Paradigms of creativity

Practices of Production, Mediation, and Reception in Media, Art, Literature and Design

This research theme centres on the question how cultural production and exchange have developed in the last centuries in a context of 'creativity'.

Creativity is studied not only in terms of the individual producer's search for inspiration, authenticity, and art, but also in terms of the social-political surroundings in which innovation and originality have been recurrently promoted as key aspects of an industrial and post-industrial society. Today, creativity is no longer restricted to a finite class of makers, but has become a societal paradigm, including what we might call 'creative use' and 'self-creation'.

Creativity in everyday life and in artistic production is historically conditioned and has changed throughout the ages along with production technologies, mediation processes and reception practices. It is embedded into changing relations between material and immaterial culture, digital and physical communities, public and private spheres, documentary sources and imagined narratives. It is subject to changing contents of value-related concepts such as originality, authenticity and the like, which evolve historically and are instrumentalized to cater for the public, institutional, and individual demand.

Therefore we need to study expressions of creativity in their specific historical, institutional and societal contexts, in a comparative analysis of early modern, modern, and contemporary practices. In fact, contemporary concepts of creativity are no longer restricted to the idea of the absolute new, but also related to practices of creative reuse, appropriation, (re)mediation, and recontextualization. We therefore need to thoroughly scrutinize the aesthetic practices of mediation, exploration and reflection which have emerged as part of and in response to expressions of creativity.

At the same time, research on creativity has to be done in close relation to what is often considered its opposite, namely cultural norms and traditions. In the context of these developments, we also have to reconsider notions of authorship and legal conditions of creativity, as well as its relation to the increasingly conflicting notions of innovation and sustainability.

Different subthemes will be studied both theoretically and historically:

  • Intermediality
    The convergences between different media (visual arts, literature, film, digital networks, design, games) and their respective forms of mediation, and preservation (museums, archives, the public sphere, collective memory), including practices of appropriation, reenactment, versioning, and translation, in physical as well as digital space.

  • Network publics
    The diverse audiences of creativity and their respective practices, as well as the changing definitions of amateurs and professionals, producers and consumers, of private and public spheres and what it means to participate in culture. The exchange between individual actors, commercial and cultural systems as contexts and locations of creative practice.

  • Self-creation
    The particular ways in which individuals, communities, institutions and nations have attempted to shape themselves materially and symbolically, and how cultural products in turn inform these constructive processes and the connected social, economic, and political fields.

  • Mobility and temporality
    The influence of the increasing mobility of actors and objects on concepts of creativity, including the interplay of different layers of temporality which challenge our spatial and temporal concepts of history, including genealogies of art, communities and political geography.

The theme is interdisciplinairy from the outset, by far exceeding cooperation across the different humanities disciplines, art and media studies. While focus on mediation affords a close cooperation with anthropology, and psychology, the societal and institutional embedding of creativity will be investigated in cooperation with organization science, law, and economics.

Research Coordinator

Prof. Dr. Katja Kwastek

On the 1st of September 2013, Katja Kwastek has been appointed a Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art at the Faculty of Humanities of VU Amsterdam.
Her research interests focus on modern and contemporary art and media, media aesthetics, audiences of art and digital humanities.