Every day we read the words creative and creativity but what’s the meaning of this word so hackneyed?

Everyday I read tens of articles on internet showing video, pics, web sites considered as creative. But are we sure that all of them deserve this definition?

We saw this adjective used for everything, from the new book of cuisine to the ricotta cheese (as an Italian commercial remember us) but in this way, what is really creative?

To start we should define what we mean for creativity.

Basing on a really wide bibliography, from Poincaré to Goldember and Mazursky, we can say that creativity is

the act through which elements, pre-existing but split and far away among them, are connected in an original way, giving origin to a product (whatever will be its nature) useful with an impact (of various degree) over the community, depending by the historical, topological and social context, and esteemed by the community (of experts or not) as creative.

This definition is so long because this phenomenon that today looks so easy, actually is so complicated that is interesting for at least one hundred year a lot of different disciplines, from psychology to sociology and neurosciences, and as yet we don’t have an unique and share definition of it.

But, without to go so far, if we accepted the previous definition, what can we define in this way?

A black and white photo of a girl jumping over a puddle; a graphic design based on curves; a street artist’s reproduction of an old painting with contemporary elements. Are they really creative?

Let we see this picture of Mr Brainwash as example:


This picture can seem creative:

  • unifies elements pre-existing but split far away among them (the old and well known Hopper’s work and some recent Apple product);
  • it can be considered useful from an artistic point of view and the success of Mr Brainwash’s  exposition can let us say that it has impact on the public;
  • it depends by the historical, topological and social context of the artist;
  • it is considered as creative by some expert and ordinary people.

But what about the originality?

In this new version of Chop Suey we can find some new elents as the graffiti in the Haring’s style on the window, the CocaCola and the Ipad and the Mac.

But now let we see this work by Bansky:

Bansky ancient contemporary

In this classic oil painting of a landscape, the famous street artist inserts a relict of a car painted with some graffiti, creating a deep contrast between the classic countryside and the modern decline.

In front of this two pics, remembering that the Banksy piece is some years older, can we continue to consider Mr Brainwash’s one as creative?

  • there are classic and contemporary elements in the Banksy work too;
  • can the remake of Hopper continues to be considered of impact and useful?
  • do we continue to think that it is creative?

Above all, where is the originality of the concept? It looks to be just a different version of the same idea, and in this case it doesn’t respect one of the most important standard of our definition.

But, if you could have seen Mr Brainwash’s last exposition in London and heard the enthusiastic comments of the audience, you are sure that for a lot of people he is a really creative artist, and if you could have interviewed some of them, you could knew that the most of them didn’t know the Banksy’s piece.

Without to discuss about the role of Mr Brainwash in the contemporary art and our opinion about his works, we have just to ask ourself: every time we think and say that something is creative, are we considering all the elements of the work and can we trust of our knowledge?

If every thing will be a sign of creativity and if we continue to use this term in this so wide way, we risk to lose this important word of our vocabulary because no one word emptied of its meaning can continue to have the same value.

© Lamberto Ferrara 2012

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