Nov 22, 2011 12:00AM

Aaron Rose: Is Creative Innovation Dead?

The past must no longer serve as our master.

When there's a crisis, there's inevitably a book that tries to explain it. Aaron Rose and Mandy Kahn have examined the 21st century's identity crisis in their new book, Collage Culture: Examining the 21st Century Identity Crisis. Rose, an artist, curator, film director and writer bemoans the loss of the act of creation in his essay 'The Death of Subculture'. He points out that musicians, writers and designers are so in love with the past that creating now means choosing, collecting, ordering, cutting and pasting. Kahn takes it further and explores the negative effects of this collage culture in her essay 'Living in the Mess'. Anne Ryan met with Aaron Rose to talk about the book project.

Anne Ryan: You've just returned from a reading tour through Europe; how has the book been received so far?
Aaron Rose: The response has been fantastic. For the most part, people are really understanding it and feeling like the book is right on time and that it's an important subject to be discussed. And then there's a certain element of people who don't agree with it at all and feel that, while the claim is interesting, we're really not in the middle of an identity crisis and that it's just part of what the identity of the 21st century is, the collage. So it's sparking debate, which is what you want as a writer, right?

Totally. So, is there a message for young artists to take away?
The book is too abstract and too much of an art piece for it really to be considered as a definitive text, it was really more like, "let's put this out there and get a conversation stared". Once you read it or hear about the ideas expressed in the book, hopefully it will open up a door in a creative person's brain that makes them think twice about copying or referencing.

So just through an awareness there can be a shift?
That's right. I think that a lot of people are just operating blindly because that's just the way the world works. And I think that, if you even just start to think about it, then that's the first step to changing the method.

What about references? All designers today collect references from the past and then use them to develop their collections.
And that's healthy. Everything in this world is built on references. I don't think that's really such a problem, that's part of the creative process. Although where the amount of original input is below 5%, that's when I feel like there's maybe a problem.

And where do you see this happening the most? Who do you see as the greatest offenders?
I think the contemporary art world is horrible [as an offender]! And in music. Music, I think, is really bad. Music videos, especially – horrible – are like, basically just taking things frame for frame.

And do you mention any of these specific offenders in the book?
I felt like it was obvious enough to the reader without having to call anyone out. Mandy does in her essay; she speaks about Todd Selby and she speaks about Girl Talk. And she's not actually necessarily calling out Todd, but basically talking more about the ideas of how The Selby started out taking pictures of artists' homes and creative people's spaces and now, he's only shooting celebutantes and heiresses. But the thing is everyone, even the rich people, wants their houses to look like they are poor, like they're a struggling artist.

Yes, it's become a trend – the mattress and the books on the floor?
Totally! Which is pretty funny, really.

Introduction: Alanna Bromley
Photography: Purple Diary

Anne Ryan