Home > Creativity > Richard Serra, if not now, when?

Richard Serra, if not now, when?

What do you know, you just finish one pitch, win it, and they give you another one. :-/

Anyway, I’m more snowed under than ever, and going on holiday this Friday.

But, as I was chatting to John Hegarty about my desire of investigating the creative field, he pointed me to this presentation once made by the great Richard Serra, about a life of creativity.

I must admit that this is quite frankyl the best piece of advice I have ever encoutered on creativity.


Rather than being told which tools are available for which ends it is more useful to invent your own tools: As Audre Lorde has pointed out, “ … the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Rules are overrated. They need to be changed by every generation. That is your most important mandate: If it’s not broken, break it. One way of coming to terms with the prevailing language of a cultural orthodoxy is to reject it. It may be necessary to invent tools and methods about which you know nothing, to act in ways that allow you to utilize the content of your personal experience, to form an obsession and to cut through the weight of your education. Obsession is what it comes down to. It is difficult to think without obsession, and it is impossible to create something without a foundation that is rigorous, incontrovertible, and, in fact, to some degree repetitive. Repetition is the ritual of obsession. Don’t confuse the obsession of repetition with learning by rote. I am suggesting a form of inquiry, a procedure to jumpstart the indecision of beginning.

The solution to a given problem often occurs through repetition, a continual probing. The accumulation of solutions invariably alters the original problem demanding new solutions to a different set of problems. In effect, as solutions evolve, new problems emerge. To persevere and to begin over and over again is to continue the obsession with work. Work comes out of work.

But solutions need not only be the result of constant repetition. There is another route, not so structured but rather free-floating and more experimental but no less obsessive. It is to be found in the activity of play. I cannot overemphasize the importance of play. The freedom of play and its transitional character encourage the suspension of beliefs whereby a shift in direction is possible; play ought to be part of the working process. Free from skepticism and self-criticism play allows you to relinquish control. Playful activity provides an alternative way to see, to imagine, to do, to make, to think otherwise. In play there are no ends, there are only means, however, means inadvertently can lead to ends. Rules can be made up as you go along or even in hindsight.

The original text is not too long and definitely worth 5 minutes of your time.


  1. Rob
    August 18, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Absofucking genius

  2. Digicynic
    August 18, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I knew you would appreciate.
    How’s your new life? Has it started yet?

  3. Rob
    August 19, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Hi mate – I’m good, very good. It’s all abit of a mindfuck at the moment but in a totally positive and inspirational way. I know that makes me sound like a groupie, but they are more passionate about doing new things than most in adland. Now if I can only stop them thinking [1] they’re American and [2] just a technological ‘search’ company, hahaha!

    How are you???

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