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What We Talk About When We Talk About Creativity

Words / Liu XiaoyiTranslate / Wei Shimin

Creativity is not spontaneous.

Creativity is described in English as “thinking out of the box”, and in Chinese as “not playing by the rules” (不按牌理出牌). Both definitions emphasise the importance of delineated constructs. It is necessary to understand the “rules”, and the relationship between the “rules” and the “mode of playing”, before one can “think out of the box” in playing. This also puts in place a dialogue with the original constructs, to explore the relationship from within and beyond the constructs, and thereafter create a brand-new construct.

 “Creative Playground” is an education programme co-organised by Zuni Icosahedron (Hong Kong) and HKICC Lee Shau Kee School Of Creativity. This programme spans three years, and the dialogue on creativity is an important event in the first phase of this year’s activities. The dialogue spreads over six sessions, comprising an overseas guest and a Hong Kong speaker to engage in the dialogue for each session. Guests include policy makers, policy executors, cultural and arts practitioners and academics from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Mainland China, all of whom participate in questioning, answering and proposing. Topics focus on creative education, arts development, theatre, arts management and more.

In this particular session, the guests for the dialogue first proposed a list of questions towards each other and to the Hong Kong youths in audience. Under the guidance of the host, this was set as the foundation from which the dialogue took place, together with discussion with the audience, and conclusions by the commentators themselves. The session attracted participation of a large number of youths aged 16-22, who are interested to work in the arts. During the discussion, they eagerly threw out questions, and voiced out their own understanding of the arts, anxieties about furthering their studies, and insecurities towards the stability of the sector. 

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In the field of the arts, the topic of creativity would inevitably be raised. There seem to be plenty of creative works that appear to be “arbitrary and reckless”. In reality, those who truly partake in creative and experimental works are usually rigorious and rational. Instead of purely focusing on not playing by the rules, they engage in serious dialogue with the original construct, understanding its content, boundaries, and only then do they delve into the serious creative work.   

For these creative-inspired youths, based as they are in a bustling city like Hong Kong, what sorts of overarching societal constructs are they up against? And what sorts of personal constructs are they individually up against? What would they be reflecting upon? How would they be reflecting? What notions would they have of our own reflections? When we request that they become both creative and constructive, are we ourselves sufficiently creative and constructive? These formed the pertinent topics of discussion in the dialogue session.

When we talk about creativity, do we talk about an “attitude” towards creativity? Or do we talk about the “ability” of creativity? This gradually became the crux of the discussion. When we encourage youths to have the courage to create, this forms an attitude. How would this attitude then be transformed into a reflective and creative ability? Could creativity be cultivated through education and practice? Or is creativity an innate ability? If creativity could be cultivated, do we have sufficiently creative educational systems and methods to cultivate creative talents?

These questions naturally find no complete resolution in the short span of three days of discussions. However, when we talk about the relationship between creativity and constructs, we seem to have found a probable direction. When we talk about “thinking out of the box”, we need to continually be in dialogue with our “box”, and also with the bigger “box” outside of this “box”, and even more so with other “boxes”. With such an attitude and a continuous journey of dialogues, we would then further understand the full range of possibilities that lie “out of the box”. In this manner, there could perhaps be the possibility for creativity.  

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arrow  Continue reading on Issue 8 / December 2015:The Courage To Go Against The Current