OCAT director, Dr Val Huet, participated in a debate on “What is creativity?” at the International Arts and Health conference in Bristol on the 20th June. Here is what she said:
Creativity is a profoundly human attribute, that has the potential to make us joyful, elated, engaged as well as despairing, anxious, confused but never apathetic or predictable. However we describe it, creativity is not the remit of experts or specially gifted people and does not just happen with arts – science, gardening, cooking, etc., are all included – ordinary, everyday creativity is also part of what makes us human. Creativity is the act of giving shape even abstractly to something new, whether an idea, an object or a concept, which is then taken up and evolved by many others. It allows us to find and lose ourselves in a process that takes us to new places. It is always dynamic and never leads to a full stop. One of the aspects of creativity I feel passionate about is its relational quality.
Turning back to art , Bourriaud (2002) stated: ‘art is a state of encounter’. He did not mean it as an encounter just between artist and viewer, but also amongst viewers, as this state of encounter is not just about the self, it is about meeting others. For me, good art offers a mirror of the familiar and the new, it takes something known and changes it, extends it to new realms, opening our imagination and our potential for play. This is where relational processes happen, when we encounter each other’s minds through engaging with artworks, stories, music, etc., and we playfully explore our diverse viewpoints.
Creativity is about taking risks – it is an optimistic act. Yes, things may fail and creative endeavours are always subject to the law of unintended consequences. In a risk-adverse culture, where most of the amazing scientific advances of the late 19th and early 20th century would never have got off the ground (literally! Think about the reception the aviation pioneers Wright brothers would have today in their local town hall!), we need creativity more than ever as we do the relationality it offers .
On a final note, my years of working within mental health services have made me aware that especially in the depth of the deepest emotional turmoil we all need to feel connected and valued, we need to feel that someone else holds us in mind. Creativity offers people a path back to themselves and importantly to others. Bourriaud, N. (2002). Relational Aesthetics. Paris: Les presses du Reel