Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Becoming Original

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; 
Nothing is original. All human expression is really just endless variations; 
You can't create anything new. Repetition and reference are all that is left.

In a "visual arts and culture" class in my second year DAAD program, my professor stopped her lecture and asked us all to raise our hands if we thought we were capable of changing the world. One or two people did the wavering half-raise, but the majority of us just sat there kind of stunned. Until that moment I had never realized how pessimistic my postmodern worldview was. She proceeded to explain to us how 20 years earlier when she asked that question, almost every had was raised. This was a class of 20-somethings after all: aren't we the "future generation," the ones now responsible to stop global warming, AIDS, hunger, and WWIII? But we were already jaded. 

That class gave me a LOT to think about. It helped that my prof was a vocal feminist/activist and didn't care how many students she pissed off each week, but she was great at asking the questions no one else was asking us. "Do you think you can change the world? You say you dont, but do you actually believe women are weak? Why does GI Joe have biceps bigger than his head?"

All this translates somehow into my current view of my work and the Graphic Design industry. When I graduated, I felt like I was ready to be the designer I wanted to be. I thought I knew what I needed to know and I was "it." Sure I knew I'd need to keep learning to keep up, but in a naive way I thought all I needed more of was technical skill. 

The more I work at this job, the more I become aware of how much more I want to be. I'll never be content to find a little niche and stay in it. I think its the creative spirit in me, and a deep response to my professors challenge years ago. I don't know if I can change the world with graphic design. But I know that I don't want to stop trying. Which means I have to keep striving to create something new, even though I don't know if its possible. I have to be aware of which creations of mine are imitations, which techniques are going into my tool box for a future project where I will really stretch myself. I feel like I'm "in training," and that at some point I'm going to want, need to race. 

We'll see. Maybe the nature of the beast is that I'll always feel this way. But at the end of my days, I hope that Jesus and I can look back and see that I gave it all I had, in my work and in my life. Because really this translates to everything I do. Complacency is not for me. It's not for any of us. 

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