Creativity, domain specificity, and sandpaper

Some time ago, I bought a copy of Hoopla, a wonderful book produced by Crispin, Porter + Bogutsky – arguably one of the most creative agencies on the planet. When it arrived I was delighted and disgusted to find it sleeved in fine grained sand paper. This made handling the book an unsettling experience, and resulted in an awareness and engagement I have seen with few books before or since. I think that most people whohave encountered the book will probably have enjoyed similarly strong reactions, and probably discussed it with others. Consensus is that it is another creative idea from CP+B.

I was then, a little surprised to read in Kale Lasn's equally stunning tome Design Anarchy, that "[Guy] Debord had his book Memoires bound in heavy sandpaper so that when it was placed on the shelves of libraries, it woudl destroy other books." My initial reaction was a mixture of delight in Debord's somewhat twisted plan, and disappointment that perhaps CP+B had not been as creative as I thought. Which got me to thinking…

We value originality as a key part of creativity, but is 'domain originality' sufficient for creativity? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that creativity is "any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain". Based on this, as long as we believe that Debord's work (a critical theory tract) and CP+B (an ad industry coffee table book) reside in different domains, then CP+B are 'being creative', even if they do so by transplanting an idea from another domain. in truth, it is through this cross-pollination of ideas across domain boundaries that much interesting creative work is done – but always with the question of 'real originality' hanging over it.

What makes creativity and originality in the end, and are the two the same? Is creativity an observed consequence, in the eye of the beholder, or is it an absolute on which creatives can be judged?

PS. It should be pointed out that since Hoopla is effectively a 'memoir' of the first few years of CP+B's work (which has been a collection of what can only be described as 'spectacle'), and as such borrowing a technique from a work by the author of 'Society of the Spectacle' constitutes a very obscure form of inter-textual reference. Does this make CP+B less guilty of 'idea theft', if such a concept is even relevant? Can they have their high-brow cake and eat it too? Yet again, the bastards demonstrate truly deviously creative depth, damn them!

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