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Limits of Creativity and Courage to Create.        

Rollo May in his book “Courage to create” suggests that limits in our life are essential to defining who we are as human beings.  He states that it is the struggle against the limits that make us who we are.  In a certain sense the struggle against limits is the essence of artistic creativity, but is there something more to the role of limits in decentrism?  

Quoting from his book:

The significance of limits in art is seen most clearly when we consider the question of form. Form provides the essential boundaries and structure for the creative act. It is no accident that the art critic Clive Bell, in his books about Cézanne, cites "significant form" as the key to understanding the great painter’s work. Let us say I draw a rabbit on a blackboard. You say, "There’s a rabbit." In reality there is nothing at all on the blackboard except the simple line I have made: no protrusion, nothing three dimensional, no indentation. It is the same blackboard as it was, and there can be no rabbit "on" it. You see only my chalk line, which may be infinitesimally narrow. This line limits the content. It says what space is within the picture and what is outside—it is a pure limiting to that particular form. The rabbit appears because you have accepted my communication that this space within the line is that which I wish to demarcate. There is in this limiting a nonmaterial character, a spiritual character if you will, that is necessary in all creativity. Hence, form and, similarly, design, plan, and pattern all refer to a nonmaterial meaning present in the limits.

Our discussion of form demonstrates something else that the object you see is a product both of your subjectivity and external reality. The form is born out of a dialectical relation between my brain (which is subjective, in me) and the object that I see external to me (which is objective). As Immanuel Kant insisted, we not only know the world, but the world at the same time conforms to our ways of knowing. Incidentally, note the word conform- the world forms itself "with," it takes on our forms.

Speaking of poetry, Coleridge distinguished between two kinds of form. One is external to the poet-the mechanical form, let us say, of the sonnet. This consists of an arbitrary agreement that the sonnet will consist of fourteen lines in a certain pattern. The other kind of form is organic. This is inner form. It comes from the poet, and consists of the passion he or she puts into the poem. The organic aspect of form causes it to grow on its own; it speaks to us down through the ages revealing new meaning.

Perhaps in decentrism the limit or the border between the depicted and hidden part, although not necessarily completely new concept in art, takes on a more prominent role as an expression of the artists creative effort.  Adam Wiśniewski Snerg gives the enigmatic definition of decentrism. The search to understand it at different levels and to use the decentrist approach continues beyond painting and into other forms of art.  Does this search include the search for beauty?

Dr. Wojciech Chrosny

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Decentrism, the art of mime?

Reading the book “Courage to Create” by American psychologist, Rollo May, led me to some fascinating insights about creativity of an artist, scientist, engineer...  May’s reflections on his studies of the creation process touch on some of the most interesting aspects of creativity in such diverse fields as science and art. I read this book about 10 years ago, before my interests turned to art.  At that time I found the book to be remarkable, but ultimately too abstract and removed from my pursuits of computer science and models of human intelligence.  After struggling for couple of years with questions of philosophical foundations of Decentrism, I read this book again, and I was astounded to notice so many more insights, which I have not seen there before.

Of course the book itself makes this point very obvious that one will discover something new only after a significant struggle with the questions at hand.  Creativity is never a passive process, where one waits for something to happen to them.  Whether in mathematics, science, art, poetry, or engineering, new insights are won only by the struggle of the creative person with questions and problems.  The author unifies the roles of the conscious and subconscious aspects of human personality and presents an aesthetical hypothesis of beauty as the critical element of creativity.

Quoting from the chapter on “Passion for Form” – “… The mime Marcel Marceau stands upon the stage impersonating a man taking his dog out for a walk. Marceau’s arm is outstretched as though holding the dog’s leash. As his arm jerks back and forth, everyone in the audience “sees” the dog straining at the leash to sniff this or that in the bushes.  Indeed, the dog and the leash are the most ‘real’ parts of the scene even though there is no dog and no leash on the stage at all.  Only the part of the Gestalt is there – the man Marceau and his arm. The rest is entirely supplied by our imagination as viewers”.

Is the art of mime inherently decentrist? Did Snerg see the centrism in painting only and never saw the mime as the art form without the ‘real’ object? More importantly what does it mean for an aspiring decentrist to explore the limits of creativity.

Dr. Wojciech Chrosny

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How do you seek inspiration?

The search for inspiration can be sometimes very painful.  Life teaches us that some days we are a dog, other days we are the hydrant and then someday we become … a plumber.  However, seriously have you thought about what is the most fruitful source of inspiration for your work?  How about inspiration for decentrist work?  The manifesto by Adam Wiśniewski-Snerg is only the beginning, but what next?

Are there other forms of human creativity that provide some analogies for decentrist inspiration?  This article is just an invitation to explore this topic from different points of view.  Hopefully these explorations will be fruitful to many who engage in this search.


To start, let’s look at Haiku poetry.  I must note that my knowledge of Haiku is about as deep as knowledge of art, so I stand on shaky ground, but in the spirit of sharing experiences from different sandboxes (Falsification), I offer these thoughts.

Haiku poetry has very rigid form, limited to 17 syllables (although the concept of a syllable does not represent exactly the structure of Japanese phrases it is good approximation).  In this form the Japanese literati composed death poems, just before cutting their bellies in ritualistic suicide “Seppuku” (known by the vulgar term “Harakiri”).  I would rather bang my head on the desk any day.  On the brighter side the courtiers would compose the Haiku to win the love of their favorite ladies.  Love and Death, those are pretty banal forms sources of inspiration, but part of everyday life.  What is interesting is that the form of Haiku imposes very strict frame, and forces the poet to search for the 17 syllables that would describe the hidden feelings.

Is this search for the expressed syllables, similar to the search for what should be depicted in the decentrist art?  I offer this question for commentary.  In subsequent articles we will explore other sources of inspiration.  We invite you to share your thoughts.

Dr. Wojciech Chrosny / Włodzimierz Pytkowski

Haiku poetry reference: