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The Critic, the Red Queen, and the Tweak




The Critic:
With my Sunday morning cup of tea I’ve just read John McDonald’s review of the Red Queen exhibition at MONA in Hobart, Tasmania.
The kettle is on the boil...
The Red Queen: The underlying impetus for the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) exhibition is the biological proposition put forward by biologist Leigh Van Valen in 1973 that constant change (evolution) is necessary for the very survival of a species - that due to the ongoing assault by predators or parasites, species don’t just reach a point of perfection where they can rest on their laurels (this is in a nutshell in a nutshell). The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s “Through The Looking Glass” at one point remarks that it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place.

I would add my current theory which is that creativity is a restlessness. Restlessness to unpick and reassemble ideas in new combinations is advantageous to survival because it leads to the discovery of more successful ways to deal with the world as it is and of responding to new circumstances which may arise. This isn’t to say that “it’s all good” because we are primitive animals at heart and ideas can still be used to enhance our brutality. However, I think that creativity in art is part of our societal sandpit to make a mess, see things differently, astonish ourselves with new discoveries.

The Tweak:
So … what about those artists who work in the same way over and over? Where do they fit in with my theory? Are they not creative? Only the artist her/himself will know what evolution may be occurring internally, but it makes me think that perhaps besides the explorers and inventors and thrill-seekers who can only tolerate a new challenge, for survival as a group we also need those who crave to perfect a craft or skill, to sit with an idea and get to know it intimately and share with the rest of us its nuance and potential.

I suspect we all harbour elements of both the desire for new challenge and the desire to repeat what is familiar and comfortable but we either work primarily in the way which is inherently stronger in us, or could it be, in the way which has become stronger because it is encouraged by our particular surroundings, which may mean the role that best suits our group as a whole in the long run?

Time for a fresh pot of tea.