SO, what is creativity?  It's a concept i try to work through on pretty much a daily basis.  

And i certainly think it has relevance to anyone involved in any creative endeavor.  Although at that point we've already reached the level of misnomer, defining a concept by referencing itself.  Like the notion in artificial intelligence research of the homunculus, which could be thought of as intelligence being defined by a little person inside the brain pulling the strings who has another little person inside it's brain, etc. So once you get to the point of defining a phenomena at the level of the homunculus you're completely missing the point, or at least not explaining anything.

So again, what is creativity?  Obviously as an artist you'd like to tap into it.  To be perceived as being creative.  Hopefully to be driven by the spark of creativity and the energy it gives you as you explore it, which i personally think is a much better place to be coming from than just the desire to be perceived as creative.

Is creativity necessary to create art?  i wonder. I think my reflex answer would be 'of course it is'.  But maybe that's my perceived bias.  maybe that notion is totally off base.

Thomas Edison is quoted as saying 'genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration'.  There's also a hilarious quote from J.G. Bennett on Robert Fripp's 'Exposure' album that goes something like 'having a bad disposition is no obstacle to work'.  I think both of these disparate references by masters of their individual craft are pointing out something very similar. Maybe the focus on the 'magic' of creativity is missing the point.  The real point is putting in the time, putting in enough time and energy into your particular craft to make something interesting happen.  And at the end of the day we call that creativity.  And attribute the results to our resident imagined creative homunculus that lives somewhere within us in some hidden place.

Now i'm probably a little unusual because i ask this 'what is creativity' question wearing several different hats.  I'm interested in the notion of tapping into creativity from the standpoint of creating visual imagery.  It's something i like to do.  Hopefully i get better at it over time.

But i'm also interested in building machines or software programs that are creative in themselves.  Studio Artist can be viewed through many different lens, but one of them is the notion of exploring artificial creativity.  Studio Artist is a giant sand box that allows for exploration of all kinds of notions of visual intelligence, visual and artistic representation, etc.  Some people get excited about this whole concept.  Other people get highly offended. Even physically angry in some extreme cases.

So a mechanistic explanation or model of creativity is of huge interest to me.  Because in order to build a creative machine or software system you have to get down to working with mechanistic descriptions at some level to do anything. Otherwise it's just all discussion of philosophy.

Now we could argue all day about whether Studio Artist is capable of creative or intelligent behavior.  It has passed the Turing test, we've submitted artwork generated by pressing the action button to art contests curated by human judges and won prizes.  I certainly have my own opinions about what works well, what doesn't, what needs more research,  what we don't understand, etc. That whole topic is probably better suited for another discussion thread if anyone is interested.

What got me initially started on this whole creativity philosophical discussion this morning was some reflection on a technique that seems to underlie a lot of my personal brushes with creativity.  It involves the notion of recombination. Taking some piece of information, or technique, that was designed to do some very specific thing, and then twisting it around and using it in a totally different way.

So at least for me, i think that this approach to working is something that underlies most of the creative work i've done over the years. Both technical and artistic.  

Even the core ideas embedded in Studio Artist are really a manifestation of this particular approach.  Studio Artist takes well developed practices and ideas from music synthesis and auto software and re-conceptualizes them  in the context of digital art and computer image generation.  All of the visual intelligence computational modeling living inside of Studio Artist is based on pre-existing research in cognitive neuroscience, it's just being taken and used in a very different context then it was originally intended to be used in.

Another key component of why i think Studio Artist succeeds is related to the notion of synchronicity. By this i mean the sum of the parts in some combined entity being more than the individual component pieces added together. When Studio Artist really succeeds artistically i think the notion of underlying synchronicity is a key component in that success. So perhaps this is another notion of defining creativity i need to think through more. And perhaps it's a bridge between mechanistic descriptions of creative systems and the notion that some people have that none of this phenomena can ever be modeled or doing so misses the whole point of it.  But keep in mind, if you're building software at some point you have to get concrete in your descriptions and analysis or you'll never get anything accomplished.  

The Portrait Virus Mutations project i recently undertook is what has me currently mulling over this whole notion of 'what is creativity'. Like many projects of this nature, starting it has ended up leading me in whole new directions i would not have initially conceived of if i hadn't started down that particular path. I'll be posting more information on those developments as they unfold. 

And i'm also getting some really interesting feedback from other Studio Artist users about how the notion of stack filtering relates to their own work that i hope to post more details on soon.  If you have your own thoughts on this feel free to contact me directly or post something here on the forum

So, i hope you find some of this discussion relevant to your own work. I'm certainly interested in other people's thoughts on this notion of 'what is creativity'. 

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If you think of the range of adjustable parameters for something like the paint synthesizer or MSG, then you can think of that as being a spatial landscape that you explore when you adjust the parameters. So any given location in that parameter landscape has an associated visual image or paint effect. Just blindly randomizing parameters can lead you to parts of the parameter landscape that aren't very visually appealing to you.

We have thought about trying to provide some sort of learning to the Evolution controls to try to incorporate user learning or feedback on good vs bad images or paint effects.

genetic type competition where the user can select a few winners and the machine "learns" would be vey cool-- after a couple of "generations" of selection the machine should be pretty adept at hitting the terrain the user is seeking. Similar to cellular automata only with a bit more user input. 

That's more or less what I was thinking only stated with somewhat elevated vocabulary.  My vocab has gone to the underworld for vacation as I've had little use to call upon it for years now...  I've had more mental stimulation on this forum I think than any time in perhaps the last 3 years or so...  I need to hang out with people who actually make me think... Unfortunately, I have difficulties finding any nearby.

Thought i would pass on this link to a 4 part 'Everything is a ReMix' video series. It's take on the elements of creativity (copy-transform-combine) and how it's based on recombination of what has come before (remix) has relevance to this discussion.

Passing on a link to an interview with Allan Snyder. Allan believes that some forms of creativity might be related to certain brain areas being de-activated, allowing the output of other brain areas to take precedent. He uses transcranial magnetic stimulation to temporarily turn off portions of people's brains while they perform different tasks. His results associated with using this while people are drawing are very interesting.

There's an interesting article in The Atlantic right now called 'The Creativity Pill', which discusses how people taking dopamine for Parkinsons's disease actually begin to develop an intense interest in visual art and start generating a lot of visual artwork. It provides some interesting insights (maybe) into the neurological components of 'what is creativity', and maybe what fuels or drives creativity in some individuals.

Of course the 'pill' apparently only works if you have parkinson's disease, so i would not recommend pursuing it as a creativity enhancer.

Anyway, it's an interesting article, and maybe of some significance for this general extended conversation on 'what is creativity'.

I have just posted a piece with text on the Nature of Creativity. See "On the way to the Center of Nothingness"

I thought some people might be interested in this new book on creativity. It's called The Runaway Species : How Human Creativity Remakes the World. There's a review and an interview with the authors on The Verge. They try to model creativity as being composed of 3 cognitive strategies, bending elements, blending elements, and breaking.

Here's a short quote from the interview about what they mean by those 3 strategies.

"In music, bending is a theme in variations, just taking an original and remodeling it in some way. Breaking is fragmentation of a theme, it’s motifs. And blending can be counterpoint where you’re playing multiple melodies at the same point. What we found as we’re researching is that those basic principles could be just reimagined and reapplied and sort of endlessly be fulfilling themselves."

They are using a musical analogy in that quote, but you could easily think about how to do the same thing when working with Studio Artist. Let's say by how you work with different presets in a PASeq to build up a final artistic effect. Or what's going on under the hood when working with a particular gallery show setup to strategically build up new effects. Or if you just do manual painting, how you might vary your normal multi-step approach to building up a finished painted canvas in a particular style.


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