Sometime during the late ninety’s I read the Biography of William Blake (1757-1827) by Peter Ackroyd. Prior to this, my only connection to Blake was in college where I read his Songs of Innocence and Experience. I saw Blake as a visionary, poet, and gifted artist who chose to be detached from the affairs of everyday life, but many thought he was insane due to his personal choice of self examination over fame and fortune and because of his reported visions. William Blake said:
I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare, my business is to create. I wish to do nothing for profit. I wish to live for art.
Today he might be called a renaissance man because of his refusal to be defined by society, and his refusal to be a part of any system which could enslave him. When I found the above quotation in his biography, the words took hold of me the way the wind sucked the air from my lungs on a cold Chicago night. I was left breathless for a moment. These words have been with me ever since.
All systems to some degree enslave us. They are designed to force us to adopt them or to fail in our own footsteps. Systems are designed to keep us in tow, to stifle individual creativity, and to control and enslave us. It does not matter if the system is social, political, economic, or religious. The primary edict of any system is to control the outcome, to prevent individual thinking, and to encourage mass obedience.
Even the program I use to write these words is a system designed to make me follow a set of rules. In order to have the benefits or ease of placing my words into a computer, I must adhere to the rules of the program. I can chose another system, Microsoft over Apple for example, but I still have to follow a set or rules to use either one. As operating systems become more sophisticated, I might be able to do more things on the computer but I am still bound by the rules and limitations of the operating system itself. It is like a paint by number drawing. I am told what color goes where. The only way to beat the system in this example would be to paint outside the lines and to not be attached to the expected outcome. The end result will not look like the picture on the box cover.
True creativity should not be bound by any system. It should flow from the mind and heart of the creator onto the chosen medium without the rules of language, or color combining, or critique and criticism. True creativity is the creation of an expression which has never been expressed in quite that same way before. As artist and creators we must create our own individual systems and not be enslaved by what others think or what will make us money. An artist creates because he/she has something inside that needs to be expressed and he/she is the only one who can give birth to that expression.
Photo Credit: Cuenca Street Art