Novelty, Uniqueness, Originality

My work on An Ouroboros: Art, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action continues, sometimes at a pace of one or two paragraphs a day. Framing paragraphs are important, so this one took a while; it is the first of the fourth essay in the developing collection: “Novelty.”

“Creativity,” according to Mihaly Csizkzentmihalyi and others, “involves the production of novelty.”[i] When that novelty – the creativity – is deployed in a way that makes lasting change (i.e., “impact”) the novelty can be an “innovation.” The product of the generative work of the artist, whether in the studio, on the stage, or in collaboration with the community, is by its nature unique. But that uniqueness on its own is not enough to make it an innovation. To use a common social science term, it is necessary, but not sufficient. Economist Richard Caves, in his influential 2000 study of the “creative industries,” defined uniqueness as one of six characteristics of the sector. Yet, as Walter Benjamin points out in his essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” “In principle a work of art has always been reproducible.[ii]” There is a tension between what art fundamentally is, a unique work that expresses symbolic meaning, and the reproduction of that work. Yet, there are artists who harness reproducibility as a way to produce an innovation (a creative idea that has impact), enact entrepreneurship (connect work with audience through a mediating structure) and make the money they need to feed their art, enacting the ouroboros of art and money. But, reproduction also feeds the capitalist urge to exploit the labor of the artist for financial gain, albeit sometimes to the benefit of organizations that themselves support artists or are part of the cultural fabric of a city. Like everything else about the relationship between art, money, and entrepreneurial action, this notion of novelty is complicated.

marilyn pixelated

[i] Csizkzentmihalyi (1996). Creativity: The psychology of discovery and invention, p. 113.

[ii] Benjamin. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in Arendt (ed,; Zorn trans; 1968) Illuminations, p. 219.



About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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1 Response to Novelty, Uniqueness, Originality

  1. Pingback: Mass-produced, Not-art | Creative Infrastructure

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