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New Exhibition Explores The Role Of Creativity Today

A new exhibition in London looks at "urban creativity" as a defining characteristic of today's cultural scene.
July 26, 2013, 6:00pm

Birdcage, by Jeongmoon Choi.

What defines creativity today? The Red Never Follows exhibition, opening in London's Saatchi Gallery on July 30, looks at the last 20 years of creativity to assess this question. Featuring work by Daito ManabeGuvenç Ozel, Jeongmoon Choi, and Elysa Strozyk, the show highlights a cast of young urban creators who share an approach that mingles different disciplines and ways of working to produce new, hybrid forms of expression.

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Twenty years ago, only a few cities were seen as cultural epicenters – creatives from all over would come to places like London, Paris and New York to pursue their craft in the hopes of one day "making it" by claiming a spot in the cultural cannon. The high density of creative energy and speed of intellectual exchange in these urban centers resulted in some of the greatest innovations of our time, which grew out of the heightened collision of disparate ideas that only a city could really afford.

Cerebral Hut by Guvenç Ozel.

Today, we live in an increasingly urbanized world where creative hubs are more diverse and plentiful than ever before. In 2013, our view has expanded and now many more creative capitals have emerged as innovative cultural hotspots – Berlin, Mexico City, Seoul and Istanbul – the list goes on, and this diversity allows for new and different forms of creative expression to emerge from the local scenes in these far-flung places. This is of course in large part facilitated by the Internet, through which the free flow of ideas moves and mutates at a billion bytes per second. In this shared virtual thought space an individual can draw inspiration from multiple communities and disciplines simultaneously, as well as engage with collaborators from all over the world, and it’s this kind of creative collision that helps drive culture forward.

All of this has produced a new kind of urban creative class that defies the traditional roles and creative silos that used to define our cultural landscape just 20 years ago. Today's creators do not limit themselves to mastering one area of expertise but tend to work in a cross-disciplinary fashion, often dabbling in a wide array of skill sets and interests that change according to the needs of the project or idea at hand. Rather than following established models or ways of working, many of these creators are focused on inventing new tools, techniques, and technologies to uniquely address the creative problems or opportunities they see arising today.

Digital Fragments by Elektropastete.

German digital arts collective Elektropastete, for instance, works across animation, illustration, photography, creative coding and typography design, (they playfully refer to their members as “anillustratophotocoders”). This has led to projects and collaborations that incorporate new techniques like projection mapping, choreographing an audiovisual performance with a fleet of flying quadrocopters, and interactive dance-activated installations that are equally at home in the context of a crowded dance club or a pristine white gallery space. Their experimental, almost research-driven approach to creativity is spurred on by a quest for invention and inspiration, and has more in common with hacker and maker DIY culture than it does with traditional artists or designers, though it maintains a similarly strong focus on concept, form and aesthetics.

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This way of working is not relegated to artists who are experimenting with new technologies but rather is emblematic of a new kind of creative thinking that is unbound by categorizations and classifications and strives to synthesize culture using all the possible tools available. Bart Hess, who tends to favor more analog means of production, similarly straddles the worlds of fashion, art and design, combining materials studies, animation and photography in his ever-evolving surrealistic explorations of the human body. His work retains a distinct aesthetic and conceptual cohesion regardless of whether he's styling Lady Gaga or working on new textiles for avant-garde fashion designers.

Part of the Mutants series by Bart Hess.

Part of what makes this nimble approach to creativity possible is the fact that tools and distribution methods have never been more accessible. Never before have so many people had the opportunity to express themselves in so many ways, or felt compelled to do so. The current creative ethos does not limit itself to those who identify as “artists,” “designers” or “musicians” – or even as “creative” at all – but seems more akin to a kind of lifestyle change that’s pervasive and touches everything around us. Just think of the countless cultural artifacts being circulated on YouTube, Tumblr, Vimeo, Behance, and Flickr every day. The amount of material is staggering. And while not all of it is necessarily good, the sheer fact that people are compelled and enabled to create it, publish it, and consume it is significant in itself. We are becoming a more creatively engaged society, both online and off.

The more ideas we have circulating, the more potential there is for them to collide and breed innovative new forms. In the end, this is a great thing for culture’s progress, but it’s also why synthesizers of culture are so important right now. It’s not enough to consume and produce – we must also draw meaningful connections in the process and strive to move the conversation forward.

The exhibition Red Never Follows is on view at the Saatchi Gallery in London, July 30 - September 9.