The Satisfaction of the Creative Impulse by Mark Rothko, 1941
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What are your thoughts on what Rothko calls "The Creative Impulse"?
Whether we are participants or spectators, studio artists or writers, so much of what Rothko says here rings true, I think. Rothko really believed in the concept that Art is Life. As artists, we become part of a stream in which we are renewed and in which we in turn, through our art, renew others. I think it's particularly interesting that Rothko connects art and health and argues that art has a "social function":
"The satisfaction of the creative impulse is a basic, biological need, essential to the health of the individual. Its aggregate effect on the health of society is inestimable. Art is one of the few important means known to man for the articulation of this impulse. This is why its practice is as continuous as life itself. This is why its practice is as continuous as life itself. It has survived every proscription by man made law or custom, and every difficulty which nature contrived in the intractability of its materials, no matter how unyielding the surface or how adverse the circumstance, man has persisted in this recording of his imaginings. The process itself is a psychological parallel inevitable to all biological processes. Man receives and therefore must expel. The alternative is strangulation. Man's senses collect and accumulate, the emotions and mind convert and order, and through the medium of art, they are emitted to participate again in the life stream where in turn they will stimulate action in other men. For art is not only expressive but communicable as well, this communicability imparts to it a social function." (28)
But art as an act of representation and creation, the ability to project abstractions onto our environment as a means of communication, that seems to be the one skill given only to humanity.
A life without art is no life at all.
I would suggest music, geneg, as our speciesistic creative difference. Meaning music constructed as music, an objective thing we can appreciate from without, not bird and whale songs, which seem to me at least to more resemble communication and language. You mention apes as examples, and I think that's interesting. Lately I have enjoyed thinking that it's not that humans are different from apes, but a different ape. But that's for another group.
Allow me to contribute something I came across years ago that echoes Rothko's mind as posted above. Although said in a less elegant/more straightforward manner by Stanley Kubrick, this quote more or less captures the spirit of the artists' creative impulse:
"I don't think that writers or painters or filmmakers function because they have something they particularly want to say. They have something that they feel. And they like the art form; they like words, or the smell of paint, or celluloid and photographic images and working with actors. I don't think that any genuine artist has ever been oriented by some didactic point of view, even if he thought he was."