Remediating Creativity: Performance, Invention, Critique


Kember, Sarah; Zylinska, Joanna. ‘Remediating Creativity: Performance, Invention, Critique’, Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2012) pp.173-200


In the context of the previous arguments, it may seem risky or even impudent to reclaim creativity as a viable strategy for thinking about the media differently.


Indeed, creativity is inevitably tied up with capitalism because in both its monetized  and nonmonetized  forms – such as as [sic] music making, poetry, poetry, writing, engineering, art, cooking, or knitting – it participates in the intertwined process of production, consumption, and distribution through formal and informal communicative channels and networks made up of record labels, publishing houses, manufacturing plants, computer systems, telephone exchanges, and chats with friends.


Again, the politicoethical significance of scholarship that analyzes and critiques cultural and media industries and their attempts to reinvent the so-called creative labor practices under the guise of collaboration, commonality, sharing and gifting is not being contested here by us. Yet what if we were to mobilize the critical dimension of the analyses of creative media processes and products and combine it with an actual attempt to produce creative media, while also subjecting the notion of critique to a critique?

In other words, what if, rather than just write about the production of creative media by other , we could mobilize the very media that are being critiqued as objects of creative industries’ analyses and put them to critical uses, to think with and through them about change, invention, and socio-cultural transformation?

What if the roles of the cultural critic and the cultural producer were to be combined in this process of developing what Angela McRobbie has termed a “socially engaged, critical creativity”?


Is it possible to invent (new) media otherwise, without falling back onto their predetermined patterns, models and hierarchies?


[…] even if we are to repeat after Spinoza and then Deleuze that “we do not know what a body can do” and thus embrace the unacknowledged potential of human and nonhuman entities to transmute and produce things, perhaps knowing the difference between different acts, passions, and forms of knowledge is more significant for understanding creativity and thinking creative media than dwelling on the yet unrealised and yet unknown corporeal potential.


Criticality can save us from what we are terming “creative mania,” a desire-driven chase for originality that naively replicates the very structures and strictures of Romantic creation – albeit now dressed in the language of materialist-vitalist philosophy, with some sprinkling of biology.


“Critical attention” thus transcends human-centred intentionality by foregrounding the “entangled state of agencies” at work in any event. This is not to backtrack on what we earlier described as the theory of an inevitable but also somewhat impossible decision at the heart of which always lies a leap of faith, or to deny singularly human, ethicopolitical responsibility for such events. But it is certainly to acknowledge that what we are referring to as “human” is only a distinct entity “in a relational, not an absolute, sense” because, as Barad explains, “agencies are only distinct in relation to their mutual entanglements; they don’t exist as individual elements.’


[Reading artist Stelarc]

From this critical cybernetic perspective, the human is seen as having always been technological, or having always been mediated. To put it differently, technology and media are precisely what make us human.

[…] seeing ourselves as always already connected, as being part of the system – rather than as masters of the universe to which all beings are inferior – is an important step in developing a more critical and a more responsible relationship to the world, to what we call “man”, “nature” and “technology”.