An Unoriginal Originator

17Sep12

Drew Christie, an animator, filmmaker and illustrator writes about the artist’s predicament of ‘unoriginality’. While reading a book by Mabel Murphy, one of the quotes caught his eye because he knew he’d “seen it before.” Rummaging through his bookshelf and finding the exact same quote in another book written by Cormac McCarthy, he felt he “uncovered a secret” or “cracked a code.” Later, however, he read an interview in which McCarthy argued: “The ugly fact is books are made out of books,” and also learned that the same quote could even be found in the Bible. This made him realize that neither author had in fact ‘originated’ the quote. For him, “Unoriginality was much more ancient than he had originally suspected.”

Reading this article reminded me of Bilton’s (2011, p. 37) argument that:

debates about Rowling’s originality fail to recognize her skill as a story teller to weave these derivative elements into a satisfying whole. Rowling is in the sense, a manager of other people’s creativity as much as an originator.

Thinking of his literary heroes not as the originators but, more aptly, the amalgamators of other’s creations, is perhaps a disheartening but more accurate way to describe artistic creation in today’s convergence/recombination culture.

The article also makes salient Eikhof and Haunschild’s (2006) idea that, by necessity, the artist must “actively market his creative talent.” Demonstrating his own marketing and creative talent, the writer of the article produced a fascinating animation called “Allergy to Originality” (found below in the link to the article). His art reproduces copies of well-known images and photographs, retraces innumerable drawings, then photocopies them as a way to underscore the unoriginality of the entire process of creation. Reflecting his nuanced and skeptical view of originality, he declares his hope that “this piece is at least unoriginal in an original way or perhaps even originally unoriginal.” Overall, his piece depicting unoriginality is highly original, and definitely led me to look into his other creative works.

-Muge Fazlioglu

The article (and animated video) can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/opinion/allergy-to-originality.html?smid=pl-share.

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