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The Danger of Inspiration

Arts Necessary Futility Justin J. Bartlett

A prominent obstacle for the contemporary designer/artist is the idea of inspiration. Why is the concept of inspiration a problem? Surely art is a child born of inspiration? This of course is true, however I believe that the root of the problem is a readily accepted and prolifically used concept of inspiration that has become distorted and detached from its original meaning in relation to artistic endeavour. Within the design community it has become increasingly common to find websites, blogs and books featuring 50 inspirational designs or 60 inspirational typefaces among other similar titles. These so called inspiration galleries apparently feature a myriad of inspirational designs to get ones creative juices flowing. These works are nearly always used completely out of context and totally separated from the intended underlying concept or setting (if there is one). This stripping of concept or ideology from the work strengthens and contributes to Post-ideological phenomena (most prominently plagiarism). Viewed in this way (in a conceptual void) all the work can possibly do is to act as a paradigm or aesthetic model on which the designer bases their work. If the inspiration for a piece is an ideological architecture used as a frame on which a design (artistic analogy/portrayal) can be constructed then art is being created in its purest form. Expression. The interpretation and consequential artistic expression of a feeling or ideology will always differ between individuals. The psychological workings of the creator when expressed aesthetically (or through ones art) will necessarily result in a diverse heterogeneity of form. (If indeed it is truly and sincerely expressing ones own impressions, expressions and metaphorical interpretations of said ideology.) When inspiration is drawn from anothers interpretation (plagiarism) without context, the work can only ever differ very slightly from the copied original; as the aforementioned architecture that the work is being built around is the originals aesthetic appearance. The work can then only ever aspire to mimic the original superficially (with very slight, negligible deviations in style and skill). Here we see inspiration used in a manner that is synonymous with example and this is how the word is generally perceived. However, it would be more helpful for the designer to use or conceive of the word in a different tone where it is synonymous with words such as innovation, vision and originality. If the term were expounded with this connotation and proliferated with more value in the design community it would greatly enhance the scene with an enrichment of high concept and innovative work, which would consequentially lead to a snowballing, and continuation of cutting edge art/design. This would be much more progressive and this metamorphosis is what Neo-ideologism seeks to accomplish. Others before have noted the occurrence of this problem I label Post-ideologism. Emil Ruder proclaimed in his Manual of Typographical Design that:
There are two essential aspects to the work of the typographer: he must take into account knowledge already acquired and keep his mind receptive to novelty. It is notoriously easy for satisfaction with what has been already achieved to degenerate into complacency. For this reason training in experimental typography, which involves the workshop becoming a laboratory and testing station, is more necessary than ever before

if typography is not to congeal round principles that have long been recognized. There must be no letting up in the determination to produce vital work reflecting the spirit of the times; doubt and perturbation are good antidotes against the tendency to follow the line of least resistance. - Emil Ruder 19671

In essence Ruder is saying that we should value the old but always strive for the new. In valuing and studying what has come before, we will find a strong foundation on which to build a new/future legacy in typographic design or art and design in general. In looking at past great work we can see that notably successful designers have all strived to push the boundaries in search of something better, more original, innovative and avant garde. Striving for avant-gardism is not rebellion against or a rejection of tradition, on the contrary it is a homage that is built with the solid infrastructure of established typographic/design principles. One can, and should, learn from the forefathers of design as well as ones contemporaries. Actions of plagiarism and general lack of determination to produce vital work reflecting the spirit of our times is not a homage to the typographic/design tradition but rather a vulgar act of defamation and an insult to it.
The printing works is not a place that hires out fancy dress. It is not our task to fit out any literary content with a fashionable costume; we have done our job if we see that it gets a dress in the style of our day. For what we want is typographical life and not a typographical theatre or masked ball. - Paul Renner 19312

As I stipulated in An Unwelcome Ideology3, Neo-ideologism aims to promote ideological content within the design community not as a platform to project or impose ones ideologies onto others, but only as a step towards, and a methodology of, eliminating concept-less, Post-ideological design and plagiarism. The point here is that the creator should be inspired by his or her own ideology but not want to promote an idea or ideology through their work. Artistic work of this kind does not function as art. Rather than expressing ones own ideology or abstract through expressive art they are designing something that has a specific purpose (the projection of ideology). This is an important difference to be noted and remembered. Ideology or inspiration expressed truthfully through art or design, leads to pure art (self-expression). Visual or audible manifestation of Self-expression is art. Art created to impose or project an ideology cannot be truly expressive as there is an agenda other than self-expression. This agenda rules out and diminishes the possibility of the production of pure self-expression (art).

So, upon understanding these statements we must conclude that for a given text to be art it must necessarily be free of purpose or intent (pointless).

Arts Necessary Futility

After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. Aldous Huxley 4

Art and its critique are pointless. Art is produced in an attempt to express feelings that cannot be expressed in other means, namely through language. If these feelings are so profound and indescribable that the expression must be in the form of art (be it fine art or musical/performance art) then any attempt to critique it is rendered utterly useless, pointless, and impossible. To express ones feelings about how art makes one feel in words is also futile, as these emotions can never hope to be adequately summed up with inadequate linguistics. This is why art exists. Art has no agenda other than self-expression; this articulation serves no purpose besides, possibly, a brief relief or emotional discharge for the artist. It may be pointless yet the feelings one encounters whilst examining or creating art can be inspired and profound. This artistic inspiration has no use and indeed does not require one. In fact, it is essential that art be void of purpose, for it is in pointlessness that arts true beauty lays. Art is expression; expression is pointless; art is futile. This is, paradoxically, precisely arts point arts necessary futility. One might argue that if pointlessness is the point of art then it is not truly pointless or futile at all. This does not hold. The argument would hold only if the artist was striving for pointlessness. Striving to create something pointless is incongruous and can definitively never be realised. If the creator was striving for pointlessness his or her intent would not be self-expression and therefore the work would not, by the aforementioned criterion, constitute art. So, it is required of art to be pointless however the point of art is self-expression. Arts futility is a necessary consequence of self-expression. An artwork cannot be in and of itself expressive. I believe it is the physical act of creating artwork that is expressive. The final piece is only a by-product of an emotional urge to communicate, or release, a feeling. This makes arts analysis appear even more fruitless. Indeed we should not be concerned with what the artist is (or was) trying to convey (emotionally) but rather how we interpret the work and what emotions it raises within us. These emotions are important only to the one who experiences them. There is no need, and indeed it is impossible, to communicate these feelings, or even understand them. We should not try to understand these feelings only comprehend their incomprehensibility. I feel that this is the profound significance and spiritual importance of art.

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Emil Ruder Manual of Typographic design 1967 Paul Renner 1931 3 An Unwelcome Ideology - Justin J. Bartlett 4 Aldous Huxley - The Rest is Silence - Music at Night and Other Essays (1931)