Creativity, anti-humanism and the ‘new sociology of art’

Creativity, anti-humanism and the ‘new sociology of art’

Nick J Fox: University of Sheffield

Address for correspondence

Professor N Fox, ScHARR, University of Sheffield, Regent St, Sheffield S1 4DA, UK [email protected]

Please note this is the submitted version of the paper, before peer review. It was submitted to the Journal of Sociology in December 2012. You may not quote this paper without express permission from myself. If you wish to refer to it or cite it, please contact me and I may be able to advise you on progress toward acceptance.


The emergence of a ‘new sociology of art’ that seeks a more nuanced understanding of the agency of art objects and the temporal trajectories surrounding artistic production, requires are the view of sociology’s uneasy engagement with creativity. This paper applies an anti-humanist ontology to assert that creativity is profoundly sociologically interesting, and a key to the production of human culture, from science and technology to the arts to social forms and institutions. Analysis of auto-ethnographic data on the production of a painting of Australian mallée woodland establishes three propositions for an anti-humanist sociology of creativity:

that creative production is part of an open-ended flow of effect between assembled human and non-human elements; that affective flows produce creative capacities to act, feel and desire in bodies; and that products of creativity such as artworks are themselves affects and consequently contribute to the production of social life, the world and human history.


affect; anti-humanism; assemblage; art; creativity; Deleuze

Introduction: creativity and the sociological imagination

Creativity is characterized in the social and psychological sciences either as something extraordinary and remarkable (de Filippi et al 2007: 512), or frequent and common-place(Gauntlett 2011: 15). The former perspective marks out a creator as distinct from the mass of ‘non-creative’ people: exemplary figures from art, science and literature bolster this perspective. Sociologists have tended to the latter position: for Marx, the creativity of human labour has fashioned the world, history (1975: 328, 357) and objects of beauty (ibid: 329); for Becker (1974), each instance of artistic production requires the labour of a multitude of actors. However, this paper contends that rather than asking questions about what creativity is, sociology should ask the somewhat ungainly question: what do creative products produce? or ‘what do they do?

This is to approach creativity from the point of view of its contribution to everyday life, the social world and human history. Creativity is of sociological import precisely because of the ubiquity of creative production: from writing a letter, plumbing, cookery or sex, through social action, politics and policy-making, to technological innovation and the ‘creative arts’: what part may creativity play in the production of social forms, institutions and social identities?

The paper will develop an argument that creativity should be considered not as a human capacity, but as emergent from assemblages of relations between the human and the non-human (things, ideas and social formations). Sociology has recognized the part that social interaction, social institutions and social structures play in creative production, but I want to take a further step, to deny human privilege in the commission of creativity.

To this end, I will draw on a Spinozist/Deleuzian anti-humanist ontology of ‘effect’: an approach that some have argued openly up new insights for social analysis (Ansell-Pearson 1999; Blackman 2008;Buchanan 1997; Clough 2004; DeLanda 2006; Manning 2010; Thacker 2005). Sociological studies of creativity have focused upon the contexts within which creativity occurs, or has been judged to have occurred (Ford 1996: 1112; Si monton 1997;

Thompson etal 2007). However, sociologists have also attended to a narrower realm: artistic creativity, focusing on the contexts, institutions and markets surrounding art production and consumption (Gell 1998: 6), and I propose to approach creativity from this aspect. Howard  Becker’s classic (1974) study of art took a sociological chainsaw to the artist as ‘creator’, arguing instead that art emerges from a collective effort, in which the artist is dependent upon a network of other human actors, whose activities included

”conceiving the idea for the work, making the necessary physical artefacts, creating a conventional language of expression, training artistic personnel and audiences to use the conventional language to create and experience, and providing the necessary mixture of those ingredients for a particular work or performance (Becker 1974: 768)”

Becker’s interactionist account of art worlds focused on such networks, the conventions of work that bind them together and the resources deployed to achieve their goals (Becker 1982), and has been used to analyse creative production, artistic genres and movements and so forth. In a recent study, Bottero and Crossley (2011) drew on interactionist network approaches to model the punk rock ‘world’ of the late 1970s, concluding that Becker’s focus on network, conventions and resources sensitised sociology to the shared meanings and interactions in creative production and consumption (ibid: 117).

Becker’s classic (1974) study of art took a sociological chainsaw to the artist as ‘creator’, arguing instead that art emerges from a collective effort, in which the artist is dependent upon a network of other human actors, whose activities included conceiving the idea for the work, making the necessary physical artefacts, creating a conventional language of expression, training artistic personnel and audiences to use the conventional language to create and experience, and providing the necessary mixture of those ingredients for a particular work or performance (Becker 1974: 768)

Becker’s interactionist account of art worlds focused on such networks, the conventions of work that bind them together and the resources deployed to achieve their goals (Becker 1982), and has been used to analyse creative production, artistic genres and movements and so forth. In a recent study, Bottero and Crossley (2011) drew on interactionist network approaches to model the punk rock ‘world’ of the late 1970s, concluding that Becker’s focus on network, conventions and resources sensitised sociology to the shared meanings and interactions in creative production and consumption (ibid: 117).

Pierre Bourdieu (1983) took a different sociological approach to artistic production, pointing to the social and economic power relations and struggles that surround and link art producers, consumers and markets. He suggested the existence of artistic ‘fields’, more structural than the kinds of interactional networks in Becker’s analysis, which reflect forces and struggles over artistic capital (Bourdieu 1983: 312-3) and situate the production, reception and consumption of art and culture. 
This approach informed his analysis of fashions in the arts, and the institutionalization of the cult of the individual creator and the ‘artwork’ as an object of veneration (ibid: 318), referring back continually to the social and power relations that shape the artistic field (ibid: 322). This Bourdieusian structuralist approach to creative production has been used extensively to analyse canons, styles and techniques in arts and music (see Prior 2011: 127-8). From this perspective,  it behoves the sociologist of art to shine a light into the murky waters of artistic fields to show what really guides them, to reveal the hidden depths of inequality in what appear to be disinterested practices and to demonstrate how power relations in such fields fulfil a grander role of hardening structures of social and cultural inequality at large (Prior 2011: 124-5)

The artistic field extends well beyond the immediate site of creative production, meaning that familiarity or association with the arts and their performance may provide cultural capital to producers and consumers, reinforcing social position and status, or fueling struggles between artistic movements (Bourdieu 1984; Cheyne and Binder 2010).


The artwork made me do it

Arguably, both Becker’s and Bourdieu’s analysis of artistic ‘worlds’ and ‘fields’ may be extensible to the sociological study of non-artistic areas of creative production and reception, where perhaps their de-mystification of creativity is less iconoclastic. However, in relation to artistic creativity, Becker’s and Bourdieu’s emphases on social contexts of production and consumption have been criticized as reducing art to economic and power relations (Born 2010: 179), and as indicative of sociology’s ‘seeming inability to treat art as anything more than a proxy for or pseudo-reflection of the social’ (Prior 2011: 123).

Born (2010) has also criticised Bourdieusian sociology’s incapacity to theorise continuity and transformation,arguing that continuity in artistic codes and aesthetic formations, and ‘their evolution or bifurcation, subtle shifts or sudden ruptures in style or ideology’ (ibid: 179) should be accessible to a sociology of art. These commentaries upon the sociological imagination in the arts heralded the emergence of a ‘new’ sociology of art (De La Fuente 2007) that has sought to engage more directly with creative products and their meanings (De Nora 1999: 32; Prior 2011: 125; Wolf 2006: 144), alongside study of the contexts of production. As Born (2005: 16) comments:

banal observations on the complex division of labour in modern media can obscure the more interesting point that … all cultural production constructs and engages relations not only between persons, but also between persons and things, and it does so across both space and time.


A number of these writers suggest that this project challenges conventional conceptions of artistic agency. Prior (2011: 125) notes that the sociology of art seems to have lagged behind other areas of the discipline that attend more fully to the ‘ways objects are artfully present in the world, the multifarious ways they resist and react’. He invokes Actor-Network Theory(ANT) to introduce a sense of art objects as themselves ‘actants’, capable of agency and producing limits on what artists do (ibid). Born (2005; 2010) finds value in Alfred Gell’s art anthropology, which ‘considers art objects as persons’ (Gell 1998: 9), while DeNora (1999:34) teeters on the brink of a similar shift when she argues for a change of focus from what music means to what it actively does.

In a paper entitled ‘The artwork made me do it’, De LaFuente (2010) references both Gell and ANT, before turning back to a more conventional view of art objects as mediators of meaning. The ‘new sociology of art’ thus reflects discontent with theories of creativity that emphasize either human agency (an ‘under-socialised’ account of creativity) or social structures and contexts (the ‘over-socialised ’alternative), and that failure to recognize the confluences between micro-processes and the‘historical trajectories’ and ‘macro-dynamics’ of art assemblages(Born 2005: 34).Gell’s (1998) anthropological approach was firmly relational, focusing upon the interactions between artists, artworks (‘indices’), art audiences (‘recipients’) and the models or other things portrayed in art (‘prototypes’), all of which could act either as ‘agents’ and ‘patients’(targets of agency) within their relationships (Gell 1998: 27).


He theorised a nexus of interactions, which might comprise just two components such as an artwork and an artist, or an artwork and a recipient; or might involved chains of interactions in which each element might be active or passive in their relation to other elements. As an example of the latter, Gell (ibid: 62-5) suggested the example of the interactions surrounding Velasquez’ Rokesby Venus which was slashed in 1914 by a suffragette artist protesting the imprisonment of Emmeline Pankhurst. In this nexus, artists, artworks, political figures and audiences interacted in a branching nexus across time.

Despite the theoretical advances afforded by this catholic approach to agency, Gell’s analysis has limitations as the foundation for a sociology of art. Most significantly, despite its willingness to ascribe agency to inanimate objects such as painting or sculptures, it remains hobbled by a conventional notion of agency, retaining a foundational ‘anthropocentrism’(Braidotti 2006: 40) that privileged human action. 

Consequently, Gell considered that non-human objects such as artworks possessed only a ‘secondary’ or ‘second-class’ agency (Gell1998: 36), which is ‘borrowed’ from human agents. Furthermore, his cross-tabular analysis(ibid: 29) of possible interactions between elements produced what he saw as ‘illegitimately-formed expressions’ (ibid: 36), in which an artwork played no part (for example, the power of an artist over a recipient independent of an artwork), or in which an element had an agentic interaction with itself.

For Gell, these were not part of an ‘art’ nexus, although a sociological imagination would recognise the potential significance of these interactions for the practices and institutions of art and creativity. Third, the approach downplays the other factors shown by sociologists to affect artists and their artworks, from social institutions through to personal dispositions such as choice of media or artistic styles. Fourth, the theory is curiously lacking in any conception of power or resistance: despite the recognition of an active or passive role for all elements, human and non-human, one is left wondering about the consequences of this agency: what are the effects of action by the agent, from whence does an agent’s power derive, and how might this power be resisted? A final related criticism is that the approach does not admit of development or temporal change in the agency of elements, indeed the theory feels static and lacking in dynamic qualities.

For all these reasons, I do not find Gell’s approach convincing. But can its relational underpinning and its openness to non-human action be developed without its residual anthropocentrism? To build on Gell’s relationality, and to explore the issues set out in the‘new sociology’ of art, I will follow the lead of various writers (Grosz 1995; Jeanes 2006;

Osborne 2003; Thrift 2004; Whitaker 2012) who have found utility when discussing creativity in the Spinozist anti-humanism of Gilles Deleuze (1990). The deleuzian scholarship has taken a more radical approach to the non-human; one that steps back entirely from both anthropocentrism and the agency/structure dichotomy, considering instead the capacity of humans and non-humans to affect and be affected (Deleuze 1988: 122-124). The work of Deleuze and his sometime collaborator Félix Guattari includes many discussions of creativity in art, science and philosophy, but rather than a slavish exegesis of this work, I will establishing the next section a ‘toolbox’ (Malins 2006: 84) of Deleuzian concepts to synthesise an anti-humanist, empirically-oriented sociology of creativity.

Anti-humanism assembled

In Deleuzian ontology bodies and other entities have no existence or integrity other than that produced through their relations with other (similarly contingent and ephemeral) bodies, things, ideas or social institutions (Deleuze, 1988: 125; Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 260-261).

Assemblages (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 88) of these relations develop in unpredictable ways around actions and events, ‘in a kind of chaotic network of habitual and non-habitual connections, always in flux, always reassembling in different ways’ (Potts 2004: 19). Assemblages develop at sub-personal, interactional or macro-social levels (DeLanda 2006:5), and have an existence, a life even, independent of human bodies (ibid: 40; Ansell-Pearson 1999: 157-9). We may thus conjecture a minimal ‘painting-assemblage’, comprising,

 at least: subject – medium – canvas – a paintbrush

although as will be seen in the next section, a creativity-assemblage will typically incorporate many disparate relations. In an assemblage, there is no ‘subject’ and no ‘object’, and no single element possesses agency (Anderson 2010: 736): the conventional conception of human agency is replaced in Deleuzian ontology by effect (Deleuze 1988: 101), meaning simply the capacity to affect or be affected. An affect is a ‘becoming’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 256) that represents a change of state of an entity and its capacities (Massumi 1988: xvi): this change may be physical, psychological, emotional or social, and an affect’s force may be – to use Foucauldian terminology – ‘coercive’ (for instance, the intensity of a pigment), ‘disciplinary’(evaluation by the art Establishment) or ‘governmental’ (an ‘artistic sensibility’).

It is an artwork’s effects (for instance on its viewers) that make it appear to have ‘agency’.Effects are ‘projectiles’(Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 400) that produce further effects within assemblages, producing the capacities of bodies to do, desire and feel, and in turn, producing subsequent effective flows. However, because one effect can produce more than one capacity, affects flow ‘rhizomically’ (ibid: 7), branching, reversing flows, coalescing and rupturing, supplying a diachronic and more dynamic understanding of creative production than in Gell’s (1998) theory. The flow of effect within assemblages is thus the means by which lives, societies and history unfold, by ‘adding capacities through interaction, in a world which is constantly becoming’ (Thrift 2004: 61).

Spinoza’s conception of passions as active forces (Deleuze 1990: 283) was elaborated by Deleuze and Guattari into a view of the desire of relevance for the analysis of creativity. Here desire’s underlying principle is not acquisition (of an object of desire) but the production of action, ideas, interactions, and thence reality (Deleuze and Guattari 1984: 27-30). Productive desire is a creative capacity (Jordan 1995: 127) of a body to act, feel or otherwise engage with other bodies and the physical and social world, while assemblages are desiring-machines.

(Deleuze and Guattari 1984: 5; 1988: 88). Relationally, human desire is the capacity of a body to affect or be affected (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 399), and in the context of creativity, the painter’s or composer’s capacities (desires) to mark canvas or score music are simply elements in the affective flow that produces a painting or a concerto. Flows of effect change a body’s capacities in one direction or another (Duff 2010: 625), and may combine or cancel each other out. Everybody, object, idea, subjectivity or other relation is consequently a territory, produced and fought over by rival effects within assemblages(Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 88-89). Deleuze and Guattari contrast what they call

molecular assemblages, in which relations combine in ways that ‘represent nothing, signify nothing, mean nothing other than the desire they produce’, with molar assemblages that are ‘stable forms, unifying, structuring and proceeding by means of large heavy aggregates … organizing the crowds’ (1984: 286-288).

Although both molecular and molar flows of effect are both productive, the former de-territorialises, opening up possibilities for what bodies can do and desire, and may produce a line of flight  (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 9) from a stable state or identity, while the latter imposes order and defines what bodies can and cannot do. Lines of flight de-territorialise assemblages (ibid: 89), leading bodies and subjectivities into a more‘nomadic’ space of possibilities for action or desire. This sounds a lot like how artists, innovators and inventors describe the creative process, both in terms of the creative act(Deleuze 2003: 71) and the effect of a creative product upon its audience (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 175-6).

These Deleuzian elements (and their underpinning ontology) supply the framework for anti-humanist sociology of creativity. In a nutshell, this focuses upon assemblages of human and non-human relations rather than creators and outputs; on flows of effect within assemblages rather than notions of a creative agency;

on territorialisation and de-territorialization of capacities to do, feel and desire rather than social structures and deterministic fields; and upon the affective capacities of creative products rather than their aesthetic or other attributes. Anti-Humanist sociology de-privileges the individual creator and her/his ‘creativity’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 164), and indeed creativity must no longer be considered as an agentic attribute of a body, but rather as a territorialising (and de-territorialism) flow of effect between assembled bodies, things and ideas.


Anti-humanism affects and the creativity-assemblage

To explore this sociology, I want to examine some auto-ethnographic data on creative production, drawn from my own hobby as a painter. This also supplies the opportunity to assess how anti-humanist sociology of creativity addresses the empirical study of what bodies and things do, how they are produced and transformed, and how assembled elements flow together and produce effects and capacities. Analysis can be grounded methodologically in Deleuze’s own (1988: 124-126) empirical approach, which he called ‘ethology’ in honour of Spinoza’s Ethics.

Ethology entails documenting the relations that comprise assemblages(ibid: 126), and how relations affect and are affected (ibid: 125,Osborne 2003: 515). Together these two approaches move beyond an anthropocentric focus on the agentic power of the creator. The former emphasises creativity-assemblages rather than bodies or things individually. So a fine-art creativity-assemblage might be summarized as painter – surface – paint – implement – subject – ideas – past events – technique, plus a multitude of relations with the artist’s experiences, emotional responses, skills and creative ideas. The latter considers creativity not as a single moment of engagement between painter, paint, model and canvas (Gell’s ‘agent’/’patient’ relation), but as a process of affecting that transforms human and non-human elements. This effective flow begins long before any mark is made on canvas and continues long after the paint has dried.

In 2000, I was a visiting researcher in South Australia, and one weekend rented a car and set off into the Adelaide Hills. Some forty kilometres out of the city, I left the car on a dirt track and wandered through an area of  mallée , a scrubby woodland of stunted gum trees, acacia sand other low vegetation that can survive in semi-arid conditions and poor soil. It was the first time I’d seen mallée apart from a planted stand in the Adelaide botanic garden. For me, it seemed quintessentially Australian, and I felt inspired to try to capture it on paper. I used my water colours to paint an image of this woodland while the flies buzzed around my head and the afternoon sun burnt the back of my neck.

Some years later, lacking inspiration one day for a studio-based painting, I dug out this watercolour and worked it up into an oil pastel sketch, focusing on the twisting and over-lapping limbs of the short skinny trees and accentuating the range of colours in the wood(Figure 1). I intended this as the basis for a subsequent oil painting of the woodland scene I had witnessed in South Australia.
                 Figure 1. Study for mallée series.  Oil pastel on paper
At that time I was interested in abstracting landscapes scenes, and my first effort aimed at a minimalist rendition that used the contorted shapes of the trees as its motif. Of some decorative merit but otherwise not a great success, this work nevertheless did give me an idea for an even-more abstracted approach, and following a visit to a Howard Hodgkin exhibition in 2006, I embarked on a series of paintings using the mallée sketch as their basis. The one represented here (Figure 2) was the second in a series of three or four works that applied different colour palettes.
                   Figure 2.  Mallée No. 2. Oil on canvas  

Mallée No. 2 now has wall-space in my home alongside works by other painters; gaining mixed responses. One visitor, who I knew in advance considered abstracted painting low in proficiency and swift to execute, gave a favorable reaction, but asked, ‘Did it take a longtime to do?’‘Yes it did, there was a lot of thought went into it,’ I replied. This seemed to satisfy her.This little tale of creativity born from a lack of inspiration would hardly detain an interactionist or constructionist sociologist for long, but offers a datum from which to assess three propositions concerning an anti-humanist sociology of creativity. The first proposition is that creative production is part of an open-ended flow of affect between assembled human and non-human relations (bodies, things, social institutions and abstract ideas and concepts).

As noted in the previous section, affects (the capacities to affect or be affected) reflect a change or transformation in the state or attributes of a relation within an assemblage. The relations in the creativity-assemblage may be physical, cognitive, emotional, social and of course artistic, and the flow of affect in the mallée tale began with a visit to the botanic gardens and a car rental and ended with a judgement upon a painting hanging half a world away.

This rhizomic flow of affect between relations in the assemblage produced creativity in the most unpredictable and unexpected ways, and perhaps continues to produce affects,altering beliefs and emotions among the viewers of 
Mallée No 2 and the subsequent art and academic work of the author (including this paper) for a dozen years.This proposition necessarily requires us to acknowledge that ‘creative’ activity and ‘creative’outputs are part of a broader flow of affect, a flow with a multitude of products and consequences, and productive of myriad capacities and desires. This flow is the means by which the social world, lives and human history are produced, and the ‘creative’ elements cannot be privileged as qualitatively distinct from other parts of this flow. Whether artistic creativity is quantitatively different (and consequently what if anything distinguishes from other production) is considered in my next proposition.

The second proposition is that affective flows produce (territorialise) capacities to act, feel and desire in bodies, including creative capacities. From what has already been said, it is hard to sustain an anthropocentric view of the author as the prime mover in this tale of wood,sun and paint. Rather, the affective powers of things, ideas and social forms (gum trees, a sketch, an exhibition) together affected the author’s body, territorialising its capacities to think, to feel, and to create. This proposition does articulate with Becker’s ‘art worlds’ and Bourdieu’s ‘artistic field’, but it also recognises what might be called a ‘micro politics’ of affects in the creativity-assemblage. 

In his analysis of the 20th century painter Francis Bacon,Deleuze (2003: 40) described these affects and the role of the artist as follows:In art, and in painting as in music, it is not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms,but of capturing forces. … Paul Klee’s famous formula – “Not to render the visible, but to render visible” means nothing else. The task of painting is defined as the attempt to  render visible forces that are not themselves visible. Likewise music attempts to render sonorous forces that are not themselves sonorous.


These forces or affects, whether they are physically co-present (a model or a preliminary sketch), or invested in the artist’s memories, attitudes or beliefs (ibid: 61), are ‘already in the canvas, more or less virtually, more or less actually, before he begins his work’ (ibid.).

Each mark made on the canvas is itself an affect that is productive of another and another. So for example, when confronted by similar subject-matters (a female nude), a Botticelli-assemblage produced The Birth of Venus (1486) while Crouching Nude (1954) was the product of a Picasso-assemblage; different elements in these creativity-assemblages enabled differing affects to flow. In the author’s creativity-assemblage, the woodland and landscape,an interest in the botany and geology of Australia, the heat and the flies, the paint and the paper together produced a rhizomic flow of affects one upon another, that in turn led to a watercolour sketch, and via a pastel drawing, a Hodgkin exhibition and some failed paintings,to a study in blue and yellow of those gum trees in the Adelaide Hills. Each step along way was part of a flow as affect produced affect, and affect produced capacity, that in turn produced further affects.This example suggests creative production as a particularly rich and rhizomic flow of affect,increasing the frequency, strength and complexity of affects, branching and going off at tangents, rupturing and reaching dead-ends (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 165).

The generation of affective flows makes it a potent producer of capacities: territorialising, de-territorialising and ‘becoming’, generating lines of flight for both creators and recipients of creative outputs. This perspective on the quantitative ‘richness’ of relations or the ‘density’of affective flow in the creativity-assemblage offers a non-anthropocentric means to differentiate creative products, and how experience, skill, craftsmanship, and ‘maturity’ may enhance creative production.The final proposition is that products of creativity are themselves affects that will produce (territorialise) further capacities and desires in human and non-human, and are thus part of the on-going production of social life, the world and human history. 

This follows logically from the previous point: every mark made on canvas is indeed an effect that transforms the surface, the subject and the painter, and so on until the work is finished or put aside. But this third proposition also recognizes the processual and unfinished character of creativity and suggests it would be mistaken to conceive of a painting or a song simply as an outcome, a consequence’ of a creative act. Artists are presenters of affects … they not only create them in their work, they give them to us and make us become with them. … Van Gogh’s sunflowers are becomings, like Durer’s thistles or Bonnard’s mimosas (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 175).

Few would question that creative products are affects, although often the capacity of art to produce a ‘line of flight’ in its viewers is assumed to be an ‘emotional’ response, from happiness or pleasure through to sadness or nostalgia. Gell’s (1998) monograph, re-worked not in terms of the agency of artworks but as affective flows within creativity assemblages, suggests many other possibilities for how creative products affect, from the healing powers of a religious icon (Gell 1998: 32) to establish the social rank of the possessor of a Tahitian art e fact (ibid: 111). Art affects may produce a cognitive or introspective reaction, encouraging reflection, insight or even a call to action. 

Socialist realism, for example, supplied not only an emotional reaction but also an encouragement to work or fight for the cause or state, as does both ‘graffiti art’ and graphic design. Or an art work may produce a sensibility or even an identity in its onlookers or participants: such transformative powers are implicitly ascribed to creative products by art and music therapists, arts in health practitioners and by hospital architects (Fox, 2013). Finally, they may produce judgements that have aesthetic and commercial significance, estimating the ‘worth’ of the creative product. The latter affects are in turn productive of ‘the arts’, art markets, art consumers and associated social forms (galleries, concert-halls and so forth) and the disciplines of aesthetics and criticism. In the case of my painting, these affects are quite limited, but even so, Mallée No.2 does continue to affect those who see it, perhaps now including readers of this paper.


1. For example, discussions of creativity in music (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 338-350),painting (Deleuze 2003) and literature (Deleuze and Guattari 1986).2. This notation should not be taken to imply any causal sequencing within an assemblage.Relations articulate with each other within a network of connections.3. Its beginning might in fact be traced back to many earlier events and experiences that led to that moment.


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One thought on “Creativity, anti-humanism and the ‘new sociology of art’

  1. *I?m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that?s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

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