A while back, my wife and I were flicking through TV channels.
We stopped at a programme about Venice Beach, LA.
I used to like Venice Beach.
There were always new, interesting things happening.
It was where Chiat Day used Frank Gehry to design their HQ.
A massive pair of binoculars.
When I first saw that building it I didn’t know what to think.
It wasn’t very practical, but it was amazing.
You couldn’t just ignore it.
As Helmut Krone said, “If you can look at something and say ‘I like it’ then it isn’t new.”
In those terms, it was certainly new.
And Venice Beach was always about whatever was new and interesting.
But I wasn’t always comfortable with went on there.
Sometimes I thought it went too far.
Which raises the question, what is creativity?
Who judges it, and can it go too far?
An example of this was on that TV programme.
Apparently the latest trend around Venice Beach was auto-castration.
They were interviewing men who’d cut their own testicles off.
One man in particular had taken it really seriously.
He’d prepared his kitchen like a surgery.
He set up a video camera to record the whole thing.
While we watched, he lay on the kitchen table and two of his friends cut most of his scrotum away.
Eventually they handed him the scalpel, so he could make the final cut.
He said it was like cutting his own umbilical cord.
So he’d be reborn into a new life, without testicles.
He achieved quite a following in Venice Beach.
What they most admired was that he had now total control of his body.
If he wanted an erection he could inject testosterone.
Only when, and where, he decided it was appropriate.
He’d no longer be at the mercy of inappropriate sexual urges.
What he did is outrageous, it’s controversial, it’s new.
You can’t look at it and immediately say “I like it.”
So is it creative, or has it gone to far?
Are there limits on creativity?
Or limits to freedom?
A year or so ago, I saw a story in the paper.
In Scotland, a man had asked a doctor to remove a perfectly healthy leg.
The doctor of course wanted to know why.
The man explained it was for sexual reasons.
Apparently some people get sexually aroused at amputations.
Eventually the doctor agreed, and removed the leg.
Six months later the man came back and asked the doctor to remove the other leg.
This time the doctor refused.
So the man reported him, and the doctor was struck off.
Because it’s illegal to remove a perfectly healthy limb.
But, given there were no victims, do we have the right to limit other’s freedom.
There was a time when many things that we now accept, seemed wrong.
When I was a child, practicing homosexuality was illegal.
My neighbour, in East London, was arrested for it.
It used to be outrageous.
Now, we think locking someone up for it is outrageous.
When my mum was young, she was one of the first women to cut their hair short and wear a short skirt.
Her boyfriend’s mum thought it was shameful, and banned him from seeing her.
Today we’d find that behaviour strange.
Everyone can go online and see footage of celebrities in sex acts.
A few decades back, that would have meant the end of their career.
Now, for people like Paris Hilton and Jordan, it’s the start of one.
Russell Brand said an interesting thing.
“Fame has long been bequeathed by virtue of wealth and birth, and this is the first generation where it has been democratically distributed by the most lowbrow of phenomenon – reality television”
So what are the limits of creativity and freedom?
And who decides?
When Helmut Krone said it was vital to be new, there were many taboos that needed breaking.
And we all agreed.
But we don’t necessarily agree anymore.
Creative expression is linked to freedom of expression.
In fact, we tend to think that creativity is like freedom.
We can’t have too much of either.
But is that true?
If it isn’t, where do we draw the line?
And who draws it?