philosophy: the cycle of artistic expression

“don’t imitate, originate”

Disclaimer: This is my very first philosophy post. Remember that all of this is relative and is my opinion only. I welcome other viewpoints and am always up to discuss all matters involving the creation and expression of the arts.

In the quiet moments when I think about the fact that I create for a living or when I’m watching others’ creations, I’m always amazed at the capacity we have as humans to take an impetus or inspiration, conceptualize/literalize it, and create what can be considered as art. We have an innate ability to “make something from nothing” and I find it endlessly fascinating. If you’re intrigued, I elaborate after the jump….

Before I jump into all this you must first understand the cycle of artistic creation. Also know as the cycle of artistic inquiry, it’s a way that we process what we see and experience and then turn it into artistic expression. Kind of like an artistic scientific method. Peep my little flow chart below.

PERCEPTION > CONCEPTION > EXPRESSION > REFLECTION > REVISION

Lots of “-ion”s, eh? Let me break it down for you. It all starts with a perception, anything from a problem to an inspiration. That problem helps to form a conception, which gives birth to artistic expression (dance, music, visual art creations, etc.). That’s where most of us stop, but some continue into analysis of their creation (reflection) and then make revisions of their perception, thereby reentering the cycle.

Given that dance is such a creative line of work, it’s usually enough for someone to use their inspiration to create their expression – you would think the mindspring of inspiration would be enough to power most anything, correct?! Where we run into a problem is when those who can’t find enough inspiration turn to others’ expressions and use it as their own. In plain terms, dance plagiarism. It’s perfectly fine for me to take a count or two from my favorite dance, give it a tweak, and insert into another creation, but when one feels the need to cut a whole section of a dance (or even the entire dance itself) to produce and claim as their own, that’s a big problem. It’s becoming a bit of an issue in the dance community, as the advent of YouTube and social media has opened of tons of opportunities for artists to exhibit their work, but equally as many opportunities for that work to be taken and used without the artists’ permission.

Though it is a moral and ethical issue, it’s just as much a creative one as well. The entire cycle of artistic creation is being bypassed, skipping what could be a moment of artistic growth for the plagiariser and also diminishing the expression of the original creator. One of my friends in middle school would quote his favorite WWF wrestler (whose name I *cannot* remember right now) who would say “The imitator can never eclipse the innovator.” Indeed, when art is plagiarised, it oftentimes brings the original work to a fresh audience. The backlash the plagiariser receives throws light on the original work,  providing the original creator with the chance to expand their following with people who may not have had access their creations.  Quite a fitting segue for this great dance-with-a-message video by b-boy/filmmaker Daniel “Cloud” Campos. It’s a little long, but watch the whole thing, the message is toward the end.

Good, right?! No one, despite how believable their imitation is, could ever be Michael Jackson. This wasn’t a video to insinuate that Daniel plagiarised Michael Jackson’s iconic moves or choreography, but to illustrate the fact of what happens when you don’t seek to be the best and most original person you can and represent yourself in a way that isn’t authentic.

Listen, I’ve been a victim of plagiarism – a dancer I worked with on a project taught my combination to other dancers without permission from me and I found out (social media is a killer, y’all!) – and thought it didn’t faze me much, I was disappointed that the person who did it wasn’t confident enough in their own talent to create an expression that was true to their vision and not mine. As an artist, I have made a promise to myself to always stay true to my own vision. I can allow myself to be inspired and influenced by my interactions, but never so much that I will take that influence and claim it as my own if it is NOT my original concept, movement, or sequence.  This lesson not only applies in dance, but throughout life. As seen in the video, “Don’t imitate….originate. Be true to yourself and there will never be another like YOU…”

find out more information about daniel “cloud” campos here

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