Yearly Archives: 2015

Handmaids’ Tales–a story in the New York Times

Azadeh Moaveni‘s article “ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape” is one of the few stories in The New York Times that I read every word of. It gives an insight into a city we are now bombing, Raqqa, a city that I would warrant most Westerners have never heard of before, first giving a sense of a modern city with a population engaged in daily life and mores close to those we consider our own. It is seen from the point of view of the lives of three young women, and as it develops I thought again of how Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, on par in its social critique/predictiveness with Brave New World, 1984, and Lord of the Flies, all of whose premises and scenarios we are living out to some extent today. [Lord of the Flies, which I had not thought much about since I first read it in my early teens, has come back into my mind a lot recently when watching the spectacle of the Republican debates, as men who may have possibly once been relatively civilized or reasonable, although I’m not sure about that, dive for the bottom of the barrel in order to win.]  I’ve only read The Handmaid’s Tale once because it laid out so frighteningly how easy it would be to subdue and enslave the entire female population of the United States, including as tools of entrapment and enslavement all the seemingly anodyne aspects of contemporary life, beginning with ATM cards, and using crises brought about by ecological disasters as the rationale, that I couldn’t ever bear to go back into the story, even to confirm my memory of the end of the book, which, as I recall, opened up the possibility that, like Germany during the Third Reich, abominations could take place in one country, while life continued in a more normal fashion elsewhere.

“ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape” gives a living example of Atwood’s dystopic masterpiece, happening now in a city that wasn’t as different from our own as most Americans may be led to think.

Cover art for first edition, 1985

Cover art for first edition, 1985


My generation and Paris

We were born in the safe interval between catastrophes. Which is worse? To have been born in a catastrophic moment and live life at all times informed by danger, fear, and the necessities of bare survival, or to have been born in a moment and place of relative safety and bounty. My generation, many of us the children of war refugees, Holocaust survivors, war survivors in Europe, or of survivors of the Great Depression, was steeped in the history of the previous catastrophic era, but we grew up in a golden moment of post-war middle class relative security and cultural possibility. Now darkness descends: fascism, austerity, poverty, war, extremism, the eradication of symbols of civilization by men and the eradication, by men, of the planet as a site for human existence. Is it worse for us born in an illusory moment of security or for those beginning their lives, born into a transitional moment of lingering entitlement but growing desperation?

Among responses to what happened yesterday evening in Paris, are shock, horror, grief, but also a condemnation of the West for its causative historical policies of colonialism and exploitation, its recent history of senseless war, and its lack of interest in anything that happens any place but at its core. Behind that lurks something else, a critique of the Enlightenment as the philosophical source of Eurocentric domination, something that one encounters more particularly in the one place that has any concern for the Enlightenment, that is to say academia. It is a contradictory discussion, whose terms are largely determined by Western thought, much of it emerging from Paris since the Seventeenth Century and particularly since the French Revolution. Last night the familiar meme, “Today we are all French, Today we are all Parisian…” began to appear, just as monuments around the world were illuminated in the tricolor of the French flag. And certainly anyone who critiques the Enlightenment, just as anyone who is interested in democracy, is going to use French thought to do so, which is to say, largely, Parisian thought.

I am not qualified to engage with the critique of the Enlightenment. But I did receive a French education. That was my “formation” (pronounced as the French word meaning education and training). I later turned away from it yet my mind was formed and marked by that education.

This morning I reached for some of the books from my education at the Lyçée Français de New York and then some of the other books that have been so central to so many of us.


First I got on a little step ladder  to get down from an upper shelf my trusty Lagarde & Michard readers from high school at the Lyçée. I loved these books. Do I remember anything from them enough to discuss or teach? No, and yet when I open them I see the work that we did every week, reading these texts, doing “explication de texte,” being formed by thought and a detailed approach to language about thought itself. They do place human thought at the center of the world. The text most frequently quoted by my students the past few years is Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, where human agency and participation in events is decentered. This is an interesting and importantly egalitarian view, and yet the earlier human centered philosophy is still instructive and even necessary.

Yet here is Blaise Pascal‘s “Le Roseau Pensant,” which posits man as a frail thing, dignified only by his capacity to be self-aware of his mortality and to think. Below that, from the Lagarde & Michard reader, a holographic reproduction of a piece of paper found in the lining of Pascal’s jacket upon his death, the Memorial.




Below that I found two copies of René Descartes’ Discours de la méthode.




From my readings of the past three decades, in another part of my library:


My generation grew up into the spirit of 1968. It was our time. We lived Paris and its philosophy through the films of Jean Luc Godard and also in a different way those of  François Truffaut and Éric Rohmer. The CalArts I attended in 1971, as I realized much later, represented the flowering, in America, of the spirit of ’68, in its approach to freedom within learning and teaching. Most graduate students today still read Debord‘s The Society of the Spectacle and thoughts on détournement are metaphorically traced over the street plan of Paris.

…and in this thread I am not even addressing the importance of French and French based visual art, but…






All graduate students in visual arts or media studies are assigned Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproducibility.” Few immerse themselves in Benjamin’s Arcades Project, a massive, unfinished, mythical,  collection of research about the early years of commodity culture studied through the cultural history of Paris in the Nineteenth Century.




I find that some things are hard wired to an extent that is surprising. I’ve never lived in Paris, have only spent a few weeks there my whole life, and for various reasons and tropisms I became as much of an Anglophile as my sister Naomi Schor became a Francophile, but its role in my parents life and in that of my sister–her red-covered arrondissement map of Paris was one of her most treasured possessions–and the particular role that it plays in the history of the civilization that was the focus of my education from first grade through the final year of the Lyçée, “Philo,” is evidently so deep that I feel a particular spike of hysteria and rage when I hear news of terrorist attacks in Paris. I feel rage at many of the violations of civilization that we experience, from the deep sin the USA committed in waging the Iraq War, for which we will pay for decades, to the destruction of Palmyra, to the near daily mass shootings in the USA. As it is, post 9/11, fear of terrorism inflects my movements in the city, and if that fear is realized in a manner like what has occurred in Paris and elsewhere around the world, I would be under the bed with fear. But apparently Paris occupies a special space in my imaginary.

My father Ilya Schor came to Paris on a grant from the Polish government in 1937. My mother Resia Schor joined him in 1938. Here they are that winter, Place de la République, near where one of the attacks in Paris took place last night.


It is my belief that most likely they would have lived their life based in Paris, returning to Poland to visit family, if it were not for the war. They fled Paris in either late May or early June, 1940, a few days ahead of the German Army. One of the many things I forgot to ask my mother was which day, exactly. Her memory was excellent, particularly for those few weeks of their life, from their departure from Paris, by the Porte d’Orléans, on one of the last trains or the last Métro, then on foot through Orléans, down to Bordeaux, towards the Spanish border, to their arrival in Marseilles in August 1940, where they stayed until October or November 1941, then on through Spain to Lisbon, arriving in New York December 3, 1941.


There are some books I have, but perhaps this is the moment to confess I have not read them.


I will open to a page of Jacques Derrida‘s Archive Fever.


Through chance operations I find this paragraph, in which “the process of archivization” matches and is matched by “anarchiving destruction.”

The news from Paris is one of the many blows to our sense of the loss of reason and hope of our time, yet the day is followed by the day, and one has to figure out how to make the days count even if the idea of accumulating material for the human archive is increasingly revealed as a fantasy.



Quick Responses, then and now

Hello again. A Year of Positive Thinking continues but the facts of everyday life are such that it has been impossible to find time to see much art or sit down for a day to address for this site any issues of concern to me. That is a condition of everyday life which I suspect is shared by many in one way or another. But here are a couple of image/text pieces, one from 1994, the other a drawing done this week after the most recent school massacre and the public reactions to it on the part of some politicians.

Hyperallergic included the following text and image in its Sunday October 4 Required Reading section . They picked it up from a October 3 post of this statement and image on Facebook:

With regards to there being bad boy, bad-ass women artists, I created this image in 1994 for How many ‘bad’ feminists does it take to change a lightbulb? a publication by Laura Cottingham (the back of the magazine has text in a small triangle: “It’s not funny”). I continue to be interested in the category of excellent women.


Then yesterday, struggling with the first cold of the season, directly caused by my work schedule’s interaction with the Achilles heel of my immune system (evidently I can’t get up early two days in a row much less also tromp around the city in a freezing cold rain storm without getting sick), I nevertheless had to do some drawings to express my rage at Jeb Bush’s response to the most recent mass shooting–“stuff happens.” Indeed his family has inflicted a lot of …”stuff”… on this country and the world.

I started with this sketch, held down for the picture with my middle finger for emphasis:


But it wasn’t quite “stuffy” enough if you know what I mean.

Luckily I have a “stuff” colored sketchbook I got in Berlin last spring:


I loved the response of a friend to this second notebook drawing: “like you pulled it out of your guts – told a friend it looks like the walking dead jeb vomited up his own shit for the world to see.”

That’s about right, but did the world see it?


Orson and Edwin and other pleasures

As we enter the dog days of August here’s a little recap of some pleasures from the past few months that have stuck with me and that I’d love to share.


This year is Orson Welles‘ centenary and in May Turner Classic Movies ran a weekly festival of Welles’ films. I have seen almost all of them, multiple times in most cases, benefiting in my youth from the proximity of the New Yorker Cinema on the Upper West Side. Peter Bogdanovich ran a festival of Welles there sometimes in the late 60s I think, with interesting mimeographed handouts for each film: Welles’ repertory theater, the Mercury Theatre players, the crazy plots and over the top or sloppy acting of films like Mr. Arkadin, the exaggerated post-War middle European displaced persons camp atmosphere, the camera shots and pacing, all of it is part of my artistic bedrock. So I was intrigued when late at night, May 27 after midnight I think, TCM ran the restored footage of Welles’ first venture into film, Too Much Johnson, a silent movie meant to be used as vignette interludes within a play, a film project I had never heard of. In typical Welles fashion, the 10 reels of 35mm film disappeared and were said by Welles to have burned in a fire until they were rediscovered in a film warehouse in Italy  a few years ago and now have been restored. An introductory text by film historian Scott Simon can be found here; a long informative text on this film by Welles scholar Joseph McBride can be found here, and there are a number of versions of the film available online including the total footage here, and a reconstruction based on archival research of how the footage was intended to be used as part of a theater production here.

The minute the film started I knew I was a goner in terms of anything like a semi-reasonable bedtime since it ran into the middle of the night but I was captivated by the film and drawn into it also by the dreamy contemporary film score. Since the film is already anachronistic in its homage to silent film, it is interesting to have it also be anachronistic forward with a Philip Glass/Steve Reich like repetitive score. Unfortunately the versions available online have a piano based film score that is very much a pastiche of silent movie music accompaniment one is familiar with, which is serviceable but not distinctive. However one film clip on TCM does have the new score and is also an excellent glimpse of what makes the film so captivating: here is a link to the clip.

The film is a pastiche of the silent movies that Welles saw as a child, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, with a deadpan hero contrasted by exaggerated stock theater pantomime acting (among many registers of acting in the ensemble cast), brisk and often surrealistic narratives, and palpably fake sets. It happens that I saw these movies as a child too, since my mother often took me to see silent comedies at MoMA.

In the early part of the film the lead character “Johnson” played by a debonair and fearlessly acrobatic Joseph Cotten is pursued through the streets and across the rooftops of Lower Manhattan by a jealous husband. At first the locations seem somehow staged, fake, but gradually you realize you’re looking at the Woolworth Building and at the Meatpacking district and around the Highline, when it was a functional entity (it was built in 1934), sometimes completely empty, other times populated by regular people watching the goings on with amusement.

Minutes into the film I was struck, in fact I was kind of thunderstruck by the resemblance between the settings and the plain yet daring black and white cinematography in the film and the photographs from the same time period by Rudy Burckhardt, who had arrived in New York in 1935.

Too Much Johnson, film still

Too Much Johnson, film still


In fact I was so thunderstruck by the connection I felt between this film and Burckhardt’s work that I abandoned the film to rush to my computer to research the relationship. The time frame and location was identical, and the New York avant-garde art, film, and theater worlds were relatively small compared to now so it was entirely plausible that Orson Welles and Rudy Burckhardt knew each other. They were very close in age and very young in the late 1930s, Burckhardt born April 6, 1914, Welles May 6, 1915. Not that every very talented person around the same age knows each other even in the smallest community. Still, there was something.

But instinctively I made a leap from the idea of Googling “Orson Welles Rudy Burckhardt” to instead Googling “Orson Welles Edwin Denby,” that is, Burckhardt’s close friend, the poet and dance critic Edwin Denby, and bingo!!: in 1936 Welles and Denby  collaborated on the Federal Theater Project production of “Horse Eats Hat,”(see here the picture of Edwin Denby as either the front or back end of the horse), a farce by French writer Eugene Labiche, staring Joseph Cotten. “Too Much Johnson” was a 1894 play by actor director William Gillette, based on another late 19th century French farce.


from the absolutely awe inspiring timeline of Welles’ incredible career!date=1912-05-14_22:05:02! just the first decade of his work is protean, fascinating, and important historically and artistically

Too Much Johnson includes wonderful set pieces such as a rooftop chase seen in the clip above, a chase through a maze of fruit packing cases, and a subsequent sequence with Magrittean bowler hats that shares the anarchic energy of Surrealist films such as Louis Buñuel’s 1930 film, L’Age d’Or. The acting is both parodic of early silent film and late 19th century theatrical melodrama, and ineffably hip and of the moment not just in the specific sense of the late 1930s but beyond that the kind of permanent “of the momentness” of any good work done with a youthful carefree improvisational spirit that remains young throughout time. The acting and directorial style at times veer into a stylized version of amateurish verve, when you get talented people who are game to do anything including things not in their area of expertise, harkening back to domestic amateur theatrical productions as described in Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott novels among others, and yet a highly developed artistic instinct and discipline of composition, timing, and order prevail at the same time. In this, Too Much Johnson again reminded me of Edwin Denby and Rudy Buckhardt, in such film collaborations as Money, a 1968 film by Rudy Burckhardt (which I wrote about here).

Postscript August 2: All along I could have called Rudy Burckhardt’s wife Yvonne Jacquette or his son Jacob Burckhardt to ask about the Orson/Rudy connection. When Jacob saw this post last night he wrote me that around the same time as Welles was making Too Much Johnson, Rudy made a movie called Seeing the World Part One: a visit to New York N.Y., in which Virginia Welles appears, with a now lost film score by composer and author Paul Bowles (I forgot to mention that originally Too Much Johnson was to have a score by Bowles, also now lost). In it, according to Jacob, “There is also a scene in a dark saloon, where two gangsters sit across the table from each other. One of them, played by Edwin, pulls a gun on the other. The other played by Joseph Cotten, pushes the gun aside and knocks him down (Cotten had recently had his first starring role in Welles and Denby’s “Horse Eats Hat”). Rudy told me that the scene was originally supposed to be between Orson and Joseph, but since Orson didn’t show up, Edwin stood in.” Which answers more than the limited question of whether Orson knew Rudy and his work: they did know each other. More, it turns out that for at least a brief moment they were both in their early twenties and very talented in New York at the same time, with shared friends and shared collaborators, interested and cross-influenced by similar histories–a vivid example of how art comes out of fertile communities where worldly success may arrive for different figures at different times in different ways, or not at all, but where everyone is essential to the mix in an unmarked way which is hard to replicate and which is obscured by celebrity culture.


In working in the mode of silent film, Welles was looking back to his own childhood experiences with silent film as film, that is, as what film was when he was a child and he was emulating the sui generis pioneer actor/director geniuses of that time period, Harold Lloyd, to whom the rooftop chase scene is indebted, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin.

Which leads me to another wonderful film viewing experience from earlier this winter which I highly recommend: The Chaplin Puzzle, a 1992 documentary film which follows Charlie Chaplin’s early development, his artistic evolution during his first two years in Hollywood, in his Keystone and Essanay period, from 1914 to 1916. It is a fascinating view of how an artist creates himself and refines his craft. I was particularly interested in relation to my experience of young artists today working in video who often do one simple thing and then ponder it for months, or young filmmakers who struggle with fundraising even for small projects they film on iPhones and produce themselves: during this period Chaplin turned out about one film a week and was able to gauge the success of his character from audience reaction while learning for himself what worked in film formally and technically.


Finally I want to encourage anyone who’s in New York this summer to see George Ohr Pottery: “No Two Alike,” which is at Craig F. Starr Gallery through August 14. I have a particular soft spot for pottery, it brings together materiality and color, qualities I appreciate in painting: that something is a thing and yet  can glow with color. I often visit the American Wing at the Metropolitan to look at their installation of early American pottery; just give me an early American earthware pot pot with slip decorated in earth tones and it’s like a ray of sunshine.

Sugar Pot, American, c. 1820-1840, earthenware with slip decoration, Coll. Metropolitan Museum, American Wing

Sugar Pot, American, c. 1820-1840, earthenware with slip decoration, Coll. Metropolitan Museum, American Wing

The George Ohr exhibition is a wonderfully curated show, which contrasts unglazed works by the American ceramic artist of the post Civil War / early 20th century period with some of his more finished glazed works, the front room containing the raw clay works, the back room with a spectacular installation of glazed works, with one juxtaposition of each kind in the middle office space creating a bridge between the two parts of the exhibition. The pieces range from works that fit into established forms of art pottery of the period to works that are experimental, immediate, delicate, modern in their formlessness.





Except for these two pieces juxtaposed on a little shelf in the middle room, to compare the effect of the unglazed and the glazed you have to run back and forth between the rooms, or, rather, walk quietly given the fragility of the objects, and it hard to chose–a contemporary aesthetic tips one towards the unglazed, but for me the gleam of a colored glaze is kind of divine, pleasurable and unknowable at the time.





On another positive note, I was recently interviewed by Berlin-based curator, art critic, and educator An Paenhuysen about A Year of Positive Thinking. I responded to four questions, about the art scene I might belong to, about the blog itself, about my background, and about money–whether or how I monetize the blog, directly or indirectly–always an important question. The interview appears here.


“Creatives”–A Facebook conversation

A word enters the culture and as its usage widens, its ideological meaning become clearer. The usage of the terms “creative” retroactively applied to a 1970s situation made me post a statement on Facebook which clearly struck a chord in my Facebook community. The conversation this provoked I think is worth sharing here, something I have done a couple of times on A Year of Positive Thinking. I have edited the thread but not the comments. The conversation is ongoing.

I’m concerned that the term creative, used sometimes as a noun, “creatives,” is seeping out of trendy promotional text about young “creatives” moving into new neighborhoods etc and into mainstream art text. Instead of artists, you have “creatives”–it’s similar to the distinction between being considered “artistic” in high school and actually being an artist but now transformed into a marketing category of dubious character.

Carl Ostendarp: I feel the same way, Mira– I’m not sure this is at all helpful or fully thought through, but I’ve been thinking that this new usage is predicated on the notion of creativity as a problem-solving activity, (maybe somewhere between design and the expanded definition of curating)–and I think of art-making as problem finding.–come to think of it, I think this may relate in some way to your earlier post with the Joan Brown interview about distinctions between art as research and as a process involving praxis.

MS: Carl, that is a very good way of describing the distinction between terms and identities. It’s a word used to create a marketing demographic and there is a techno design curating orientation, with a debased concept of curating.

Millie Wilson: and what a phony word! creatives are “trending” which is another word that functions similarly.

MS: My post was prompted by the retrofitting of the term in a description of the downtown art world of the 70s as the “1970s downtown creative scene.”

Michael Waugh: Not only that but the blurring has the effect of subsuming all creative activity into a corporate rubric. The critical stance that distinguishes art is effectively negated by the category “creatives.”

Stefany Benson: I’ve heard the term “makers” used also to be inclusive of all the people who pursue creative endeavors like inventors and even product designers. ??

MS: exactly Michael! that’s why it grates so much. Yeah and “makers”–that’s more complex for me because “making” , in scare quotes, denotes the kind of art that is thought to be less intellectually valid than certain types of art associated with research as an institutional art type, but too long to go into that, I mentioned in another post today a book I’m reading called Troubling Research which is is quite interesting in that regard. So “makers” is in scare quotes in the art world, but fits in with “creatives” as a corporate trending group.

Dm Simons: It is about marketing, advertising, a straddling trigger that encompasses market strategies—similar to the use of “properties”, as a ball-of-wax term for artists and art work.

Cassandra Langer: Not sure exactly what disturbs you about the term. Many 50 something and under use it to distinguish themselves and their activities as other than a 9 to 5 job(although now that designation seems obsolete). Like the term queer it may take a little getting use to and refining. To be an artist and live that life is something specific that could fall under creatives in their minds if not an older generations. Mira are we dating ourselves as language grows changes and adapts?

Eric T. Banks: Cassandra, The term “creatives” tends to lump in all artistic enterprise whether done for true artistic purposes (i.e. search for meaning) or any other thing from set design to interior decorating. I very much see Mira’s point here and am irked by it as well. If it is a “generational” thing as you infer than it should be a learning moment for one older and wiser to illuminate those younger and hipper to the distinction. Soon they’ll go back to “artsy.”

Andrei Molotiu: “Creatives” is a term to flatter TEDx attendees

Carol Bruns: “creatives” is used by business to borrow prestige from artists. if artwriters call artists “creatives” they are lumping them with advertising people and commercial enterprises.

Edward Winkleman: I’ve taken to using it when discussing people who want to pursue a career for which the paying jobs are extremely rare (writers, dancers, actors, artists [which for me always connotes visual artist], musicians, etc.). I see your point, but would welcome an alternative.

Tom Knechtel: I’ve felt that it has a disturbing undertow of Alphas versus Deltas. Besides, it’s just sloppy. Some of the people using the term are the least creative people imaginable.

MS: Edward I think your question answers itself: being a writer, a dancer, an actor, a visual artist, a musician, a designer, are designations of what a person does well and is committed to, whether or not they get paying jobs for these practices. Those are the alternative terms: I’m a painter, an artist, a writer, an actor, a playwright. People sometimes engage in more than one type of art practice, but that’s different. “Creatives” suggests a conformist, marketable type of pseudo-nonconformism. It replaces dilettantism, which was generally derogatory and wasn’t as much of a commodity. Of course some people who might be lumped in this new category are actually serious artists in a specific field and will outlast this terminology.

Tom I was thinking of Brave New World just this morning, if not exactly on this track. I was thinking of my mother’s politically prescient and astute statement to me, in her 90s, watching the nightly news: “so in America soon it will be the corporations and the slaves.” Maybe “creatives” are the attractive end of the wedge.

Joanne Mattera: Shiver

Nancy Evans: creativity is not confined to artists, but artists do have special problems and needs that make it irresponsible to group all “creatives” together … plus I think they mean by “creatives” smart computer programmers.

Heide Fasnacht: It is indeed a marketing category but not dubious. In Detroit, for example, it is used to describe young entrepreneurs coming in to “rescue” the city. They are misguided in believing in “solutionism”. Typically, they are not artists. I believe they are very cynical.

Henry Bogle: I have no problem with the term. ‘Artist’ also has issues with presumption, generalization, and contextualization in the postindustrial/digital era.

Kristina Newhouse: Imagine how we curators feel now that everyone is a curator. The circular game of patting oneself on the back is now made complete. Everybody is a creative AND a curator.

Lori Ortiz: Creative (noun) used to be the term for those in advertising responsible for writing ad copy, coming up with the campaign ideas ( think Don Draper) as well as those who penned or penciled the accompanying ‘art.’

Sam Erenberg: Mira, you use the term “practice,” which bothers me as much as the term “creatives” bothers you. Twenty years ago, we ascribed the former to law and medicine. “Practicing” the violin does not make one a “creative” musician.

MS: Sam it’s true! Yet another case of terminology creep. I do use “practice” and probably other words I used to find annoying, and I will probably use “creatives” but I think always in scare quotes.

Scott Davis: Last year someone on Facebook pointed me to the origin of “Creative” as a demographic designation. …I was shocked to see that “Creatives” did not necessarily refer to artists at all. “The creative class includes people who work in science and technology, business and management, arts, culture, media and entertainment, law, and healthcare professions.”

Eve Andrée Laramée: To my way of thinking and observing, the term “creatives” connotes gentrification and marketing of objects and space (consumer products and real estate.) It can also suggest a luxury class of those who have the leisure time (and possibly family money) to “be creative” rather than be a laborer and/or wage-earner. Sometimes it is used to describe opportunistic “entrepreneurs” or “developers” that can be parasitical to the artists and makers of culture. The term “maker” may be a an updated version for “inventor” – to replace terms such as crafts-person, or tinkerer (in the best sense of tinkering…I consider tinkerers geniuses!)

Steve Locke: …It’s the language of neo-liberalism slithering into art.

Jenny Dubnau: Oh god do I ever agree. It is also the coded language of gentrification: “creatives” always pay more rent than artists.

Julian Jackson: Plus it turns everyone else into non creatives? Enough divisiveness as there is.

Noah Becker: it’s a term used in real estate to describe artists during the gentrification of neighborhoods.

Dooley La Capellaine: I worked as a “New Media”consultant on Wall Street and was really nauseated by this term of expression. They blew the bubble and Ihave survived the “creatives” nonsense.

Susan Silton: I think “creatives” originally derives mainly from advertising, i.e., the distinction made between those responsible for coming up with campaigns (copywriters, art directors) and account managers. There have always been simultaneous artworlds, but now cultural production has proliferated because of the ease of technology, and art has increasingly been packagedlike advertising (not to mention commodified.

Richard Kooyman: Like many neoliberal constructs the use of the word appears genuine and practical but has an underlying political purpose. It wasn’t Richard Florida who originally thought up the concept but actually Charles Leadbetter who wrote much of the neoliberal ideas behind Tony Blair’s New Labor Policies. They invented a way for government to be held less socially responsible by declaring everyone a creative individual and everything a potential market. The problem isn’t just that it’s a lazy term. The problem is that it turns the intrinsic value of Art into just another market.

Camille Eskell: The thrust in education now is being a “problem-solver” to think in creative ways because they do not know what the job situation is going to look like in the years to come for young people now. Students are to tackle “read – world problems” in the classroom so they can be better equipped for the future. Ironically, the push is for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in stead of STEAM which includes the arts. Interesting that the progenitors of this idea of being creative left out those who are essentially creative. Art is still very much misunderstood by the linear – thinkers in education (and the outer world); most think it is child’s play and do not have the foggiest notion that a true thinker and creative person uses all of themselves, sequential and holistic approaches and applies the practical and the sensory, the intellectual and the emotional in one fell swoop. Plus I think the term “creatives” is appealing to the young who will soon become the work force and ever greater consumers.

Nancy Buchanan: I recommend looking at Martha Rosler’s analysis of Florida’s ideology. The transformation of almost everything into a commodity, and everyone into an entrepreneur seems to be related to the softening or substitution of many terms. Like “gallerist” for “dealer” (dealer being, in my opinion, the more honest descriptor). And–who is happy about being part of the problem (e.g., the “Creative Class” speeding gentrification & displacement)?


And capital for Capital, not necessarily for  “creatives.”

Thanks to Millie Wilson for posting this image (and link). Thanks to all of those who participated in this conversation thread and did not object when I asked if I could transfer it here.