Tagcreativity

An Interview With SPIRITS OF PLACE’s John Reppion

If you’ve been spending any time online in the past few weeks, then chances are good that you’ve heard about Spirits of Place,  the new book edited by John Reppion and put out into the world by Daily Grail Publishing.  It’s caught the attention of the likes of Guillermo del Toro, Boing Boing, and Blair MacKenzie Blake of ToolBand.net and we’ve even discussed it in the Technoccult Newsletter.

Here’s the synopsis:

Stories are embedded in the world around us; in metal, in brick, in concrete, and in wood. In the very earth beneath our feet. Our history surrounds us and the tales we tell, true or otherwise, are always rooted in what has gone before. The spirits of place are the echoes of people, of events, of ideas which have become imprinted upon a location, for better or for worse. They are the genii loci of classical Roman religion, the disquieting atmosphere of a former battlefield, the comfort and familiarity of a childhood home.

Twelve authors take us on a journey; a tour of places where they themselves have encountered, and consulted with, these Spirits of Place.

Contributing authors: Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir, Vajra Chandrasekera, Maria J. Pérez Cuervo, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Kristine Ong Muslim, Dr. Joanne Parker, Mark Pesce, Iain Sinclair, Gazelle Amber Valentine, and Damien Williams. Edited by John Reppion.

And the cover by illustrator Pye Parr:

It is a truly beautiful book with an awe-inspiring writing lineup, and I am honoured to be a part of it.

I got the chance to do a tarot reading for John Reppion, the mind behind both the book and the event Spirits of Place. Beneath the cut, you’ll find his extremely detailed considerations on everything from magick, to art and creativity, to family, to work/life balance, and quite a lot of thoughts about how all of those things intersect.

Enjoy:

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An Interview With Problem Glyphs’ Eliza Gauger

If you look at the painting, illustration, and figure drawing work of Eliza Gauger, you wouldn’t be wrong if you thought you saw the visual influence of the likes of Egon Schiele, and an overall thematic investigation of the grotesque. Additionally, Gauger’s work on the absurdist Jerk City comic showcases a familiarity with both Dadaism and meme culture, but basically the opposite of how pretentious that makes it sound. On top of visual art, Gauger has done work in music and been an active and charismatic figure online for over a decade. But the project that’s been taking up the majority of their time, lately, has much more in common with chaos magick and the works of Austin Osman Spare than their previous endeavours.

Since 2013 Gauger has been creating Problem Glyphs, through the process of leaving their Tumblr ask box open to anonymous comments, and reading the problems of those who offered them up. Gauger then created visual representations of sigilized imagery, meant to evoke the shape of and the path through the issue. I’ll let them tell you more about it, below, but the long and the short of it is, Problem Glyphs were a runaway success.

As the questions kept pouring in, it eventually became clear that Gauger had struck a current, and that a massively cathartic process was being shared by many people, and now, three years later, a book collection is being developed. From the Kickstarter campaign:

The Problem Glyphs art book contains 100 glyphs and their associated submissions, accompanied by an introduction by Eliza Gauger and a foreword by award-winning writer, Warren Ellis. Problem Glyphs will be a premium edition, display-worthy art book, measuring 10×12″ and featuring a Smyth sewn, genuine clothbound hard cover with gold foil-stamped cover illustrations. The estimated 220 interior pages will be printed on beautiful matte coated art paper. Tremendous care has gone into every aspect of the book, from its binding to its typography, the beautiful and storied Doves Type.

I got the chance to have a tarot-based conversation with Eliza Gauger, to discuss the origins, impact, and future of Problem Glyphs.

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An Interview With FoolishPeople’s John Harrigan

Since 1989, FoolishPeople have been creating extraordinarily complex, intricate worlds of immersive performance magic. They’ve been commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Arcola Theatre, Secret Cinema, the BBC, and the Wilderness Festival.

John Harrigan is artistic director and cofounder of FoolishPeople and we have been trying to find the time to get together and have a bit of a chat for quite some time, now. With recent world and personal events being as they are, we eventually came to the realization that there would be no time like the present. On a personal level, John and I have both experienced monumental losses, in the course of the past year, and it can easily be said that they’ve transformed us in some unexpected ways. We’ve also both been given new and unprecedented opportunities, and so now seemed like the perfect time for Technoccult and FoolishPeople to meet.

John’s raw openness about life, art, magick, and the process of creating living, immersive theater is amazing, and really made this interview process something special to facilitate.

Speaking of, let’s take a minute to talk about the process of this interview. I wanted to come up with a format that would do justice to the mythic otherworldliness that FP manages to breathe into every one of their creations, and eventually I settled on using Tarot in a traditional cross and staff formation to devise and guide the questions . Each answer got followed up with another clarification question, determined by another drawn card.

First ten cards and questions, John’s answers, second ten cards and questions, John’s answers. To frame the whole process, I intentionally opened with the Fool and closed with the World, the first and last cards of the Tarot’s Major Arcana. My questions are in bold, and John’s answers are in plaintext.

As a fun side note, the deck I use is the Dave McKean-illustrated Vertigo Tarot. When I showed him the pictures of the spreads, last week, John informed me that this style of deck was the first he ever owned.

So with that bit of synchronicity and without further ado:

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Why “Do What You Love” Is Terrible Advice for Creative People

Food for thought going into the weekend, from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang:

The problem with the “do what you love” mantra is in how we follow it, which is with a single-mindedness that carries unnecessary risk. We interpret “do what you love” to mean “Do only what you love and nothing else,” and the implication of that is that if you don’t practice this kind of creative monogamy, you’re being untrue to yourself. A corollary encourages, “Don’t worry about the details and practicalities.” The universe will reward your passion and belief in yourself. It also means assuming all the financial risk of a risky career move. The reality is that creative work is terribly funded, and the odds of making a steady living from it are very very small. Being fully exposed to that kind of instability can make you less creative, not more so.

Full Story: Medium: Are you creative? Then “Do What You Love” is terrible advice

See also: Quit Your Passion and Take a Boring Job

And: Our interview with Pang on Mindful Cyborgs part 1 and part 2.

Why major creative breakthroughs happen in your late thirties

Quartz reports on a recent study on scientific breakthroughs:

James Murphy, the former frontman of the band LCD Soundsystem, made what he called the biggest mistake of his life at 21, when he turned down a writing job on a sitcom that was about to launch.

The sitcom’s name was Seinfeld.

Instead, he lurched around, working as a bouncer and later a DJ before finally releasing the first LCD Soundsystem album at the not-so-tender age of 35.

Murphy might have been older than some of his dance-rock peers, but his experience is fairly common among people who experience major creative breakthroughs, according to a new paper from NBER.

The authors examined the high points of the careers of both great inventors and Nobel-Prize winning scientists, and they found that the late 30s were the sweet spot for strokes of genius.

Full Story: Quartz: Why major creative breakthroughs happen in your late thirties

Creativity Literature is Bullshit

Thomas Frank on the creativity industry:

What our correspondent also understood, sitting there in his basement bathtub, was that the literature of creativity was a genre of surpassing banality. Every book he read seemed to boast the same shopworn anecdotes and the same canonical heroes. If the authors are presenting themselves as experts on innovation, they will tell us about Einstein, Gandhi, Picasso, Dylan, Warhol, the Beatles. If they are celebrating their own innovations, they will compare them to the oft-rejected masterpieces of Impressionism — that ultimate combination of rebellion and placid pastel bullshit that decorates the walls of hotel lobbies from Pittsburgh to Pyongyang.

Those who urge us to “think different,” in other words, almost never do so themselves. Year after year, new installments in this unchanging genre are produced and consumed. Creativity, they all tell us, is too important to be left to the creative. Our prosperity depends on it. And by dint of careful study and the hardest science — by, say, sliding a jazz pianist’s head into an MRI machine — we can crack the code of creativity and unleash its moneymaking power.

That was the ultimate lesson. That’s where the music, the theology, the physics and the ethereal water lilies were meant to direct us. Our correspondent could think of no books that tried to work the equation the other way around — holding up the invention of air conditioning or Velcro as a model for a jazz trumpeter trying to work out his solo.

Full Story: Salon: TED talks are lying to you

I’ve linked to a bunch of these sorts of “science of creativity” articles over the years, but the best advice I’ve heard came from a conversation I eavesdropped at a local coffee shop a couple weeks ago. A comic book artist was being interviewed (I don’t know who it was or what publication was interviewing him), and he said “the muse strikes when you’re working a lot, not when you’re sitting around waiting for the muse to strike.”

See Also:

Peak Intel: How So-Called Strategic Intelligence Actually Makes Us Dumber

Richard Florida = Lyle Lanley

Teachers hate creativity?

The Key To A Successful Creative Career: Staying On The Bus?

the-bus

The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman explains Arno Minkkinen’s theory of success in creativity:

There are two dozen platforms, Minkkinen explains, from each of which several different bus lines depart. Thereafter, for a kilometre or more, all the lines leaving from any one platform take the same route out of the city, making identical stops. “Each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer,” Minkkinen says. You pick a career direction – maybe you focus on making platinum prints of nudes – and set off. Three stops later, you’ve got a nascent body of work. “You take those three years of work on the nude to [a gallery], and the curator asks if you are familiar with the nudes of Irving Penn.” Penn’s bus, it turns out, was on the same route. Annoyed to have been following someone else’s path, “you hop off the bus, grab a cab… and head straight back to the bus station, looking for another platform”. Three years later, something similar happens. “This goes on all your creative life: always showing new work, always being compared to others.” What’s the answer? “It’s simple. Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.”

A little way farther on, the way Minkkinen tells it, Helsinki’s bus routes diverge, plunging off on idiosyncratic journeys to very different destinations. That’s when the photographer finds a unique “vision”, or – if you’d rather skip the mystificatory art talk – the satisfying sense that he or she is doing their own thing.

Full Story: The Guardian: Helsinki Bus Station Theory

Really it’s just a metaphor for persistence being the key to finding your own voice. It’s not a perfect metaphor. As some on Metafilter have pointed out, some people probably should get off the bus and try something different. Grant Morrison got off the music bus, for the most part, and got back on the comics bus. That seems to have worked out pretty well. Gary Numan wanted to write sci-fi stories, but he ended up as a great musician instead. Many fine writers originally wanted to be painters. But it’s not bad as far as metaphors go.

See also: Ira Glass’ advice for beginners: creative people have good taste, and when you start out you’ll be bad and you’ll know it. That makes many people quit before they get good.

Study: Table Top Role Players Are More Creative

Interesting, but there’s a fundamental causation vs. correlation problem here. I know at least one person who says she doesn’t play RPGs because she’s not imaginative enough.

A study forthcoming in Thinking Skills and Creativity found that people who play table-top role playing games (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons) engage in more divergent thinking (a common measure of creativity) than people who play electronic role playing games (e.g. Final Fantasy) or people who don’t play any role playing games.

What makes a game like Dungeons and Dragons so beneficial is that it gets at the cognitive core of what creativity is about — the act of connecting existing knowledge in a novel way in order to generate new knowledge. This new knowledge can be a pleasant way to place paint on a canvass, a plan to stop the leak in your sink, or a way to explain how a Dwarf’s Level 3 Fire spell is repelled by a Dark Ogre.

Peer Review My Neurons: Want to Be Creative? Play Dungeons and Dragons

(via Metafilter)

See also:

Research Shows That American Creativity is Declining

My interview with indie game designers Luke Crane and Jared Sorensen on their transhumanist RPG FreeMarket

Deadline Pressures Are Bad for Creativity

Ever think that deadlines pressures help you find creative solutions to problems? According to a Harvard Business School study, that’s not the case. From an interview with the researcher behind the study:

My research team and I investigated time pressure and creativity as part of a multi-year research program in which we had a large number of organizational employees—238 individuals on 26 project teams in 7 companies in 3 industries—fill out a brief electronic diary every day during the entire course of a creative project they were doing in their jobs. […]

As the HBR article points out, the results suggest that, overall, very high levels of time pressure should be avoided if you want to foster creativity on a consistent basis. However, if a time crunch is absolutely unavoidable, managers can try to preserve creativity by protecting people from fragmentation of their work and distractions; they should also give people a sense of being “on a mission,” doing something difficult but important. I don’t think, though, that most people can function effectively in that mode for long periods of time without getting burned out.

At the other end of the spectrum, very low time pressure might lull people into inaction; under those conditions, top-management encouragement to be creative—to do something radically new—might stimulate creativity. But, frankly, I don’t think there’s much danger of too little time pressure in most organizations I’ve studied.

Harvard Business School: Time Pressure and Creativity: Why Time is Not on Your Side

(via Alex Pang)

See also: Overtime Kills Productivity)

More On Creativity and Distractibility

Day dreaming

Jonah Lehrer writes for the Wall Street Journal:

A new study led by researchers at the University of Memphis and the University of Michigan extends this theme. The scientists measured the success of 60 undergraduates in various fields, from the visual arts to science. They asked the students if they’d ever won a prize at a juried art show or been honored at a science fair. In every domain, students who had been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder achieved more: Their inability to focus turned out to be a creative advantage. […]

Here’s where the data get interesting: Those undergrads who had a tougher time ignoring unrelated stuff were also seven times more likely to be rated as “eminent creative achievers” based on their previous accomplishments. (The association was particularly strong among distractible students with high IQs.) […]

This doesn’t mean, of course, that attention isn’t an important mental skill, or that attention-deficit disorders aren’t a serious problem. There’s clearly nothing advantageous about struggling in the classroom, or not being able to follow instructions. (It’s also worth pointing out that these studies all involve college students, which doesn’t tell us anything about those kids with ADHD who fail to graduate from high school. Distraction might be a cognitive luxury that not everyone can afford.)

Wall Street Journal: Jonah Lehrer on Distractions, ADHD and Creativity

This is encouraging for people with major distractibility problems, such as myself. However, I’m not going to get too excited. That first study cited had only 60 participants – a tiny sample. Especially when you consider the “decline effect.”

I’ve been meaning to blog about the decline effect, and hopefully will soon. Incidentally, Lehrer wrote a great article about it for the New Yorker recently. Here’s a particularly relevant portion:

Although such reforms would mitigate the dangers of publication bias and selective reporting, they still wouldn’t erase the decline effect. This is largely because scientific research will always be shadowed by a force that can’t be curbed, only contained: sheer randomness. Although little research has been done on the experimental dangers of chance and happenstance, the research that exists isn’t encouraging.

I would consider myself a creative person. Perhaps distractability has helped me be more creative. But creativity is worthless without execution – and that’s why I’ve been trying to train myself to be more focused.

Having difficulty paying attention has negatively impacted my life more times than I can remember. It’s a big problem for me. That said, there’s usually room to use weaknesses as strengths.

Previously:

Are Distractible People More Creative?

Research Shows That American Creativity is Declining

Teachers hate creativity?

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