The Necessity of Creativity in an Absurd Existence

An existential overview into the architected absurd, actualised self and authenticated existence.
James Dyer, BA (Hons) Multimedia Design
The University of Huddersfeld, 2013
cover photograph Montemor
Rineke Dijkstra
This study would not have become what it is without the uncompromising guidance from Spencer Roberts,
and the continual support from Derek Hales, Jason Payne and Anneké Pettican. Ì am sincerely grateful for
all their patience and passionate input.
Thank you.
The Necessity of Creativity in an Absurd Existence
Dissecting the Camusian and Sartrean Approach to the Absurd
The Tripartite Absurdum Theory
The Subjugation of Absurdity
Figure List
The Necessity of Creativity in an Absurd Existence
Ìn this study Ì will investigate the role of creativity in the context of what the existentialist philosophers
position as an absurd existence, and attempt to define it as a necessary tool for self-expression, reflection
and actualisation. Focusing on the works of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre Ì will dissect their
narrativised dialogue between subject and absurdity, with intent to find a commonality between their
approaches through their engagement with subjugation, characterisation and self-actualisation. Ì shall also
be complementing this with Viktor E. Frankl's psychoanalytic school of Logotherapy, attributing the effects
of creativity to the necessity of defining meaning and direction in one's existence, taking reference from
Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning (1946).
You make the mistake of thinking you have to choose, that you have to do what you want, that
there are conditions for happiness. What matters ÷ all that matters, really ÷ is the will to happiness,
a kind of enormous, ever-present consciousness. The rest ÷ women, art, success ÷ is nothing but
excuses. A canvas waiting for our embroideries. (Camus, 1971).
The theory of the absurdity of existence is fundamentally based upon an awareness of the meaninglessness
of life, were all personal goals and justifications for life are ultimately arbitrary landmarks in an existence
plagued by the inevitability of death. Furthermore, to attribute meaning by entertaining ideas of an
omnipotent being, that protects and justifies one's actions with illusive gestures towards meaning, is to deny
the actual truth of the irrational, indifferent world in which one temporarily exists. This is to say that the
theory of an absurd existence is based upon the notion of an existence that cannot logically be reduced to a
rational meaning, perhaps one of the most extreme cases of reductio ad absurdum .
According to the existentialist philosophers, at the realisation of this meaninglessness one experiences an
"existential vacuum¨ (Frankl, 1973) - the sensation of a lacking purpose and feelings of isolation, anguish
and disparity. Albert Camus writes that the now newly identified absurd existence should not be met with
disdain, but rather used as a "springboard¨ (Hinchcliffe, 1974: 36) to propel oneself into an existence of
freedom, passion and meaning; this is the tunnel at the end of the light. Ìt can be equated to the mythology
of Oedipus, which presents his suffering as beginning upon the awareness of his tragic situation; whilst also
Latin: reduction to absurdity
recognising this as the moment of enlightenment for Oedipus, that enabled him to continue in an authentic
existence (Camus, 1979: 109). Ìn this sense, the unveiling of the mystery is the start of living in absurdity,
and it is the mystery that matters "...what matters is not freedom, not love, but the riddle, the secret, the
mystery to which they must place themselves in thrall¨ (Benjamin, 2008: 69) The notion of enthralling
oneself in the absurdity of existence is something with which Camus accords, it is what he calls an
ever-present consciousness, (Camus, 1973: 91) the idea that each present moment of existence must be
denoted meaning in that moment, a constant renewal; this is to keep in the forefront of consciousness the
"...implacable grandeur of this [one] life¨ (Hinchcliffe, 1974: 38). Viktor E Frankl calls this pursuit of meaning
the will to meaning (2011), but he notes that the meaning is not something that can be prescribed; as each
meaning is intrinsically subjective and, as such, must be achieved through an introspective self-analysis, it
should be noted in Frankl's studies that the structure and process of this will to meaning is never
systematic, there are no declarative statements, or an intent to ascribe conditions for an absurd or fulfilled
existence, that lack of ascription is the enabling factor for understanding the responsibility for ones own
existence. Similarly Sartre comments on Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus (1979) surmising that the novel
does not explain the absurd but "...merely describes the condition and its consequences,¨ (Hinchcliffe,
1974: 39) which can also be applied to Sartre's novel Nausea (2000). Ultimately these are creative acts that
engage with the subjective notion of absurdity, through the creation of personal, characterised, or
narrativised meaning.
Dissecting the Camusian and Sartrean Approach to the Absurd
Camus uses the anecdote of Sisyphus in The Myth of Sisyphus (1979) to illustrate the repetitive,
meaningless and mechanistic nature of existence, but also utilises the protagonist to exercise the dialogue
between the actualisation of self and the absurd. Sisyphus is a character in Greek mythology that is
punished by being sentenced to a life of meaningless repetitive labour, he is condemned by the gods to roll
a boulder to the top of a mountain, but on reaching the peak it rolls back down to the bottom, only for
Sisyphus to haul it to the summit again. Camus notes that the gods ".had thought with some reason that
there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labour." (Camus, 1979: 107) Ìt is important to
understand here that in the interpretation of mythology and storytelling, re-imagined tales are moulded to the
perspective of the teller (Buxton, 2010: 6), not in a way that is untrue to the original, but in a way that
develops the history of the story. Many people are documented in retelling the myth of Sisyphus, all of
which emphasise and de-emphasise elements of the story to create their own abridged version. Camus
writes on the telling from Homer, and in turn Ì write on the telling from Camus; in accordance with the
'tradition' of this abridged, edited storytelling, Ì will divorce the hedonistic tones as well as the intrusion of the
gods prior to Sisyphus' incarceration, to distil the key element of my focus; the characterisation of the
absurdity of existence.
The key element to take from this myth is not a metaphor consisting of slavery, or an oppressive power
compromising individual freedom, but rather that Sisyphus was conscious of his absurd existence, he was
conscious of all its elements, and as such "[t]he lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time
crowns his victory.¨ (Camus, 1979: 109) Sisyphus could reflect on his condition, and it is in the
contemplation of existence that the absurdity is both acknowledged and silenced, Camus writes "There is
no Sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night.¨ (1979: 110) Through contemplative self
analysis one attests to the night and demonstrates all is not exhausted. This typifies Camus approach to
the absurd, he seems to illuminate two key themes throughout his work; that the absurdity of existence is
realised after an antagonistic subjugation or conflict, and that the symbiosis of, in Camusian terms, sorrow
and joy (1979), begins once one becomes conscious of the situation, as demonstrated with Oedipus and
This sociocultural subjection is noted in The Outsider (2000), Meursault, the protagonist, experiences his
absurdity as a product of his social and cultural circumstance. The novel is bisected into pre and post
incarceration, as Meursault experiences violence, sex, death and murder with a seeming lack of empathy or
remorse, his physical actions seem arbitrary, and the inner monologues sketch his mind as being in an
Friedrich Welcker, Franz Kafka, Publius Ovidius Naso, and more.
ignorant state of absurdity. After a key pivotal scene in which Meursault murders an Arab man for seemingly
ambiguous reasons, the court hearing highlights the salient moments where he has acted discordantly and
aloof, ultimately sentencing him to death. Ìt is only when confronted with his immediate demise that
Meursault retrospectively analyses his actions and current condition, concluding to be happy with his
inevitable death as he describes his condition in essence as being an effect of circumstance. Meursault
takes full responsibility for his actions and seems to meet his death sentence with a calm awareness of his
past and present isolation, achieving a relative homeostasis after thinking about his mother "...for the first
time in a long time¨ (2000: 116). As Meursault sits on his bunk ÷ his sterile promontory ÷ he begins to
understand his Mother's actions in taking a fiancé at the end of her life, in what he had previously believed
was a feigning gesture toward a new life; Ì believe this is the start of Meursault's understanding of a theoretic
ever-present consciousness, a realisation that he is an outsider, and as such he desires a compassionate
relationship with others that he does not understand, as he wishes to be less lonely, "...for the final
consummation and for me to feel less lonely, my last wish was that there should be a crowd of spectators
at my execution and that they should greet me with cries of hatred.¨ (2000: 117).
Conversely in Sartre's Nausea (2000) the protagonist, Roquentin, experiences his absurdity through the
manifestation of an almost debilitating nausea, the 'sweet sickness' distorts his experience and perception
in a way that encompasses body and mind, and leads him into a self-analysis that results in dread and
angst, as the overwhelming experience of an existential crisis consumes him. Roquentin's relationships and
experiences of life are marginalised because of his nausea, the symptom of his absurdity, he is thus victim
of his circumstance. Whilst living in isolated abstraction, reading and writing, the thing that jolts his
mechanistic existence, that goads him to act and be present in the moment is his nausea, his absurdity is
an antagonism that drives him; that is to say that the element that gives a context to his 'normal' non-absurd
life is his manifested absurdity.
This is the key difference between the Sartrean and Camusian approach, and will be the focus for defining
the causal relationship between the subject and the absurd, through either the Camusian antagonism
between subject, sociocultural circumstance and conflict, primarily noted in The Outsider (2000), or the
Sartrean approach of a subject in metaphysical anguish and phenomenological negation, through a
continuous self-analysis, ideally illustrated in Nausea (2000). Although in both these examples neither
protagonist reaches an apotheotic level of actualisation, the reader is only exposed to a narrativised
crescendo, the death sentence of Meursault and the departure of Roquentin; this is almost a standardised
format for the philosophical novel, as previously stated, it is not to ascribe an ideal practice but to "...
describe the condition and its consequences.¨ (Hinchcliffe, 1974: 39) To create a character that fully
The moment in which one challenges their own structured existence
Doug !"#$%&
Migration, Empire, 2008
fgure 1.2
fgure 1.1
self-actualises and transcends the absurdity through their consciousness is bordering on an egoistic
creation by the author of a philosopher king (Edmonds and Warburton, 2007), and in this creation a
simultaneous prophetic dialogue would appear between author and reader, as the book would mutate into
some form of self-help guide. Ìnstead the authors leave space for the reader to inhabit and and create their
own narrative, from their own perspective and experiences. As Camus writes, he believes that the Art of
absurdity must only describe one's personal experience of the absurd, not define it, (Camus, 1979: 39) in
doing so would be to create a limiting definition and attempt to refine an ascription to an ideological absurd
This seems to fit with Slavoj Zizek's statements on the contemporary and traditional application of
philosophy, denouncing that the role of the philosopher is merely to ask ridiculous questions that are then
ridiculed by sceptics, rather he calls philosophy a "...modest discipline.¨ (Zizek. 2005) An exercise in
redefining problems that exist, to create an implicit understanding of what the true coordinates of the
question are, proposing that the role of the philosopher is not in making grand statements of absolute truths.
This practice is present in both Nausea (Sartre, 2000) and The Outsider (Camus, 2000), neither authors nor
their characters imply an absolute truth to practice, but challenge the coordinates of the defined meaningful
and meaningless existence. They are not primarily instigating thought into whether or not one is in a state of
meaningfulness or meaninglessness, but rather questioning what it means to be in a state of
meaningfulness or meaninglessness, to further elaborate ones personal understanding of a condition. And in
this application the reader can populate their own perspective of understanding with selective elements of
the systemic dialogue within the protagonists and their narrativised condition.
The Tripartite Absurdum Theory
The focus upon the absurdity of existence is clear in both Camusian and Sartrean texts, but there are clear
differences between their approaches, the reasoning for this difference is unimportant, but attempting to
define them will help clarify the nature of the absurd, in the context of its relationship with creativity, as well
as creativity's necessity in an existence occupied by absurdity. Here the absurd is segmented into three
categories to eliminate ambiguity through definition, the Tripartite Absurdum Theory, consisting of:
1. Endoabsurdum, the inner absurdity that Sartre commentates on in Nausea (2000), the
metaphysical anguish and depersonalisation of the exterior world, as endoabsurdity consumes the
mind and pollutes the familiar physical world.
2. Exoabsurdum, the outer/exterior absurdity that Camus illustrates, how the realisation of an
exoabsurd environment isolates and debilitates, producing the sense of a stalking loneliness that
haunts ones actions .
3. Holosabsurdum, the marriage of both an exoabsurd and endoabsurd existence in a co-operative
effort to materialise the entirety of an absurd existence. This is the pinnacle of the absurd
existence, a full immersion in meaninglessness, the fertile ground for an existential vacuum.
Application of any one of these facets of absurdity is not particularly telling of the applicant's agenda, rather
it is the order in which they are applied that reveals a coherent desire of intent, which is to say the primary
application of, for example, an endoabsurdist perspective as seen in Nausea (2000), in which the
protagonists first engagement with the absurd is manifested from an internal nauseating sickness, which
then gradually develops into an exoabsurd phenomena through hallucination and mutation of the immediate
physical environment, ultimately resulting in the reveal of a holosabsurdity, where the marriage of the two
prior absurd experiences culminate to an unsurpassable absurd experience, the almost epiphanic level of
realisation. This narrativised crescendo is the pseudo-conclusive linchpin to which the reader must occupy
the character, and develop a personal understanding of the events and applied coordinates of absurdity,
transgressing the implicit dialogue between character and narrative, to abrogate ascription and ultimately
engage with one's own subjective absurdity. Which is to say the messages should be applied in the context
of the readers experience of absurdity, in a way which is not a direct application, but one that the reader can
authentically relate to. Even though Camus approaches the absurd from a root tangential to Sartre,
ultimately the approach toward a pseudo-conclusive realisation of holosabsurdity is still the key focus.
"Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. Ìn bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere.
There's no escape. Ì'm God's lonely man.¨ (Taxi Driver, 1976)
The opposing approach from Camus is the absurd development from the primary origin of an exoabsurd
realisation, as in The Outsider (2000), the protagonist experiences his absurdity as an apparent subjection
to a conflicting sociocultural circumstance, the exterior conditions inflict the realisation of exoabsurdum,
which becomes the catalyst for an introspective self-analysis, this in turn instigates an endoabsurdist
perspective, resolutely ending in holosabsurdity as light is shed on his past and current existence in
absurdity. Ìnterestingly the inference of holosabsurdum in this instance is sullied, as the affirmative
engagement exists, but does not ultimately alter the conditions of existence, the character remains
incarcerated and his death imminent, but he now possesses an ever-present consciousness and parallactic
perspective of being and its futility.
Here Ì think it is vital to state a position on these two absurd principles, although the differences are subtle,
it is important to understand the responsibility implied in each. Firstly Sartre's conditions of nausea are
rooted in an imposition, a metaphysical infringement that interrupts an otherwise implied balanced
existence, this leads me to believe the absurdity that Sartre is describing is as such an anomaly, a blip in
an otherwise harmonious structure, the imposition thus alienates Roquentin physically and spiritually from
others, but paradoxically the endoabsurdity is a product of his own construction, his perspective of the
immediate environment is dictated by his own mode of interaction, this would imply a degree of control, as
his absurdity is navigated and ultimately circumvented from an intellectual perspective, on either a
conscious or subconscious level; which suggests this absurdity is an intellectual creation. Containing the
ideal that only through a self initiated instantiation of self-analysis could one communicate an absurdity in
existence. This is to say a form a self-analysis that is not wholly accessible to all, one may lack the
vocabulary (literally and metaphorically) to attain this absurdity. Ìnversely Camus develops a wholly more
accessible absurdity, something that has no requirement other than an emotional intelligence and
engagement with one's own existence. The absurdity in The Outsider (2000) is realised after a full emotional
engagement and retrospective overview of Meursault's existence. No sole party is correct in this respect, but
it is important to maintain an awareness that both Camus and Sartre were communicating entirely different
origins of absurdity.
The Subjugation of Absurdity
As seen in Meursault's apotheosis at the end of Camus' The Outsider (2000) the message is implied that
victory is granted only in the realisation of absurdity, and he demonstrates through Sisyphus that this
awareness of absurdity in existence must be continuously renewed, through an ever-presence of
consciousness, as the flux of meaning, and life's constant change of state could never deliver homeostasis
in one "leap of faith" (Camus, 1978) that would be philosophical suicide and as such an unjust reaction to
the absurd. This requirement of an ever-present consciousness is something that is revised in both
Camusian and Sartrean subjugation of the absurd through creativity, and more specifically via a parallactic
jolt in perspective. To understand this further the use of an altered perspective in Frankl's Man's Search for
Meaning (2011) should be defined.
Viktor E Frankl created a new school in Psychotherapy that approached an individual's treatment from an
existential analytic perspective, focusing on the will to meaning, rather than pleasure or power as preceded
in Freudian and Adlerian psychotherapy; Frankl focused on the patient under treatment as an individual with
their own individual circumstances, rather than the prior methods of developing all inclusive, impersonal
diagnoses. Ìn Frankl's Psychotherapy and Existentialism (1973) it is clear that the prior conditions of
absurdity and existential angst described by Camus and Sartre are in abundance, as case after case of
patients experiencing absurdity in their existence is described. Frankl does not deny the impact and
significance of ones conditions, whether of biological, psychological or sociological nature, but he believes
that one's perspective, understanding and thus positive interaction with these conditions are congenial to the
practice of the final "[.] vestige of spiritual freedom" - the independence of mind (Frankl, 2011). Ìn this
instance the interaction and application of the independent mind is exercised in the subjugation of
This subjugation of experience, using creativity as mediation, is used as a tool to further understand and
manipulate experiences, it may be refracted into multiple facets of focus from psychological, sociological or
biological perspectives, but the paramount element for this all inclusive reference is the ability to introduce a
presence of consciousness, as creativity mutates into a motive enabling reflective analysis of ones life in
past, future and more importantly in the present. Ìt develops the heterarchical relationships between the
creator and the other, in the Lacanian symbolic sense (Homer, 2004). From the point of conception the
relationship transcends form, context and content, and becomes a salient manifestation of a metaphysical
notion of the self, a tangible concretion of an ephemeral moment. This creation is then exposed to a
Ìn reference to the Lacanian Oedipus complex; in which there is no such thing as a binary relationship. Ìn
this sense between that which is created and the creator
De Panne, Belgium, August 7 1992
fgure 2.1
translation and transference by other(s), which only validates its necessary existence. Camus believes that
works of Art are something that assist the personal awareness of others, and are something that indicates a
commonality in fate. This is the power of authentication exceeding the power of representation. The creation
authenticates the absurdity in the others existence, as well as that of the creators, it does not merely
represent it in Art, its role is to validate the absurd through communication.
This is to say that if there is honesty in a creation, the creator not only communicates their own perspective
of that which is presented, but also relays that perspective to the other who consumes the creation, which
may then validate the others perspective. For example Charles Bukowski's poem Nirvana (1991: 79), the
other who consumes it may not know of this specific diner, or have experienced that specific occasion, but
the other can understand the communicated message of isolation, loneliness and alienation, and even the
experiences of a nirvana which is found and lost. As such this poem may then validate one's own
encounters with the implied messages, and even to an extent further inform the mode of interaction once in
that moment. Ìt is vital to highlight here, this is not stating that a fanatical consumption of Art will delineate
any overwhelming sense of absurdity, it would be in effect encountering ones own absurdity by proxy, one
must engage entirely with ones own absurdity in creation to truly achieve a form a transcendence, in order
to become lucid and fully self-aware.
This is the juxtaposition of Roquentin and Meursault, as Roquentin actively engages in the exposure and
creation of Art, he continuously analyses it as a key facet in his existence, as it plays a role in the
intermediation between himself, the creation and the other in connection with his social environment, as he
listens to the radio, writes his book and visits the library. Which is contrary to Meursault who has a strictly
distanced relationship with his environment, and almost a restricted desire for connectivity with others, in the
sense that his expression of anxiety, discomfort or passion remain internalised, and thus are seemingly
repressed ÷ the other then experiences aloof behaviour and disregards any empathetic possibility in
Meursault, he becomes dehumanised. This lacking outlet does not allow a transcendence into lucidity, not
even a waiver of possibility into an awakening or deeper understanding, so as stated with Frankl, it is in his
sociological affliction of incarceration that sets the trigger of analysis, rather than the arts or creation. Ìn one
sense Meursault's realisation of absurdity holds a purity that Roquentin's does not, a sense that there is no
predeterminate perversion of reason for the involvement with creation, but in a second sense it is not self
initiated, or sustainable, it has a lacking responsibility.
Ìn this regard the creative act described enables an engagement with other(s), symbolic or otherwise, as
well as initiates a platform to discover and control meaning in one's existence, as experiences can be
manipulated and distorted to conform to the newly defined authentication of and meaning in existence. This
subjugation of absurdity is in no way suggested here to replace the foundations of definitive reality, (in the
radical subjectivist sense) this is not a declaration to say that one can use creativity to live in an obscene
solipsistic-esque reality, but that the coordinates of the apparent crises, such as an affliction from the law,
an infringing nausea, or death, can be interpreted and understood on newly defined terrain which is under the
control of the subject, the existence of the crises alone is not what is being challenged. This is not a
practice in denying reality, but rather invigorating, understanding, and taking ownership of one's own
perspective of reality. This is the vital responsibility that one engages in when practising creativity, as one
initiates the independence of mind, which is fundamentally a necessity for living authentically in absurdity.
The following illustrative examples of creativity, that engage with the prior mentioned theories and
philosophies, should be noted to be of personal significance, the subjective relationship to creative work and
its importance is not, as with the theories, something that can be ascribed. My personal accounts and
experiences of creations may differ greatly or minutely to the next persons experience, but in the
engagement and analytical style of these examples, Ì hope to distil a format that can be modified and
applied by others. The criteria for choosing these creators was simply that they should all be living,
contemporary practitioners and no two could work alike. Ì decided on Doug Aitken's video installation
Migration, complemented with Rineke Dijkstra's documentative portraiture photography, and finally a
contrasting project from a collaboration between musician and sound artist Tim Hecker, and sculptor and
sound artist Marla Hlady, in their project Nite Ride. But these theories could be applied to any creative work,
from Giorgio de Chirico to Matthew Barney, the relative application of these theories is justified by the
subjective engagement and interpretation of the work.
Ìn Doug Aitken's installation, Migration , he creates three billboard style screens featuring video projections,
The screens sit behind one another, allowing the audience to occupy a space between to experience the
work. The billboards display the same footage; a seemingly disjointed film in which ethereal beasts and
creatures meander in an alien world, almost belonging whilst trespassing in the hotel rooms, swimming
pools and hallways as everyday objects and spaces become inane and distant, as seen in the scene with a
deer knocking the contents of a mini bar on the floor ÷ which immediately renders the bottles alien and
absurd. The challenging of perspective, especially in a passive medium such as this, is an ideal use of
creativity to disembody the audience in such a way that familiar objects definitions become elusive and their
forms no longer represent the objects once known. The framed focus draws a state of near trance like
involvement, the punctum is in every form and element experienced. Ìn a sense Aitken has delivered the
experience of Roquentin's realisation in Sartre's Nausea (2011)
"...[people] looked like scenery to me... If anyone had asked me what existence was, I would have
See figures 1.1 and 1.2
answered, in good faith, that it was nothing, simply an empty form which was added to external
things without changing anything in their nature."
Aitken presents this epiphanic accomplishment in waves of ambient moments, the presence of the animals
is abstracted and occupied by the viewer, as they experience being lost in a world of props and enigmatic
symbols. Because this challenged perspective is not explicit, the work is less imposed on the viewer, rather
it constructs a space to become reflective over one's condition and the personal interpretation of the work.
One stares at the monolithic projections - realising the absurdity of merely being and meandering in
borrowed space, through an endoabsurdist introspection. This in a sense is Aitkens subjugation of alienation
and loss, which has a generality to it, the focus and meaning is wholly manufactured and interpreted by the
viewer; similarly to Rineke Dijkstra's portraiture , Dijkstra formulates solid key themes as the focuses for her
photography, be it bullfighters after a fight, young adolescents after swimming or mothers and their newly
born children. Her work is less about enabling moments for self reflection, but more about highlighting the
strength and presence of individuality and personality in the subjects, as they are withdrawn from their social
context, the isolated sitters pose staring into the viewer in a striking moment of altercation and engagement,
almost as if breaking the fourth wall. There forms are entombed into the negative while they hold a
statue-esque physicality that draws on the timelessness of being, in its many forms and veneers. Ì believe it
is only after leaving the gallery and not directly experiencing the work that one can position oneself
retrospectively as a subject of Dijkstra's, understanding objectively ones context and outward appearance
from the perspective of 'the gaze', qualifying the environment as a set backdrop and joining the subjects in
breaching the fourth wall in momentary exoabsurdism.
Ìn both aforementioned creative work from Dijkstra and Aitken, the element of direct interaction is missing,
the dialogue between the created piece and an audience is in essence not ultimately necessary for the
piece to exist in its entirety, there is no explicit mode of direct interaction, but in Tim Hecker and Marla
Hlady's interactive music project Nite Ride the presence of an audience is paramount in the completion of
the work. Nite Ride is a one hour bus trip around Ottawa-Gatineau, the bus is fitted with 5.1 surround sound
that is playing a dedicated remastered track from Tim Hecker. Ìn addition to this, the experience is
constantly being manipulated by the passengers, as bleary lights and distant tones of colour become an
incongruous generative visual display in the peripheries, briefcase like objects that contain mechanical
devices that manipulate looping sounds, are traded between passengers, each echo back their own auditory
identity from its own dedicated speaker, splintering the surround sound audio track with the clacking of
boxes and their shuffling mechanisms. This mode of becoming directly involved, rather than passively
See front cover and figure 2.1
See figure 3.2
See figure 3.1
engaged, can produce a sense of ownership in experience, which Ì believe is a much more concrete way to
confront and subjugate personal experiences through creativity, rather than the more complex and abstract
relationship with an impersonal creation, with Nite Ride the experience envelopes the audience within its
interactivity and dynamic form.
Tim Hecker, Marla HIady
Nite Ride, Empire, 2009
fgure 3.2
fgure 3.1
Ìn conclusion the role of creativity as a method to self-actualise and transcend the absurdity of existence,
seems overly romantic and grossly irrational. Ìt would imply the act of creative involvement to be near the
level of a consumable commodity, which (if it were) would propose an almost perverse cause of desire; were
the crux of a creative act would be to achieve some form of fast tracked truth or enlightenment, in a form not
too dissimilar to that of Ariadne; the embodied element that aides one in navigating through the labyrinth.
There is still, nevertheless a necessity of creativity in an absurd existence, and its necessity in this equation
is precisely to create and foreground the subjective conditions of an absurd existence, to manifest the
personal terms in which one lives in absurdity. Which is to say, creativity is not a tool that can be applied to
an all-encompassing absurd existence as a counteractive force, but rather that it is a tool that creates a
refined personal absurdity.
As one produces the personal subjective meaning and purpose of existence, one also inadvertently creates
a co-inhabiting non-meaning, in so much as the positive attribution of elements to architect an image of
meaningfulness, also, in its negative space, defines that which is not meaningful, the meaningless; "One
recognises one's course by discovering the paths that stray from it.¨ (Camus, 1979: 103) As such the
derivative definition creates the antithesis of that which will give context to the proactive engagement with a
meaningful fulfilled existence. This is to say that the positive can not exist without the negative, not
necessarily in equal measure but more in a sense of causation, and it is in the indirect definition of the
negative element that there is also a creation of antagonism, an opposing friction or resistance, which may
then become a defining force that attributes a greater meaning and context to the engagement with the
positive - the meaningful.
Ìt is through creativity that both the architected meaningfulness and symbiotic meaninglessness is explored
and further defined. Ì do not believe that the 'pursuit of happiness' (in a quite literal sense, as a pursuit, and
not the attainment of happiness) is complemented by creativity, Ì believe once one enters the fever of a
manic emersion in creation, the ideology of an almost conformist approach to achieve happiness through
this creativity is obscene. To be clear in this, Ì am not stating that it is only in an engagement and reflection
on the essence of existence, or theoretical meaning of being that can create the conditions of a personal
absurdity or true self-actualisation, Ì am stating that it is in the preferential choice of what one does and
does not desire to be of a meaningful or meaningless quality. As we now live in an age of apparent
autonomy of choice the implied freedom paradoxically inhibits the present consciousness. There is a far
greater array of choices than ever before, and this supposedly aides ones welfare by maximising individual
freedom - The Official Dogma (Schwartz, 2005) but with every decision made the antagonism of the
non-decision perpetually accompanies it. This can be seen manifested in its most simple transparent form
online; through the constant presentation of possible alternative choices not yet made. Simply illustrated
when streaming videos, whilst watching the current video (the choice) there is a list of other suggested
videos not yet watched (the symbolic antagonism), but inevitably once one of these suggested videos is
watched, more videos are suggested. With the selection of a suggestion only eliciting more; a lazy,
consumerist, technological evocation of Sisyphus' boulder. This is seen also when shopping online, there is
a continual parade of related products that one has not yet considered but could possibly purchased. Ìn the
case of social media, it is not only about how many friends and followers one attains, but who one is not yet
following, a perpetual presence of symbolic antagonism. This antagonism however, is in no way limited to
consumable technology, but rather, is present in all facets of modern life and is seen throughout exo-, endo-
and holosabsurd experiences.
As such, to create is to actualise the symbolic value of an antagonistic conflict, not to negate or defeat it.
This self manufactured conflict is something that can be attributed to a nausea, to a sociocultural
resistance, or to a dead end job, it is as Frankl noted, the perceived notion of a condition that literally alters
the perception of a situation (2011). The translation and manifestation of this turmoil into something that can
be shared is only to communicate one's personal absurdity from that perspective; it is not a definitive
declaration or teaching that can be ascribed to others. As such the creation is a depiction of a subjective
experience of an absurd existence, any attempt to define the universal conditions of absurdity is futile. Ìn
essence because the absurd is something created from one single perspective it can not be directly shared,
but because the symptoms of the absurd have a universality they can transgress a personal dialogue and
hold an adjacency with a nararativsed character or expressive creation.
Ìn this re-establishment of the necessity of creativity, it may seem to now be defined as an act of futility, but
creativity is still an act of paradoxical optimism, this is due to the fact that as one creates in the adversary
presence of absurdity, it is apparent that there is a present acceptance and consciousness of suffering, and
that preferential attitude perfectly enables a limitless authentic creation and existence. Ìt is through ones
lucidity that one is victorious (Camus, 1979), a priori to this victory the deprivation of meaning through a lack
of context, i.e. the as of yet uncreated subjective absurd condition, is to engage a motive and desire for
reason, to sculpt a context through creativity of an appropriate absurdity, thus the creativity becomes a
prism through which one may experience all the peripheral nuances and fleeting moments of existence, in a
retrospective sense, and it is in this sense that creativity can be used as a tool to actively participate and
engage in ones own absurdity, the true authentic existence.
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