Originality: FundaMental Thoughts

T o truly understand the world, you must first start by understanding the most basic of concepts inside and out. By starting with the fundamentals, it is easier to understand not only the whats and hows of the world but also the whys and what’s next.

That is the underlying purpose of this series: to illuminate personal philosophy through the logical construction and interpretation of the world. This may get a bit jargon-y and dense so bear with me. I aim to write this initially, then revise this as needed for clarity and comprehension.

This work will provide a lens through which to understand Elliot Roth and his actions, morality, and understanding of the universe. Let’s dive in.

A s any aspiring creative can attest, there is the constant search for uniqueness and originality in your work. In fact, many believe that innovative and fresh ideas are the ones that really drive progress forward. I am not here to dispute that opinion, merely to break apart the assumptions that underpin originality. This undercurrent is interesting because it relies on two base assumptions: that there exists original thought, and that there is an inherent human drive to create. Let’s examine and dissect those assumptions in order to determine if there’s any veracity in the theory of originality.

As with all of my posts in this series, I will start with definitions:

Originality; the quality of being novel or unusual.

So original work needs to be new or surprising. Surprising is dictated by the 50th percentile, the normal thought processes of society (which is a whole can of worms for another post entirely). Surprise is only a segment of the joy of unique thought, let’s focus now on the act of being novel. So what is newness?

New; not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time

This is an odd definition that requires a lot of critical thought. Something that hasn’t existed before is created. For the first time. The two parts of that definition are incredibly problematic and serve as a suggestion of a number of presumed philosophical ideas.

First, that things don’t exist until they are made. Second, if they do exist before they are made, they are discovered.

That implies that there are certain things that don’t exist until they are created or found. That is a devilishly hard thing to prove. It is the epitome of a circular conclusion; something could exist before it was made or found, but it is neigh impossible to discern whether or not the act of observing or creating actually caused the idea to exist in our minds. It’s similar in nature to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principal. The very act of discovering, observing, or creating an idea causes it to be thought of in the ideological frame of reference of the observer. It is then a subjective bit of knowledge as it moves from an unknown unknown, to a known unknown, to a known known.

So from this subjective knowledge there must be a originator, an objective bit of thought that jump-started this whole discovery. This thought is at the root of consciousness, and the reason we have a frame of reference.

But if this is the case, then what is truly the original thought? What could have prompted us to begin this entire creative charade?

You and I: The Self and the Other

In the beginning, there was nothing, which exploded. ~Terry Pratchett

Looking back through time, the furthest back that we can reach is the Big Bang. There are numerous hypotheses as to why the Big Bang happened, but we’re not going to delve into that right now. What we can take from the Big Bang is that given a detailed enough computer simulation of the events of the universe, based on Newton’s Third Law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This means that stemming from an original action we can determine every other reaction. This is called Determinism and it is at odds with the concept of Free Will. If the universe is deterministic, then in implies a whole lot of different ideas, mathematical concepts, and more, but we’re going to explore Determinism in the context of originality.

One could argue that there was a psychological Big Bang. The seat of consciousness started with the establishment of the ego, the self, the I.

From this Descartian frame of reference we can derive the concept of other. There is something that is not I. It is outside yourself, the id, the other, the you.

Based on these two ideas, a massive amount of ideas can be generated. This juxtaposition of the self and other still underlies many of the major themes found in all pieces of artwork.

So now that we’ve established the original idea and it’s foil, what about the the actual act of making? There are two basic methods based on these original parts: remixing and destroying.

The Methods of Creativity

The act of remixing is the combination of the self and the other. It is a constructive event that leads to most of the advances we know of. It is the synthesis of disparate concept and the creation of the new out of forging two or more ideas together. One of the best descriptions of this creative phenomena is Kirby Ferguson’s excellent series called Everything is a Remix.

The act of destruction is also a creative event. It is the antithesis of remixing, it is the removal of parts of the whole. It allows for the creation of a void, of space for new ideas to fill. The Chicago fire of 1871 allowed for the re-creation of the city into the beautiful (yet cold) metropolis it is today. Destruction can be beautiful, deadly and necessary. Glitch art is a perfect example of this act of creativity.

The methods of creation are cyclical in nature. Remix breeds destruction breeds remix and so on. Stemming from the original thoughts of the self and the other, the outside environment and the internal dialogue are the sounding board for creative exploration.

Originality is therefore a false construct. Everything stems from something else. Everything that was made can be destroyed. Originality is dead. Long live the subjective world of creativity. ER.