Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

How Creativity Works

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Live, Work, Create is the motto we live by here at BKI. Live and work are not too difficult to manage for most of us. Create, however – no so much. The widely accepted notion is the myth of the artist as genius which is usually just  some construct we create to excuse ourselves from pursuing creativity in our lives. Author Johah Lehrer argues that for many of the great artists and innovators we know, it’s more about the right habits, determination, frame of mind, and sometimes, geography. And in a few cases, it’s about  the right pharmaceutical.

In Imagine, Lehrer examines how some companies like Pixar, 3M, and Google create and innovate at far greater clips than others. For 3M, it’s all about the 15% Rule, where 15% of designers and engineers workdays are spent in pursuit of new ideas. While most companies insist that employees need to be managed, 3M not only gives their employees incredible time freedom, but encourage their designers to spend at least 15% of the day doing whatever – ping pong, long walks through the forest, whatever. When our minds are at ease and unstressed, we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inwards towards the stream of remote associations that emanate from the right hemisphere. It’s usually when we disassociate from the problem at hand that other possible alternatives to the problem present themselves. It’s no surprise Archimedes had his revelation in a bathtub – hot showers are when people most often have creative breakthroughs because they are relaxed. Lehrer also describes daydreaming (that thing we all do anyway) as a healthy way to distract ourselves from the problem at hand. Or, it can be as easy as putting the only bathroom in the building in the common area, as Pixar did, to encourage encounters between employees that often results in the sharing of ideas.

Lehrer also describes how the young tend to be more creative because they are often naive to rigid conventions, and usually tend to take more risks. That doesn’t necessarily mean that older people can’t be less creative – they just need to act younger by breaking out of routine, losing their inhibitions, challenging themselves by moving across different fields, and risking embarrassment.

And if all this doesn’t work – travel. Leaving everything behind and immersing yourself in unfamiliar environments tend to heighten the level of disassociation needed to distance yourself from a creative block. Bob Dylan left for the woods after one particularly stifling moment, and immediately wrote Like a Rolling Stone. On a budget? Do as David Byrne did, and ride your bike through New York City. That’s how he discovered the latin rhythms and the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti in various ethnic neighborhoods that he incorporated into his punk stylings. Live, Work, Create… sometimes just a bike ride away.


Book Review: Just Kids, Patti Smith

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Before I first listened to Patti Smith, I saw this album cover for the first time when I was 16, and was immediately enamored with her. I was amazed at how such a simple pose could evoke both power and elegance. It still remains one of the most anti-establishment images I’ve seen – unconventional beauty expressed in a graceful and defiant pose. Punk rock, through a patchwork of cuticles. Years later, after so many bands and fads get popular, then fade into obscurity, Patti Smith’s music still resonates, and sounds equally as urgent now as it did in the 70’s. And while I may be the last person on the L train to pick up a copy of Just Kids, reading her memoir is a great reminder that the passionate pursuit of art is a timeless endeavor.

Just Kids primarily chronicles the period of struggle before Patti Smith managed to achieve stardom. After just moving to Brooklyn, Smith has a couple of chance encounters with another struggling artist, Robert Mapplethorpe, and the two end up devoting their lives to creative pursuits and pushing each other to produce work. On a number of occasions, the starving artists are forced to choose between marshmallow cookies or buying art supplies. Despite bouts of hunger and at times, homelessness, Smith and Mapplethorpe are driven by a passionate devotion to the arts, the discipline to constantly produce, and studious examinations of contemporary and historical art/music/literature figures from Rimbaud to Warhol to Bob Dylan. Their struggles dispel the myth of the artist as inherent, creative geniuses, but instead presents the successful artist as a culmination of rigorous study and practice. Eventually, the two bohemians move from their humble apartment in Brooklyn at 45 Hall St. (one block over from Brooklyn Industries’ former offices), to the Chelsea Hotel, to a residency at CBGB’s on the Bowery, an area that was at the time littered with flaming trashcans, and a colorful cast of users, transvestites, and musicians, among others. But despite the uncertainty of success amongst the impoverished and societal castoffs decorating downtown, it’s difficult to ignore Smith and Mapplethorp’s palpable excitement from being on the cusp of a movement. It’s that feeling that still compels young people all around the world to move to New York City to this day. – Teddy, Multimedia and Graphic Designer