The Art of the Creative Omnivore (or Evidence That Jeff Clearly Needs a Full-Time Job): A MiniFesto
Early Twentieth-Century Europe was rife with regular café meetings between artists and intellectuals that informed their work and had a profound effect on art and history. Here is why we need it back.
Important Art was not created in a vacuum.
While the religious seclusion of artists in their laboratories during the very act of creation may indeed be lonely or solitary by necessity, it is fair to say that the art that has changed the world has been the end result of the artist’s interaction (reaction, imposition of desire or dreams, or vocal disenchantment) with their culture and society. By this definition, an artist is not necessarily simply a painter or storyteller in the traditional sense of the word “creative” but rather anybody who takes on the massive task of building something out of chaos, whether it be a painting or a theory, a poem or a design for a vehicle or a bridge, a song or a scientific or philosophical notion.
As creators, we all share the same function as a Filter. Being social animals, humans digest ideas, emotions, and desires, opinions, facts, and fantasy as naturally and unconsciously as the food we eat. We grow, are nourished by, or suffer accordingly: what is “good for us” is often times not what we want to be chewing on although ultimately, that which we think, write, envision, design, and say is in some way the by-product of our own unique filtration process – how we see the world.
But we live in an era of hyper-individuality, of ideological self-isolation. Our politics, economy, and socialization encourage an increased fracturing, rather than the inclusion of, ourselves with others as a unified populace; it’s become easier to identify against, rather than with. “Wedge issues” like religion, abortion, and sexuality drive us deeper into our respective ideological corners while politicians and special interest groups act as our Cut-men, constantly smearing salves over our wounds and sending us back into the ring to do battle with The Other while profiting from our deepening fragmentation. The result I have borne witness to is the progressive extinction of an honest and productive dialogue based on mutual respect and the desire to inform one’s work by actively engaging and feeding one’s Filter with the most diverse ideological diet available, including that of The Other. Instead, we have rent ourselves unto separate islands.
In the artistic world, this also has consequences. When we happen upon an Idea, economics, marketing, and legal experts tell us to keep it to ourselves, to protect it from being stolen or co-opted by another until it is ready to be sold as a singular commodity, appearing to have sprung fully formed from the forehead of Zeus. So instead of taking our Idea out for a walk, allowing it to meet, play with, and grow from other Ideas, testing and building its stamina and adaptability, we hide it away in the corners of our rooms and suffocate it while projecting onto it all our wildest dreams and anxieties, as it begins to take on unimaginable proportions and shoulder our impossible expectations. For all our talk about stories, symphonies, and screenplays being our “babies”, one can easily imagine what happens to the actual child who is raised this way.
So is there an answer? Not yet, but here is a question: What would happen if we returned to conscientiously feeding our Filters a steady omnivorous diet of new and unfamiliar ideas? What would happen if we found camaraderie in the common struggle to create, to understand, and to be understood? Doesn’t the Christian theologian develop a more thoughtful approach to their faith having fully regarded the foundations of Islam? Might the composer begin to question her adherence to a rigid compositional structure after ingesting the concept of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of quantum physics? The answer isn’t important, the by-product is: somewhere along the line, we might actually become more interesting people, and therefore, more interesting artists, as long we consider the beliefs and building blocks of other art-forms and systems of thought. I would argue that not only is this cross-pollination of ideas across different creative disciplines beneficial, but in our time, extraordinarily relevant and necessary, for in limiting our creative lens to exclude the “non-artistic” fields of science and medicine, psychology and economics, we are ignoring some of the most important interpretations of how we function as a constantly changing species and culture, the very tools and materials we require in order to build our creative visions on foundations of truth.
The objective is not consensus; I’ve no interest in creating dogma. The objective is dialogue, and the substantive effect or irreversible delta (change) that occurs when two particles (or people with opinions) interact, one indelibly affecting the other, both leaving ever so slightly different having had met. If after speaking with you, sharing opinions and debating beliefs, I go home and approach my work with a different perspective however slight, and you go home and approach your work with a different perspective even slighter still yet somehow irrefutably changed, I consider that a success. For better or for worse, we are all the living, breathing, jogging, drinking, dieting, lying, shopping, choosing, dating, mating, dying sum of our cumulative experiences.
I challenge us to ask each other the hard questions, to breathe deeply the air of disagreement, and to celebrate our diversity of opinions, worldviews, politics, and ideas for the sake of our “babies”, our art. Your duty as a filmmaker, a chef, a writer, a designer, an engineer – all interpreters of culture and society – is simple, and it is natural, the very thing you are taught to do after being shot out into this world. In order to mature, to grow and evolve, our Filters must be fed.
So eat up.