Otto von Münchow often discusses photography, art and artistic work. A week ago, we had a discussion on his blog about passion. Passion gives power and inspiration in people’s efforts in life, but passion can also lead to ruin if it does not interact with human judgment.
When Otto returned to discussing artistic inspiration the other day, he focused on another aspect. Creativity. The need to be able to listen openly and reverently to the stream of reality flowing through our subconscious mind. This is a source of artistic creativity, Otto says.
This thought has been taken up earlier. Therefore, I now put that thought of creativity in a context that suggests how it has been received in philosophical discussion. And also, I would like to suggest how the discussion about creativity can take new steps from there.
I was a little taken by Otto’s powerful description of the source of creativity, so I couldn’t help but start with an exclamation:
Oh Otto, if the literary critics Myra Jehlen or Sacvan Bercovitch could have read this, they would certainly punish you as much as they’ve punished my beloved favorite philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. When Emerson, much like you, speaks of the sources of artistic inspiration, he says that this is holy ground, where we must go reverently. To critics like those I just mentioned, this is regressive and infantile. They come down on him, saying that in this way the work of art becomes – ”a cosmic blueprint.” That – in their words – doesn’t leave artistic creativity very much work to do except simple copying.
There are two things that – in my view – these critics do not understand. One thing is what you describe. The work of creative listening. Such listening, I’d venture to say, is what Emerson defines as ”going reverently,” making sure you do not disturb the impression of what he’d describe as ”primal warblings”. Making oneself receptive to this requires creativity.
The second thing those critics do not understand, as I see it, is that it is by means of artistic creativity that these visionary inspirations from the ”underground river of creativity” are also made meaningful. Meaningful to the world that we live in. I know, Otto, that you did not mention anything about this today. In many of your photos, however, there is meaning, relevant both socially and politically. Emerson made it a major life-task of his, to contemplate how the creative mind transforms its visionary impressions into art that is meaningful in its present-day ordinary reality. This may require our attention today as well.
Just like it is with passion, I agree with you that the details of this process cannot be pinpointed with any exactness. It’s probably worth it, however, to think about it from time to time. How it is possible to combine attentiveness inwardly with awareness socially?
Maybe we’ll get back to it. For now, maybe it’s enough suggesting that while creative and reverent listening inwardly is part of the work of the artist, there is some attentive creative listening to be done outwardly as well.
Read more of Otto von Münchow on creativity and photographic art