When Teresa Crea invited me to the Thinking Through The City Incubating Creativity Forum for the City of Norwood, Payneham and St. Peters, she suggested that I might like to be a provocateur. I like rocking the boat as much as the next person, but I felt that what the council is trying to achieve didn’t need that much provocation. Entering the ring of creative and digital industries through an engagement with community, business and creative practitioners seems eminently sensible. Of course that is not exactly what Teresa meant, but as it turned out it was not a role that was hugely necessary on the night. The conversations that developed during the forum, while diverse, had strong themes that demonstrated a real readiness to embrace a new way of thinking about how arts and creativity can work with business. This progressive conversation also served to highlight some of the less imaginative ways of thinking that have been plaguing a deeper engagement between creativity, community and business.
Think back to a time before computers took over the work place. It is like an alien world, for some of us it is a fading memory, for those entering the work force it is a world that never existed. It is getting hard to wrap our minds around now, but back before computers skyscraper were the computers and employees were the transistors. Imagine the rows of employees crunching numbers for banks or accounting firms. They were acting as computers do now; fixated on a small piece of detail, making sure it was correct. This type of world led to a rather perverse concept of what the best use of human intellect was. We had to train the human mind to have a huge capacity for detail retention and this went hand in hand with a need for focused specialisation. If this seems a bit like a rewriting of history then you never had a problem with remembering phone numbers. I did and only a few years ago to have such a problem was deemed a severe intellectual short fall. Once we had daily use of computers we needed these skills less, even less with the internet and even less with portable computing such as smart phones. It turns out that these feats of specialist knowledge and memory where not the pinnacles of human achievement, but a limitation we had to endure.
You wouldn’t do business with artists because they are too flaky, they do what they want to do, turn up when they want to and are not interested in making money, or worse they are hostile to making money. But it is not just artists; I get to hear the same thing about scientists. That’s interesting to me because I work with both on a daily basis and the thing that makes artists and scientists similar is their open ended, creative curiosity. A science paper is just a sign post of a much more complex exploration, the paper may give great insight, but the scientist continues to explore. The same is true of the artist’s exhibition. An exhibition is not a full stop, but a consolidation of thought and experience, readying them for much deeper exploration. So you wouldn’t do business with an artist or scientist because they exhibit unbound creative curiosity and business is up against it working on innovation, or application of ideas, let along spending time and money on mere speculation. Or it could be the best thing you ever did.
Last week, with some guilt, I went to Borders in the CBD to by a book. Guilty for picking over the bones of a dying business, guilty as the staff talked about their unknown futures. I was after a book that had been a business best seller for the last 6 years. Unexpectedly Borders had what I wanted on their shelves. I am so used to retail stores not having something in stock that my initial bad feeling left me and I got excited by the large 40% off tickets, I found my book and looked to the back for the price, calculated the discount and then it struck me, the deep problem that retail is facing. The discount price was still five dollars more expensive than if it had been purchased from Amazon (that’s including shipping). My emotions had swung from guilt to excitement to disappointment. (more…)
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries economies around the world once again legitimately welcomed some of humanities most long-standing professions into the economy. Creative and cultural industries where embraced and labelled in a way that allowed them to be measured economically. Some of this was due to new technologies mediating creativity, making it easier for them to be commoditised and some, such as art and craft, had always been economic contributors, but through industrialisation had somehow lost their legitimacy in the economy. This loss of legitimacy was partly due to the difficulty in fitting one-off objects into the new industrial framework, and partly due to art theorists who felt that this type of creative work should not be included in the economy. The new terminology of creative/cultural industries allowed a number of disparate economic activities to be linked through the commonality of leveraging intrinsically motivated creativity for economic outcomes. (more…)
When we think of culturally vibrant cities with a strong community focus we often leave out business; it is something practical and removed from us as citizens. It may not be clear at the moment, but we are undergoing a transition from process to creative economies. The very things that make up culture and community will be the stuff of business, but not business as we know it. The great work of local groups like MEGA and Renew Adelaide show that today’s entrepreneurial mind set relies much more on culture and creativity for success and that once barriers are taken away, business suddenly has the potential to be a community and cultural activity, helping us to create the environments we enjoy, not one were we are subservient consumers. South Australia does this sort of thing well, if we look to our strengths, build what suits us and resist the pressure to slavishly copy other cities we will achieve the types of communities we want. We have everything we need right here, we each just need to trust our own vision and come together to make it real.
Gavin Artz, CEO Australian Network for Art and Technology