Today in creativity class, we learned more about the scary part of creativity: assessment.
It’s well known that Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings weren’t successful until after his death. His society’s criteria apparently didn’t match up with criteria of future generations: Such is the plight of many artists and musicians, “ahead of their time.” But what determines whether something is too far ahead in time? What determines which creative works are valuable to society, and which creative works are garbage (and does garbage even exist)? In other words, how do we assess creativity?
One method is consensus: a group of experts decides, based on a set of criteria, what is the most creative. We tried this method in class today, coming to an agreement in groups on which logos, Apple products, paintings, and sneakers had the most creative designs. We selected criteria for each category, and it became clear just how subjective the process is. Each group selected mostly different criteria, showing how everyone had a different idea of what creativity is.
There has to be some sort of marker for what is valuable and what isn’t. Sure, something may be creative– but it also might not be valuable to everyone. For instance, if I made a painting of my toilet, it could be creatively done, but it wouldn’t be featured in a gallery and auctioned off at Sotheby’s because a badly drawn toilet doesn’t mean much to anyone. Unless, of course, I tried selling it in a parallel universe that loves paintings of toilets.
So in this way, an assessment of creativity depends on criteria, and the society framing the criteria. Perhaps a part of creativity lies in understanding the society in which you’re creating (or at least to be financially successful and creative).