The history of cultural production last century entails a struggle in between criticality and its appropriation by capitalism. As in the work of Theodor Adorno (1), the standardization of creativity, or in other name the commodification of arts propheted the rising of culture industry as one of the main driving force of contemporary capitalism. The prophecy is more or less realized since 1997 (2), marked by Britain’s effort in the insitutionalization, formalization and diplomatic promotion of culture industry by its Creative Industry Task Force under the lead of Chris Smith, the Cultural Minister at that time, and triumphed in 2008 when the United Nations published its first report on “Creative Economy” (3). Yet, the culture industry presents to us something totally different as what Adorno advocated, instead, it has evolved into another nature, which sociologists Scott Lash and Celia Lury call the play of difference, imagination or even the Kantian notion of “the thing-in-itself” (4). The contemporary culture industry doesn’t save the work of art from its commodification, rather, on one hand we still see the booming of the art market, and on the other hand, we also see that the arts are subsumed to speculative capitalism, which doesn’t rely on commodity but on financial speculation – not on the work of art itself, but on the mehrwert of the work (5). This temporal coexistence is revealed in a dialectical movement which Lash and Lury call “the thingification of media” and the “mediatization of things”.

We face a problem today, which is the fate of creativity. It is destined to be subsumed once it is born and becomes the internal entropy of capitalism. It is burned out in the brush of the painter, in the logical operation of the hardware, as the bread and butter of capitalism. Creativity doesn’t haunt, it only laments. One can always position oneself with respect to the (new) spirit of capitalism, hearing the convulsion of the laments, in the theoretical discourses, which already assume a real subsumption latent in its logic. We demand a new kind of creativity, without destining to death, lamenting its own death, but a creativity which revives and haunts. It doesn’t limit to a particular project that we used to call critical art, but a new framework, which operates in a logic outside “industry” and “economy”. We want to call this new framework “Creative Space”


Creativity vs Innovation

In what sense can one address the question of creativity? According to the definition in the UN report, we quote “Creativity in this context refers to the formulation of new ideas and to the application of these ideas to produce original works of art and cultural products, functional creations, scientific inventions and technological innovations” (6). This is probably one of the most standard definition of creativity. Yet we have to distinguish three words here namely: creativity, invention and innovation. We understand creativity as both invention and innovation. Innovation is largely economically driven, especially as one can see from the ICT (information and communication technology) industry, the opening up of innovation through social networks dominates our economy, and the every part of life. Invention on the other hand implies something something following less the economic logic, but more contingent in the sense that it is at the same time a consequence of technological tendency, as well as an epidemic discontinuity, that is a shift in the way of understanding certain phenomenon (7). Can this creativity, be more in the sense of invention, but the counterpart of innovation that is dominated by the economic or capitalistic logic of our time? Critical arts belong to one of these cases, as does the open source movement. It is not nihilism, nor naivism, but a constant challenge and investment, or more precisely in the words of Bernard Stiegler, an ‘economy of contribution’ (8).

Creativity vs Positive Externality

Creativity, or culture industry in general, besides direct transactions, are always considered to be positive externalities by the marketing and corporate companies. The term ‘externality’ is frequently used in economic theory referring to something outside the direct transaction. Positive externalities are those which bring value to the transaction though it is not visible in the transaction itself. We can say literally that branding and outsourcing are more or less operating within the logic of positive externalization. However, it has a double meaning here, firstly it creates external value to the transaction (mehrwerk again), comparable to the fair-trade coffee, it adds value to the image of the corporate; secondly it has a moral standpoint for the “good” of the people who are not able to afford both time and money to experience art, or more precisely bourgeois art. Is it possible for a new form of creativity to break down this logic and contribute back to the community? For examples, in modern society, space are assigned with specific functions (insititutional, security, class seperation, gated community), especially following the logic of capitalistic order (production +consumption+ investment), some artists have been doing interventions to reclaim the public space in shopping malls, to bring the community back to the place that belongs to them, but not the mall, which uses it to display either commodities or artworks to add value to the space (9). The creative process blurs these codes and symbols, return to the earth.


Space, spaces

Space is where things happen, including creativity. Space is also what Kant calls the ‘Transcendental Aesthetics’ – the condition of the possibility of human knowledge. In the Kantian sense, space is a form of pure intuition, yet it is only within the givenness of space where reception of the intuition is possible. In other words, the concept, thinking, (transcendental) imagination of the world are in turn determined by the given space. We bear in mind the multiple branches of space theories. We have no intention of unifying or generalizing these discourse, rather, we want to propose the possibility of creating a space which allows creativity to flourish. It is definitely not what Richard Florida has in his mind, a hip and trendy space where “creative people” gather (10), but the condition which inventive creativity is made possible and can be sustained. In our example of the hijacking of the shopping malls mentioned above, two forms of space are opened up, firstly it brings the creativity itself to the community by re-distributing the sensible (borrowing the term from Jacques Rancière in his analysis of the Kantian sublime) (11). The Kantian sublime is the disinterested pleasure, a moment when the sense of the subject is suspended and is introduced to a new situation where one doesn’t identify oneself with personal interest. The space opened up, suspends the naturalized, and routinized space that people get used to, and introduces them a new experience of the community and belongingness of the space and a new public. Secondly, it also opens up a space where creativity can not be reduced to positive externalites, nor commodities, but something new – it is a driving force, or motivation of participation and experience.

Space, technology

By space, we are also talking about physical space, for example shopping malls, museums, etc. The relationship between space and technology is consolidated through the proliferation of ubiquitous computation together with the internet, as well as, new trends in interactive architecture. We see the phenomenon emerging in the collection and redistribution of users’ personal data, the prediction of user behavior, on huge display screens and in the increasing sophistication of advertisement and marketing. Nevertheless it also places such technology-supported spaces as positive externalities for numerous transactions. The question we propose is, can these technologies be used critically? For instance, can these technologies be used not only to bring more people to the museums, or succumb visitors to surveys, but rather can these technology, the products of innovation, be inventive? Can it open up spaces, as what we described previously as the opening up of ‘creative space’, as well as, a new community experience? Social networking technology, in Zygmunt Bauman’s critique, is transforming the community into a homogeneous network (12), which he calls a ‘cloakroom community’. Everyone leaves their clothes in the cloakroom, sits together in the cinema or theater, and leave from the cloakroom as if they never met. No one is your neigh-bough. Can the creative space be the counter force of such a liquid phenomenon? For example, a community which is united by trust and contribution (such as open source projects) but not idle talks and nihilistic impulses?

Creative Space

Our questioning on the new possibilities, comes out through the idea of ‘creative space’, as opposed to the ‘creative economy’, which in many senses is becoming the dominant economic, and social order. However, we demand a new model: Can this space be creative? Can creativity bring forth a new idea of space? It is a new order, and more importantly, it is thinkable and imaginable? The question is then, how can it be sustained and how can it be developed as a formal method or practice? It demands a theoretical exploration, as well as practices like policy making, community building, and experiments. We want to open up this project, Creative Space, as the beginning of this exploration.



1.Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Verso, 1997
2.Chris Smith, Creative Britain, farber and farber, 1998
3.United Nation, Creative Economy Report, 2008
4.Scott Lash and Celia Lury, The Global Cultural Industry, Polity, 2007
5.Diedrich Diederichsen, On (Surplus)Value in Art, Witte de With, 2008, the German word “Mehrwert” literally means more value, it was also translated as “add-value”
6.United Nation, Creative Economy Report, 2008
7.Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, Volume 1
8.Bernard Stiegler,
Within the Limits of Capitalism, Economizing Means Taking Care
9.This example is quoted from a series of art works by the Hong Kong artists Luke Ching, which hijacked one of the biggest shopping mall in Hong Kong.
10.Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class. And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure and Everyday Life, Basic Books, 2002
11.Jaques Ranciere, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible Tr. Gabriel Rockhill, 2004
12.Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds, Polity Cambridge, 2005