Thursday, December 2

My Latest Failure

It's hard to find any serious literature about creative thinking or lateral thinking which doesn't strongly recommend that we expose ourselves to exotic stimulus of various kinds.

The logic is that by forcing cognition in unusual domains, we'll form new pathways in the brain, and we'll subsequently be able to exploit those new pathways so as to arrive at new and unusual ideas.

That seems pretty reasonable in theory, but I wondered if it works in practice.  So in the spirit of experimentation I plumped for the quintessential exotic stimulus, the outside experience most heralded by the literati of creative thinking:  I visited an art gallery, and specifically the Tate Modern on London's south bank.

I predicted I'd emerge from my experiment two hours later having debunked the theory, at least to my own satisfaction.  Here's what really happened ...

I toured the open galleries on the third and fifth floors, spending most of my time at exhibits which either attempted to challenge metaphysics, or which were wholly unexpected in some other more subtle way.

I made notes as I went along:

1.  Bridget Riley creates waves within waves, and uses diagonal directions instead of just North, South, East and West in her grids.
2.  Mimmo Rotella ripped pieces from bill posters to create a collage.
3.  Richard Artschwager sculpted a desk and chair ... which aren't.
4.  Alexander Apรณstol photographed residential buildings, then digitially removed their doors and windows.
5.  Richard Serra created a precarious structure from heavy sheet metal, to make his audience a little nervous, the better to engage their interest.
6.  John Latham created a dynamic layout of books, then shot them in a video in different configurations to suggest that they could move unaided.
7.  Anish Kapoor has represented the creation of the universe as a vertical line in "Ishi's Egg".
8.  Dennis Oppenhiem photographed a tractor ploughing a field in a series of parallel lines which were anything but straight.

So is this collection of observations valuable to me? 

As I've probably remarked before, I've been carrying around a list of 300 random words like "plane", "coaster", "parrot", ...  I use them to provoke new ideas to address existing problems, and they're usually very helpful. 

But this new imagery from the Tate is much richer. 

Next time I'm trying to cut costs in a supply chain, I'll probably still think about goods flying between distribution centres, in response to the word "plane".   But perhaps after seeing Oppenhiem's tractor, I'll also think about the benefits of indirect routes, or about "growing" goods at the point of need.

Love them or loathe them, everyone should lose themselves in a gallery a few times a year.   My attempt to debunk the theory was an abject failure!

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