10 Apr 2012

Art between Imitation and Innovation

Posted by jofr

Why are shows like American Idol where people can dance and sing so popular? Perhaps because everybody wants to be famous (except those who already are), and dancing and singing are so fascinating to people because everybody can do it. At least in principle.. These are such archaic and basic activities that they can be found in nearly every culture from Africa to Alaska. They require nothing else but the pure body and a little bit of concentration, coordination and training. As babies we are only able to cry and move randomly. When we grow up, our movements become increasingly sophisticated, skillful and artful. If we bump into things, then at least with style.

Basic Action Daily Life Art
Moving Walking Dancing
Crying, Yelling Talking Singing
Moving Writing Painting

For the kids, walking, talking and writing is an art. If we are grown up, we learned (or should have learned) how to walk, talk and write, and these basic activities of daily life are no longer an art. The boundary of art has shifted to more elaborate activities such as dancing, singing, and painting, activities usually reserved for artists. Dancing is artful and cultivated movement without a purpose except entertainment. Singing is a similar artful and cultivated activity.


Thought of You from Ryan J Woodward on Vimeo.


Art exists in the space between imitation and innovation. We learn a new art by imitating existing types and forms. We extend and invent it by creating our own forms. With art we can imitate, illustrate, represent and portray something or someone. The object of art can be an existing entity – a person, a scene, a landscape, etc. –  or a fictional one.  In the former case we create an image of an existing item. In the latter, we create something new which did not exist before. We have made an innovation, a new combination of ideas, colors, styles, perspectives, etc.

The combinations one can make are endless, the history of art from realism to minimalism is rich, one can use languages to describe pictures and draw pictures of languages, a dancer lets the music regulate the gestures while a conductor regulates music by gestures, etc.

Imagination can take you everywhere (in principle). In practice imagination takes you only to place you have been, again and again, because these places matter the most to you, and you know them best. Creativity and experience go often hand in hand.

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