – using a large book. Listing as many different things one could use if for as possible.


We looked at the scoring criteria offered below. Shared responses from the group. Scored ourselves on:

  • Originality – how many others gave same e.g.
  • Fluency – total e.g.s
  • Flexibility – or different categories e.g. carrying things, cleaning things
  • Elaboration – amount of detail given for use [1]

Then we looked at Guilford’s work on [2] creativity, that suggests creative thinking is different from intelligence as measured by IQ.  We looked at ways in which creativity relies on being able to draw freely on patterns one already knows and to transform into something new. Developing divergent thinking being an important part of this.  We explored ways in which we might encourage divergent thinking by developing activities that asked people to think of one thing as something else.  e.g. playing with a bottle of water as though it could be anything one wanted it to be other than its literal reality.   We looked at the role of the symbol. The metaphorical. And thought about how quickly we are, as children, to use one thing as another.  By looking at making our own metaphors for a simple object we then began to realise the role cultural and domain knowledge can play in our ability to think metaphorically in this way.

We tried to think back to our own favourite play activities as children. Discussed the difference between those that were based on the fantasies and stories we created ourselves (often based on other stories we knew or our knowledge of adult behaviour).  Asked ourselves which of our games were based on playground/oral tradition games? Discussed the different relationship of these and our fantasy games to creativity.

We pondered on the relationship between creativity and constraint/rules/repetition in games and play? (And in things like poetry writing etc.)


Creativity and Play

We went on to think further about the nature of play.  And its role in our creative development. Looked at the importance Piaget, Rousseau, Montessori, Dewey place great importance on the role of free play and guided play in children’s social and development and learning.

We looked at the links that have been increasingly placed on the role of play in the development of divergent thinking skills.[3] (see activities above) Noted Russ and others noting of the importance of distinguishing between creative process and creative product in speaking about children’s creativity. We asked ourselves, if product depends finally on an external view of its aesthetics and its value, might we be in danger, in focusing mainly on product of ignoring the process that leads to it and the role of play in its development.

As we often do we went right back to Plato to look at different views of the role of play in our development, noting his distinction between the unstructured play that is useful to children as opposed to the role of structured play (or games) in the education of young adults.  We looked at the way in which the Romantics turn this on its head and place the modern value on play as part of the creative act that leads to our self-fulfilment. c.f. the role of free play in Derrida, Nietzsche, Cixous, Wittgenstein. We also looked at the notion that one might still need the ‘rules’ or the structure, even if they were only introduced in order to be broken.  We considered A.N. Whitehead’s notion that, ‘unlimited possibility and abstract creativity can produce nothing”‘.


Creativity and collaboration

In thinking about encouraging creativity in others we looked at Vygotsky’s suggestion that play is a collaborative process: often relying on the response of a more capable peer or an adult to object substitution (or using one thing to symbolise another) within many children’s play.  We noted the evidence that suggests that the use of the ludic symbol (one object as another) arises as much, or even more, from participative as from solitary play, in most cases influenced by the adult’s contribution and response. C.f Saxton and Morgan on responses to children.

We considered how when children play in terms of re-creating adult life/fantasy play what contribution this might make to encouraging their creativity? And what the place of feeling and emotion is within this learning (Or what S. Russ and T. Amabile[4] sometimes call affect)?

We touched on Paul Willis suggestion that teenagers carry on using play as a means of expressing their creativity through activities that are: ” actually full of expression signs and symbols through which the individual groups seek creatively to establish their presence, identity and meaning”[5].


Creative play, rules, boundaries and Brecht.

We then took some of Brecht’s exercises to explore play and being creative within certain boundaries, and the role of the audience/viewer on this.  using our own stories and those of our peer group:

Making a contract in action – eye contact. In pairs. Stood in neutral at a comfortable distance. Took an object, such as a shoe, and threw it from one to the other, marking the moment of acceptance through eye contact. Ensuring our partner always caught the shoe. No tricks.

Action followed by action – communication with your audience. In pairs. One of the pair carried out a simple, real action – no mimed objects. Their partner carried out their own action in response. The first thing that came into their mind with no attempt to impose structure and meaning. There was no physical contact between the actors.  Each marked the moment of change by making eye contact with the other. We shared.

The rest of group made end on audience. One pair carried out the same task but looked to the audience to mark the end of their action. Made real eye contact with them. Then another pair looked at the audience and then their partner. Then one looked at the audience, looked at their partner, looked at audience etc. and built this.

Talked about making a contract with the other players, then building up a contract with the audience and the development of both inclusion and collusion.



We then took this relationship further by working on Brecht’s notion of advocacy and his suggestion that, ‘everything hangs on the “story”; it is the heart of the theatrical performance. For it is what happens between people that provides them with all the material that they can discuss, criticise, alter’…..Brecht on Theatre

We started by telling each other stories.  Personal and meaningful but able to be shared with others. Sat in pairs opposite each other to do this. One story followed by the other story; without interruptions.

We selected/volunteered a story. The story teller re-told it to another person; they sat in chairs opposite each other but didn’t look at us. The audience was the fourth wall. Watching and listening.

The ‘listener’ the represented the story but in the first person taking on some of the physicality etc. of the teller but without “becoming them” but as if it was their story. They faced the audience. Included them in the story telling.

We then started the court scene. (Brecht loves court scenes) This ‘story’ was now part of the history of someone who had committed a crime. It was being re-told to the jury in a court of law. The lawyer for the defence was telling client’s story to the jury to prove mitigating circumstances.  The prosecuting lawyer then re-told story from the opposite point of view – as if it was part of the evidence for the prosecution.

We looked at the exercise in terms of audience and creator, story being built together as a shared collaboration.  the ability for anyone to then own the story in their own way and to work creatively with it.  Not starting from nothing but seeing what is there already and creating a masterful copy, building on other people’s offers. etc.

[1] See also (Torrance Tests on VLE)

[2] Guilford, J.P. (1950) Creativity, American Psychologist, Volume 5, Issue 9, 444–454.

[3] S. Russ: Affect and Creativity 1993

[4] Teresa M. Amabile: Affect and Creativity at Work

[5] Willis Common Culture Common Culture: Symbolic Work at Play in the Everyday Cultures of the Young Open University, Press 1990


Boundlessly Creative?


We looked at the creative process.  With coloured pens, material, scissors in hand we explored the directive to ‘create something’.  Something that might be to do with disobedience in honour of the ‘disobedient objects’ exhibition.  We explored the activity as a group.  Looked at the notion of the ‘audience’ response or the viewer’s reaction being as important as our own ideas in working collaboratively.

We cast a critical eye over a definition of creativity that has informed much of the recent work in formal and non-formal education over the past decade:

Our starting point is to recognise four characteristics of creative processes. First, they always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively. Second, overall this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective. Third, these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective. We therefore define Creativity as: Imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value.   All Our Futures NACCCE report 2000 p. 29

And re-examined notions of value, purposefulness and originality.  And their connection with the economic need for innovation in Western countries who are no longer manufacturing goods.

We noted that creativity as an abstract noun, in reference to artistic activity, only appears from 1875 although the concept of creation and the creator have been around since pre-history.  (See ice age man’s sculptures where the sculpture was clearly given a place within society to ‘create’ artefacts that have no visible purpose except as art)

We wondered why the word “creativity” might have only appeared at this particular point in history (1875)? Why may it have only come into regular use in the 1950s? Asked what we knew of what was happening historically, socially, and artistically at these points in time? Why there might be certain moments in history when thinking about art and the nature of creativity seem to come to the fore? C.f.

  • Ancient Greece
  • Renaissance Europe
  • Romanticism late 18th/19th century Britain
  • Mid 20th/21st century

We considered what they might have in common: asked ourselves why we might be thinking about the nature of creativity/the role of the artist be an important part of the philosophical debate of these times?  We looked at the ‘prevailing paradigm’ of each period.  We started, as we often do, with Plato. and summarised the arguments, comparing and contrasting each of these periods. See below:


  • Plato and Aristotle (Art as an imitation/revealing of Nature)

5th and 6th century BC. (Socrates), Plato and Aristotle – often cited as two different conclusions about the nature of creativity. These opposing views have influenced thought since in the same way that their attitudes to knowledge have influenced philosophy. I.e. super-natural and natural, c.f. a priori and empirical knowledge

Art in Ancient Greece was considered to be concerned with the imitation of nature. There were techniques to acquire, canons of proportion to be learned and rules to be obeyed. The aim of the artist was to represent Nature as closely as possible: Nature had its own rules and Forms that were beyond man, beyond experience, belonging to the Gods. The artist’s role was to uncover these rules and work with them. How might we apply this to art that is non-naturalistic? The exception was poetry (poesis) – where the poet was considered to create original work of his own – through inspiration.

C.f. Plato’s “Ion” in which his teacher Socrates explains that the origin of the skills of the poet are not in art (imitation) but “a poet is never able to compose until he is inspired, beside himself …reason is no longer with him”. Great art/creativity is identified with some sort of possession, almost madness, from some form of divine inspiration (the Muses). i.e. creativity as something that comes from the supernatural.

Aristotle in his Metaphysics explains that everything is in Nature and in what has gone before. But he believes that nothing is made from something that isn’t. Speaks of what he calls matter as something which exists but has potential e.g. an acorn has potential to be an oak tree and through Nature (given the right circumstances) this is realised. In Nature nothing is that isn’t purposeful. But there are also things in the world that are purposeful “makings” e.g. a brass bowl. The brass here is the potential, but the cylindrical bowl is the form – the actuality. In the same way, bricks are part of the potential for a house but the house itself is the form.   Therefore although mankind is making (through art or thought) he is only making from what already exists in nature. With nature the force is within but in art the artisan is the maker/the external force. There is a process of thinking and a process of making, there is matter and there is form. The bowl is the result. i.e. creativity as part of naturalism


  • Renaissance Europe/ (Art and creativity as a consequence of mixture science, technology/art)

Renaissance Europe often seen as a reaction to the Middle Ages and the matrix of order – everyone in their place in commerce as well as in religion. Mid 15th century was a time when everything was moving and changing; trade, commerce, mobile population, and urbanisation. Began to look back to a Golden Age, especially the world of humanism as they saw it in Ancient Greece, not constrained by religion, man as centre of his own universe, man in nature, man living in this world. Science and technology were making great moves forward as well as art.

Walter Pater (1839-1934) in his Studies in the History of the Renaissance, calls it a shared “outbreak of the human spirit”, where “artists and philosophers and those whom the action of the world has elevated and made keen, do not live in isolation, but breathe a common air, and catch the light and heat from each others’ thoughts”.

What Pater also points out is that power of this coming together of creativity and invention was not lost on the Capitalists, Popes and Princes of the Renaissance. They understood the power of art and its value in wealth creation and invested in it e.g. Lorenzo de’ Medici, banker and statesman but also patron of art, technology and scholarship, gathering at his court leading artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo along with other intellectuals of his day.

Renaissance man is often seen as ideal of cross-fertilisation of ideas; the concept of the polymath comes from this period. C.f. Leonardo da Vinci and his machines – building on what had gone before, seeking better solutions, moving with ease between the arts, sciences and technology in his notebooks: modelling objects such as helicopter, bicycles and tanks, inventing new ways to scale walls or to use an Archimedes’ screw alongside his sketches for portraits and studies of the anatomy of the human body.

We wondered what role the studio of Verrocchio played in his learning, where not only were there other young artists such as Donatello and Botticelli but also goldsmiths, metal smiths, wood carvers, sculptors, designers of armour, and painters of flags. Leonardo himself spending a year in Venice working as an engineer. Noted with interest that the division of the art and the science in his notebooks came about in later centuries; wondered whether this was something to do with a growing lack of ease with the notion of creativity being part of both arts and science?


  • Kant and the Romantics (art as a rejection of the mechanical and a return to individual visionary)

Although the Romantic poets, and musicians, of the 19th century set themselves up in opposition to the focus on reason, empirical thinking and scientific rigour that the Age of Enlightenment had stood for, the concept of the poet, writer, musician as individual genius put forward by Immanuel Kant in his “Critique of Judgement” undeniably influenced their thinking. The concept of Genius as a talent (or natural gift) that enabled creativity but cannot be taught or learned fitted the Romantic notion of the artist as someone guided by his/her feelings rather than by rules: the artist as a visionary and a dreamer. Kant’s emphasis on the spontaneous nature of the creative act is echoed in Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads, where he declares poetry to be “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”

Although this period was as inventive technologically as the Renaissance had been scientifically the arts, science and technology were viewed separately. Following Kant’s division of the aesthetic from the scientific mind, fine art was seen as something radically separate and “metaphysical”. Artists, in particular poets, rejected the world of the machines and factory workers created by the technology of the Industrial Revolution and allied themselves once more with Nature and the natural. The individual imagination was paramount. The cliché of the artist as a tortured, sensitive, isolated soul, that was to influence thought for the next century, was thus created.

Is there something specific in ‘art’, related to notions of aesthetic effect and taste that separates it from other creative activities? How far has this notion of genius, of the artists as isolated individual influenced all our understanding of creativity? Is creativity something that can be taught? Is it something extra-ordinary? Or is it something that can be encouraged in everyone? How do we deal with the paradox of wanting to see the creative in everyone and having a sense of the genius, the individual who is extra-ordinarily creative?

c.f. Howard Gardner’s Extra-ordinary Minds: portraits of exceptional individuals and an examination of our Extraordinariness 1998


  • Early 20th century (analysis of creative processes)


Much of the debate in 20th century was around learning and education (see next session). The other main influence on thinking about creativity was the growth of psychoanalysis and the notion of the Unconscious; the inspiration of the Gods or Nature now replaced by the internal promptings of the unconscious mind. Freud’s notion of the unconscious brought the concept of creativity much closer to the idea of the individual experience of the world. Jung goes on to identify what he calls the collective unconscious, the archetypes, images and ideas shared by all mankind that might contribute to our creative process.

His thinking about creativity as something that can come from the dialogue between conscious design and unconscious thought begins to open up a new way of looking at the process. Wallas in The Art of Thought 1926 provides us with a model that builds on this. Creativity as a form of problem solving involving a combination of conscious thought and unconscious interventions.

The 4 stages (originally 5) of this process being:

  • Preparation
  • Incubation
  • Illumination
  • Verification

(c.f. Csikszentmihalyi’s five steps (Creativity, 1996) Notion of Flow

  • Preparation – becoming immersed in problematic issues that are interesting and arouses curiosity.
  • Incubation – ideas churn around below the threshold of consciousness.
  • Insight – the “Aha!” moment when the puzzle starts to fall together.
  • Evaluation – deciding if the insight is valuable and worth pursuing.
  • Elaboration – translating the insight into its final work. )


  • Later 20th century/21st century (creativity and cultural hegemony)

Three things occur in later 20th century that make important contributions to current thinking:

The growth of cultural studies and cultural thinkers, such as Bourdieu, beginning to challenge Kantian concepts of Beauty in Art being somehow linked to an absolute aesthetic and claim that value in art is inextricably linked to its social, political and economic context.

Creativity is then not only about innate abilities in isolation from everything else; rather,  it is a matter of knowing how to play the game in the field of creativity. It is also about being culturally and socially literate (Bourdieu, 1993).

Creativity beginning to be spoken about in a wider, less art focused way. E.g. Maslow, suggests that “well-cooked soup is more creative than a second rate painting”, distinguishing special talent creativeness from self-actualising creativeness; people’s ability to be “natural” and open.       Deciding that creativity is something inherent in all of us, but gets lost and buried in some people because of their education, social contexts etc.

E.g. Carl Rogers, speaking of the child creating a new game with friends, the housewife devising a new sauce for the meat and Einstein formulating theory of relativity as different aspects of the creative. Also questioning whether creativity in itself is always a good thing – what about creating new weapons, or new forms of torture. Should we always applaud it? Rogers tries to describe the qualities that might lead to a creative person:

  • openness to experience and to ambiguity
  • possessing an internal locus of evaluative judgement as well as sense of the external
  • ability to toy with elements and concepts, follow hunches, explore lots of possibilities
  • Maybe also the desire to communicate ideas etc. with others, not to hide work away

Goes on to argue that we can create circumstances for it to happen through offering psychological safety to experiment, to fail, to try things out. Influences teaching.

and then looked at 

How creativity becomes elided with innovation. Birth of the Creative Industries. Capitalism and Western Democracy need invention and innovation, need us to keep one-step ahead, and creativity needs to be something everyone has access to. In the Demos report The Creative Age Seltzer and Bentley clarify the link in an “information” based economy between creativity and the creation of a flexible workforce. Thinking about creativity is seen as a response to rapidly changing social, economic and technological change. (Is it so different to the other periods we have looked at in this sense?)

Creativity becomes the domain of management, technology, science, marketing, design, IT, advertising, life style….

Creativity is possible in all areas of human activity, including the arts, sciences, at work, at play and in all other areas of daily life. All people have creative abilities and we all have them differently. When individuals find their creative strengths, it can have an enormous impact on self-esteem and on overall achievement. All Our Futures 2000

We noted how, from 1950s on, we also see the rise of self-help management books in the management field in particular that begin to promote the value of creative thinking for managers and for the workforce, especially in terms of creative problem solving, e.g. De Bono ‘s six hat exercises, notions of lateral thinking, thinking outside the box.

Governments in Western democracies begin to focus on exploring ways of teaching that increase creativity, nurture the creative individual. Paradoxically in UK, National Curriculum, SATs and more central control of education introduced at the same stage.


We looked at two Alternative/Additional Explanations of how creativity works

  • Koestler: Art of Creation. Three domains of creativity and three types of creative individual, the jester, the sage and the poet. They work on the principles of two different frames meeting but creating a new sense (bisociation) e.g. in poetry they are metaphor and simile, in humour two things coming together that we don’t expect, in science the Eureka moment of realising the connection between what might have seemed two very disparate things.


Ha-ha Aha Ah…


  • The impact of neuro-science. See Susan Greenfield on youtube or look at Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity. Dietrich Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 2004, 11 (6), 1011-10262004

Four basic types of creative insight, each mediated by a distinctive neural circuit. Creative insights can be the result of two processing modes, deliberate and spontaneous, each of which can guide neural computation in structures that contribute emotional content and in structures that provide cognitive analysis. Crossing the two processing modes with the type of information yields the four basic types of creativity.


  • Deliberate cognitive needs expertise as part of it need to have knowledge of field. e.g. in science where domain knowledge is needed much more – may account for why many can appreciate creative expression whereas scientific innovation/discovery is much more specialised.
  • Deliberate emotional as in say in psychotherapy, more universal as it draws on these kinds of experience we may all have.
  • Spontaneous cognitive often caused by going away from/resting from the problem, the thinking then just happens the penny drops whatever, lots of scientific discovery happens here.
  • Spontaneous emotional – allowing response to something like Picasso’s Guernica and or Coleridge’s (drug-induced?) Kubla Khan not domain specific but both require skill to enable them to come about happen. Creative insights do not require specialised knowledge but their expression does – have to have the skills to do it – Picasso had these skills as well as the spontaneous emotional insight.

download (2)

We examined two voices of dissent

  • Roger Scruton in “What is Creativity” 2001 returns to Kantian ideas of high art and absolute aesthetics in opposition to notion of free expression: against people not knowing the “rules”.       In a comparison of Mozart and Tracey Emin – the male genius and the untamed female artist “without skills”, he berates the:

“..liturgy of opposition has developed in the theory of education: sensitivity versus routine, spontaneity versus rules, imagination versus rote-learning, innovation versus conformity… the face of all the evidence educationalists go on telling us that children learn not by conforming to some external standard, but by releasing their inner  potential and expressing themselves.” Rejecting the “myth that we are all creative” he goes on to say that “real originality does not defy convention but depends on it. You can  only ‘make it new’ when the newness is perceivable, which means departing from conventions while at the same time confirming them.”


  • John Tusa

On Creativity: Interviews Exploring the Process (2003): “‘Creative’, ‘creation’ and ‘creativity’ are some of the most overused and ultimately debased words in the language. Stripped of any special significance by a generation of bureaucrats, civil servants, managers and politicians, lazily used as political margarine to spread approvingly and inclusively over any activity with a non-material element to it, the word ‘creative’ has become almost unusable. Politics and the ideology of ordinariness, the wish not to put anyone down, the determination not to exalt the exceptional, the culture of over-sensitivity, of avoiding hurt have seen to that.”


And conducted our daily debate.

Why is there such an emphasis on creativity within learning? Why is everyone from the UNESCO down focused on creative learning? What is driving the need for us to have young people who are creative? What might be the role of the artist in bringing this about? What if the creativity that she/he brings about questions/challenges social, political educational norms?  Who is driving the agenda?





The Lab


The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom with all its limitations remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labour for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom. (hooks 1994: 207)​

Today we looked at:

Creating Community

‘the process of communication is in fact the process of community: the sharing of common meanings, and thence common activities and purposes; the offering, reception and comparison of new meanings, leading to the tensions and achievements of growth and change’                                                                                                                                                                                                          Raymond Williams 1958[1]

We identified some of the communities we belong to: looked at these in terms of latter part of 20th century identity issues:

  • Class
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Ethnicity
  • Disability

Then examined which communities we felt we belonged to.  Spoke about notions of imagined communities – like nations – where we have no day-to-day contact with members of the community but share things that make us feel we are a community.  Referenced Benedict Anderson. Considered the notion of Imagined Communities, (Verso 1983)

Looked at narratives of belonging and narratives of difference. Ideas of participation and non-participation.  And how these affect our own cultural identity.


Cultural identity.

We thought about the notion of culture and how in the past (and even still) it often referred to Western Civilisation.   Made installations (from the content of our bags) that made some suggestions about our own concerns about cultural identity.  Spoke to them.  Shared them.  Questioned them.




“the process of communication is in fact the process of community: the sharing of common meanings, and thence common activities and purposes; the offering, reception and comparison of new meanings, leading to the tensions and achievements of growth and change’

                                                                                                                                                                                    Raymond Williams 1958[1]

[1] Williams, R. (1958) Culture and Society Pelican