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[ecrea] cfp - Collective Creativity

Tue Apr 29 06:57:02 GMT 2008

Call for Papers

The Sydney German Studies Symposium 2009
Collective Creativity

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences - The University of New South Wales
The Goethe Institute Sydney
23 - 26 July 2009

Gerhard Fischer, University of New South Wales

in co-operation with Sabine Rossbach (University 
of Adelaide), Klaus R. Scherpe 
(Humboldt-University Berlin) and Florian Vassen (Leibniz-University Hannover)

The Sydney German Studies Symposium 2009 is part 
of a series of scholarly conferences sponsored by 
the Department of German Studies at the 
University of New South Wales since 1980. The 
symposia are international, interdisciplinary 
academic conferences devoted to current issues in 
literary and cultural studies, with a focus on - 
but not exclusively restricted to - contemporary 
German literature and culture. Recent symposia 
have addressed themes such as 'Writing since The 
Fall of the Wall', 'Adventures of Identity', 'The 
Play within the Play' or 'W.G. Sebald and 
Expatriate Writing'; others were dedicated to a 
critical analysis of aspects of the work of 
Walter Benjamin, Hans Magnus Enzensberger or Heiner Müller.

The symposium is traditionally held bi-annually 
on the last weekend in July and organized in 
co-operation with the Goethe Institute Sydney 
which also offers the venue for the event. In 
2009, the topic of he Symposium will be 'Collective Creativity'.


The Sydney German Studies Symposium 2009
Collective Creativity

1. Preamble
Is there such a thing as 'collective 
creativity?  --- Two radical answers seem possible:

         YES. All creativity is collective. No 
creative person exists in isolation; all human 
beings, artists and scientists in particular, 
depend in their work and in their creative 
self-expression on the contribution of others. 
The original Western philosophical model of 
creative enquiry is the Socratic Dialogue: 
without question no answer (which in turn 
provides a new question). For philosophers like 
Martin Buber, the creative dimension arises from 
what lies between I and Thou. In Mikhail 
Bakhtin's literary theory, too, the creation of 
meaning can only proceed in dialogic interaction. 
Furthermore, all artistic creation aims at 
outside presentation and recognition in a process of collective reception.

         NO. Creativity is always individual. 
While the social dimension of the Artist's and 
the scientist's work is undeniable, it must 
nevertheless be stated that the original creative 
impulse, the intellectual spark that leads to 
innovation, can only ever be found in the 
individual mind. The original aesthetic model of 
this concept is the Romantic Poet: alone and at 
one with nature. While artists may be surrounded 
by collaborators and while the technology of some 
artistic or scientific production requires a 
highly complex team effort, the final work is 
always recognizable by the expression that an 
individual personality has stamped upon it.

2.      What do we understand by collective 
creativity? Does a dialogic process always 
already imply a collective creation? Does the 
connection between art and ritual suggest an a 
priori dimension of collectivity? Can we speak of 
the notion of Gesamtkunstwerk in terms of 
collective creation? Does it make sense to 
discuss certain forms of hybridity (as in recent 
discussions on postcolonial theory) in terms of 
collective artistic experiences? In what way do 
contemporary insights into psychological or 
neurological aspects of creativity support or 
dismiss claims of collective influences on 
individual creative development? Similarly, what 
can we learn from recent theories of memory (e.g. 
Maurice Halbwachs and the notion of 'collective 
memory')? Rather than focussing on seemingly 
irreconcilable concepts phrased in terms of 
traditional binary opposites, a contemporary 
discourse on creativity might be more productive 
if it searches out and questions the borders, 
intersections or interfaces of artistic, 
scientific and cultural practice where the 
individual and the collective merge, come 
together or confront each other. A central issue 
of this debate might be the question of whether a 
collective creative enterprise can deliver an 
aesthetic or artistic surplus that exceeds an 
individual effort. How and where can such a creative surplus be located?

3.      Thus, it seems possible to think of a 
multitude of answers which could apply to various 
forms of collaborative ventures and 
relationships: artistic or scientific 
partnerships, ensembles, Dichterkreise (poetic 
circles) and/or Dichterschulen, collaborative 
friendships, artists' colonies, master workshops, 
teams, ensembles, etc. One could mention as 
examples the collectives of muralists (Mexico) or 
the experiments in communal performances 
characteristic of the 1960s. Indeed, there seem 
to be particular historical sites for collective 
creativity which may offer instances of 
paradigmatic case studies: Weimar and Jena of 
German Classicism, Vienna at the turn of the 20th 
century, Paris of the Surrealists, the Frankfurt 
School of the 1920s and 30s, the Living Theatre 
in the 1960s, the 'Theatre of Development' of P. 
Freire or the theatre of Augusto Boal .

4.      Historically, the transitional period 
around 1800 may be of special importance: it is 
here that we witness the breakthrough of the 
concept of the modern individual. The 
disappearance of the old, feudal, rigidly 
structured society (Ständegesellschaft) gives way 
to a bourgeois, libertarian society in which a 
radical new experience of the Self becomes 
possible. The distinction between collective and 
individual creativity thus seems a characteristic 
feature of modernity, and it clearly reflects its 
historical dialectic: the disappearance of the 
communal bonds of old and of the coercive 
tradition of a divine absolute leads to a 
liberating experience of the Self, yet also 
brings about new forms of social division, 
isolation, dissociation and individualism along 
with the desire for new forms of collective 
experiences, solidarity, class consciousness, 
communal and social collectivism. New forms of a 
secular absolute (nation, class, race) and their 
respective moral and political legitimation 
emerge alongside attempts to formulate radical 
positions of an aesthetic opposition in which 
moral concept and argument are replaced in favour 
of an absolute of artistic creation.

5.      In the different arts and academic 
disciplines, the question of collective 
creativity needs to be considered according to 
the specificities of the particular media. While 
it is common to identify collective efforts in 
areas such as the performing arts, in 
theatre/opera or film/tv production, and in some 
sciences (empirical or applied natural sciences, 
social sciences), it is much less commonly found 
in areas such the visual arts or in traditional 
forms of writing, whether scholarly or creative. 
Is there a "collective novel" or can we speak of 
"collective writing" in general? Are there 
"collective musical compositions"? In scholarly 
writing, are collective research productions more 
than the sum of individual contributions? How do 
such collective enterprises function? How do they 
come about? Where is the collective aspect 
located? Can collective creativity generate an 
aesthetic or scientific "surplus" that goes beyond an individual effort?

6.      The very notion of collectivity is very 
often seen as a political/ideological issue, with 
collectivity assigned to the Left (see for 
example the 2005 exhibition in the Kunsthalle 
Friedericianum Kassel, entitled 'Collective 
Creativity: Common Ideas for Life and Politics' 
which heavily favoured a political notion of 
collective artistic endeavour as resistance 
against dominant capitalist art forms and as 
performative critique of social institutions and 
political structures). On the other hand, the 
primacy of the individual is claimed as a domain 
by the liberal/conservative Right. But are these 
distinctions necessarily meaningful, particularly 
in view of the disappearing relevance of 
traditional systems of political fractionalism in 
a postmodern cultural environment?  More 
recently, as the first Yearbook for Cultural 
Studies and Aesthetic Practice (published by the 
Department of Cultural Studies and Aesthetic 
Communication at Hildesheim University, Germany) 
suggests, scholars in cultural studies - at 
Hildesheim and elsewhere - have focussed on a 
concept of creative collectivity as an overriding 
principle of organisation beyond the limiting 
socio-political perimeters of 20th century 
discourses. Taking as a cue the "explosive 
expansion of computer networks" made possible by 
digital technologies and the internet, the 
editors of the yearbook note the increasing 
interest in networking systems on the basis of 
and 'societies' organise their thinking and 
learning as well as their [aesthetic as much as 
social and cultural] practice". (Porombka, 
Stephan, Wolfgang Schneider and Volker Wortmann, 
eds., "Vorwort der Herausgeber", Kollektive 
Kreativität [Jahrbuch für Kulturwissenschaft und 
ästhetische Praxis, 1. Jg, 2006], Tübingen: 
Francke Verlag, 2007, pp. 7,9; trans. G.F.).

7.      The idea of collective artistic creation 
invariably raises a number of other questions, 
equally ethical and political, relating for 
example to problems of ownership, recognition and 
acknowledgement, hierarchy and control. Are the 
notions of collectivity and hierarchy 
incompatible? Does collective creation always 
imply democratic participation? Who owns a work 
of art created by a collective? Is there an 
inherent contradiction between individual 
ownership and collective imagination (e.g. in 
Aboriginal art)? In traditional communal 
societies the idea of individual artistic 
creation or authorship may largely be irrelevant; 
yet the production of such art today must take 
account of the existing mechanisms of a market economy.

8.      How do recent developments in media 
theory and practice impact on the question of 
individual versus collective creativity? In what 
way are modernist concepts such as the ideas of 
Benjamin (Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner 
technischen Reproduzierbarkeit) or Brecht 
(Radio-Theorie) relevant in an age of digital 
creativity? Who owns a work of art created for 
the internet? Is digital art or writing 
inherently monologic or dialogic? How do digital 
innovations (hypertext, chatting, virtual 
environments) contribute to the creation of 
collective consciousness? The openness of the 
internet seems to transcend in principle the idea 
of a work of art anchored in artistic 
individuality. But can participation in internet 
sites generate a sense of collectivity that 
transcends the isolation of the individual Self 
in front of the computer monitor, or does it only 
create an illusion of communal identity?

9.      In contemporary academic work, there 
seems to be a paradigm change away from 
individual research to team projects which are 
often favoured in grant competitions. Similarly, 
recent academic discourses clearly favour notions 
such as interculturalism or multiculturalism, 
interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinarity, which 
per se appear to require forms of collective 
practice. Again one could ask where is the 
surplus generated by such collective enterprises? 
And why is it that the idea of 'collective 
creativity' does not seem particularly 
fashionable nor at the forefront of current 
discourses on today's creative or artistic avantgardes?

CALL FOR PAPERS. Offers of papers that address 
the issues and questions suggested above are 
invited. Papers are to be 30 minutes in length 
(20 minutes presentation and 10 minutes 
discussion). The deadline for submission of 
proposals is 30 September 2008. Please send title 
and a one page abstract (MS-Word) to 
(G.Fischer /at/ and (Florian.Vassen /at/

Nico Carpentier (Phd)
Vrije Universiteit Brussel - Free University of Brussels
Centre for Studies on Media and Culture (CeMeSO)
Pleinlaan 2 - B-1050 Brussels - Belgium
T: ++ 32 (0)2-629.18.56
F: ++ 32 (0)2-629.36.84
Office: 5B.401a
Katholieke Universiteit Brussel - Catholic University of Brussels
Vrijheidslaan 17 - B-1081 Brussel - Belgium
Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis
Boulevard du Jardin Botanique 43  - B-1000 Brussel - Belgium
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E-mail: (Nico.Carpentier /at/

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