I decided to make a movie of a week in the life of my garden because I know how to make such movies and I have a blog called Garden Notes to which these movies could contribute. I also thought this project would enable me to explore what creativity might mean in the making of such movies. I didn't know how I was going to make the movie at the start or what I would make the movie about but I was confident that my garden would inspire me. On the first day of our #creativeHE discussion someone talked about the 1" drawings they make everyday and this gave me the idea of making a 1 minute movie each day. So that gave me a structure to the movie I would make. I imagined I would create a new theme everyday and try and make a movie about that theme – so that was my basic principle of design. In reality, although I focused on a new theme every day, I would also photograph and film other things that were not part of this theme to build up a pool of resources I could draw on throughout the week. I filmed between May 9-16th and made my movies between May 11-18.
As the discussion evolved it became clear that some people felt that some of the artefacts being shared did not fit their understandings of creativity. I ‘happened to come across’ a blog post made by Felicia Semple (1) who runs a craft making workshops business in which she said ‘often my making is simply a process I've followed which involves little, if any, creativity. Because making is not inherently creative.’
I tend to assume that because I make something, I bring that something into existence, therefore I have created it (in the sense that creativity is about bringing entirely new things into existence. I reason they are new to me and new to the world because I am unique and my contexts and circumstances are unique). But Felicity Semple argued that bringing something into existence is not enough, the idea for what is brought into existence must come first from your imagination. A similar point was made by Kevin Byron. So at the end of the festival and discussion I posed the question what is/isn’t creative? And here I explore in the context of my own experience and the 1 minute movies I produced.
Creativity is a process and it is not just about making the little dots, the individual activities, makings and doings, but about how these individual dots connect and combine in a way that produces a larger more significant form, which in turn, over longer periods of time may connect to other forms to produce a larger whole. We can think of connecting the dots as a mechanical exercise or we can think of it as a skilful process of ‘weaving’ or ‘knitting things together’ so that isolated events become a meshwork of more meaningful relationships, interdependencies and significance. I am also a great fan of Tim Ingold’s ideas about how creativity emerges from our interactions with our environment ‘what people do with materials ……. is to follow them, weaving their own lines of becoming into the texture of material flows comprising the lifeworld. Out of this, there emerge the kinds of things we call buildings, plants, pies and paintings’ [and in my case ‘movies’] (2: p97)
Day to day we might only see and appreciate the individual dots, and this is important, but our imagination is also working at a larger temporal, relational meaning making scale, and it is at this scale that the significance of creative work can be truly valued and appreciated rather than only the micro scale of the individual dot. This is the way I view my projects within which my creativity resides be it a book, a social enterprise, a body of work or my garden notes blog. So while my 1 minute movies and narratives were an attempt to generate content for the purpose of our #creative conversation, they also served the bigger purpose of contributing to the unfolding story of me and my garden an important part of the narrative that is my current life, a narrative from which I learn about myself and explore ideas about learning ecologies.
Are my 1 min movies novel (new and original, never been seen before)? I have made many movies but the movies I made this week are new to me and they have never been seen before and therefor must be new to anyone who views them on YouTube. So I am replicating a process that isn’t novel but producing content that is.
Are they a product of my imagination – No the content of the movie did not come out of my imagination, although the design principle did. But my one minute movies nested in a bigger structure and enterprise – My Garden Notes blog whose conception was definitely the product of my imagination. The 1 minute movies are the dots (the unfolding narrative) in my blog that originated in my imagination.
What my movies are though is my response to the environment I put myself into. They are an improvisation in which decisions are made in the garden about what to/what not to film in real time and these decisions are founded on feelings as much or as more as rationality. But there is also another process going on the emergence of a story or narrative that guides decisions about what to try and film so the process turns from one of spotting and filming something to searching for something because that is telling a story that I would like to tell, so that again is where imagination is involved. It’s entangled with perception, rational thinking and emotion. Through this entanglement the process shifts from ‘point at and shoot a nice scene’, to ‘weaving a series of scenes into a meaningful story’. What these short movies are is a way of creating and sharing meaning and creativity is all about creating meaning.
You might say “well you were lucky finding the animals to film” and I won’t deny this. On May 9th sitting having my dinner I looked up to see two deer outside my window. But in the words of Louis Pasteur ‘In the fields of observation chance favours only the prepared mind’. My movie is in the field of observation being aware of possibility is an important part of this type of movie making. I know my garden and the animals in it and their daily rhythm and I follow photographer Dewitt Jones’ advice – I try to put myself into the zones of highest potential and look for possibilities and more than one right answer within the limitations of the time I had set myself to film and produce the movie. This is the way you have to work with the photographic medium in a natural environment. It is not only a matter of chance but of skilful placement of presence in the environment at the most likely time to witness the acts that can be woven into your story.
As for the editing it gives me real pleasure to assemble the photos and video clips in movie maker and try to put them together in a story. If I have done my job in filming I already have the elements of a story but the editing enables this to be shaped into a form that will be more interesting and emotionally engaging. Most of the 1min movies are made over several hours as I take bits out and move scenes around. The music I use or natural sound effects are very important. I listen to a lot of music while I work on the computer and I go through phases of listening to particular types of music. When I find a piece I like I save it ready for using in my movies. In this way my movies become tools for curating the music I like. This is one of the ways I create value for myself and create a deeper emotional response to the film. I love kora music and have discovered that it produces the sort of music that works well with my nature movies. Early in the week I searched for and found a piece I hadn't heard before from a concert given by Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita called Llongau Térou-bi. I watched it over and over again there was so much chemistry between the two musicians. It was a long concert so I had to extract a clip from it, something I hadn’t done before.
Are the 1 minute movies valuable – yes they are to me, they gave me pleasure making them and forced me to get outside and pay attention to what was happening in the world around me. I also enjoyed editing them and deciding where to cut, where to add and how to transition between scenes. When I watch them and listen to that lovely Kora and Harp music I smile and I am happy. That in itself is a value.
The discipline of 1min was a bit of a challenge but once I got into it I thought it was a great way to make a short story and overall the collection seems to hang together reasonably well. At the larger scale I have in my imagination that when this garden passes on to the next owner I will always have access to it via my Garden Notes blog – I consider this a creative solution to offset the loss I will undoubtedly feel when it is gone and I can no longer physically be in the space.
I don’t know whether my 1min movies have social value but I do know that lots of people look at my garden notes blog so I guess it must have some social value. Regardless of whether it has social value I do share my movies through YouTube, my blog and with the Wildlife Facebook Forum – in case they might have value to others.
So as always, it’s a matter of how we interpret creativity. My interest is not just in the creative idea but in how such ideas emerge, along with other thoughts, and are given tangible meaning and expression in the process of a unique person interacting with a particular environment as they try to accomplish something they value. The creation of value is in the eyes of the maker and its up to the maker to share what he has made so that others can see whether it has value to them.
Ideas go nowhere without the creation of a process to do something with them. We often work with rough ideas which may not be original in themselves and create a process (I would use the term a learning or practice ecology). As we participate in a process that has meaning to us we create something that has value. We 'trust' our well used processes that they will deliver something meaningful and in the process we 'undergo' to use a John Dewey term. We become a little bit different and that little bit of difference leads to our sense of wellbeing and living a meaningful life.
I always come back to Carl Rogers concept of a creative process, ‘the emergence in action of a novel relational product growing out of the uniqueness of the individual on the one hand, and the materials, events, or circumstances of their life’ (2 p.350). I think my 1 minute movies are novel (to me). They are relational products growing out of me a unique person (my interests, motivations and interactions) and the materials, events and circumstances of my life (my garden is an important circumstance in my life) as I engage in a process that means something to me – a process that gives me pleasure and a sense of fulfilment.
Not long after I completed my 1min a day movie making project I came across a doctoral thesis written by Marta Ockuly (3) in which she proposed a definition of personal creativity that is dynamic, imagination-informed, and phenomenon-based namely, “Creativity is the person-centered process of imagining possibilities and taking embodied expressive action to make your idea(s) real.” (3 p ii). This definition is entirely consistent with that proposed by Rogers and I like it because it emphasizes the personal embodiment of the act, rather than the product or outcome which is all too often the focus when creativity is being discussed. Marta argues (p173) “Products are possible artifacts of creativity. Creativity lives in embodied process, not products. Ideas are important, but ideas alone are not creativity. The literature is full of definitions of creativity that build on the premise that creativity is an outcome to be evaluated rather than a dynamic phenomenon and lived human experience to be developed and appreciated.”
The idea of a 1min a day movie is just an idea until it is given substance through the embodied and personal acts that enable that movie to be brought into existence. Embodiment - the representation or expression of something in a tangible or visible form, is not something that can easily be unpacked into components that are creative and components that are not creative. Its manifestation must be seen and appreciated in its entirety as an indivisible whole.
You can view the 1min movies on my Garden Notes Blog posts between May 12 - 18 2019.
(1) Making is not inherently creative by Felicia Semple
(2) Ingold, T. (2010) The textility of making, Cambridge Journal of Economics 34, 91–102.
(3) Rogers, C.R. (1960) On becoming a person, Boston: Houghton Mifflin