The extent of applications of technology in our modern world seems to have no bounds. One particularly interesting group of applications deals with the ability to create within a virtual world of experience. Sound Stage is a program which allows a person to set up a virtual music studio for creating music without the expense or, for that matter, the clutter of real solid equipment and instruments. In terms of the technology, only one piece of hardware is required. Tilt Brush is a 3D painting program that allows a person to paint in virtual reality. And what Tilt Brush is for painting, Medium is for sculpting. It allows a person to manipulate a virtual object and to shape it as if it were made of real matter. Whereas Sound Stage avoids clutter, Tilt Brush and Medium avoid material waste products and the messes made from them. Clutter, waste products, messes – sounds like things that we all would like to avoid in our lives. Most people have an inherent dislike of the disorder and chaos that clutter, waste products and messes generate. There are people today whose job it is to go around to other people’s homes to help them sort out the messes and clutter that have developed from the agglomeration of their possessions. Get rid of the possessions that aren’t really needed or desired and put some order in the possessions that remain. Clutter and mess are dirty words (no play on words intended) to people who think like this.

However, for many creative people, a certain amount of mess or clutter in their lives may not only be normal for them, but may even be more comfortable for them. Mess and clutter provide a kind of environmental grounding for them. The different things and materials that eventually form a perceptual blur in their residences and studios, create a kind of reassuring organic connection for them. Seeing the mingling of different materials and things acts as an unconscious stimulus for different creative connections in their minds leading to the further development of components and aspects of works of art.

Far fewer of these implicit organic connections appear in habitations and workplaces where everything is very neat and orderly. Things and materials in such environments can be experienced as clumping together in fully defined discrete free-floating figures that float in the sterile empty vacuum spaces in which they exist. Implicit creative connections are not as easily made in such formalized environments that contain relatively few overlapping phenomena. Placed in a different perspective, messy cluttered habitations are conducive to acting as templates for creative connections in the minds of creative people.

And messy cluttered environments may not just be good for artists. There are many articles that show that messy desks are associated with innovative people in whatever field is considered. For such people, messy desks can be both a source of comforting grounding and of organic stimulation. In contrast, a neat orderly desk and living environment may be conducive to thinking in neat orderly practical ways. Finding the shortest, most efficient, defined discrete pathway to solving a problem. In other words, conventional solutions to conventionally defined problems. The difficulty with this approach is that many problems in work and in life look simple on the surface but, in reality, have many complex aspects with which to deal. Complex problems are usually uniquely complex, having a special combination of problematic factors. Such problems cannot be solved by an approach of finding the shortest distance between two points. They often require creative innovative intuitive solutions that have more indirect, even convoluted, pathways. They often require creative thinkers who work well in more messy cluttered environments.

Which brings us back to possible problems with the process of creating within virtual environments. All the virtual applications that we talked about at the beginning of this article don’t have mess or clutter in using them. Sound Stage is free of the clutter that comes from equipment and instruments lying around. In Tilt Brush, it would be a freedom from the mess that comes with paint that is used on palettes but also that can get on everything: on clothing, furniture, and floors. Also no more clutter from paints, brushes, and canvasses lying around. In Medium, it would be the freedom that comes from a lack of all the dust that gets on everything and the discarded pieces of sculpture material that come from creating any sculpture in the real world. Also no need for the clutter of different sculpture tools.

I would submit that the clutter and messes just elaborated on actually help a creative person, even while he is in the process of creating his artistic works. As the work is created, the mess and clutter are created, and they become a kind of encompassing organic grounding, a template that helps to stimulate the ongoing interaction between the artist’s creative tools and the work of art that is being created.

In other words, it is the contention of this article that a certain amount of mess and clutter actually stimulate creativity. And when people consider the lack of mess and clutter in Sound Stage and Tilt Brush and Medium as benefits, because then, one supposes, one can create in a totally sanitized vacuumized focused environment with only neat defined discrete phenomena with which to deal, these people have a flawed understanding of creation. In nature, childbirth is messy. Planting trees is messy. Cultivating crops is messy. Raising animals is messy. You can’t get away from messes when dealing with creative processes in nature.

But we must remember that people today are trying to transcend above their organic natures in order to break away from the cycle that includes organic perishability. As much of an oxymoron as it is, people today are trying to explore paths that lead to the development of robotic creativity. A creativity that transcends above the arbitrary uncontrollable mingling of different kinds of matter and things that in and of itself represents a kind of primary unfocused creativity. On the other hand, robotic creativity supposedly allows a person to preserve an imprint in a vacuum, before it has been made with the supportive stimulation of surrounding messes and clutter.
Such creativity produces imprints (audio as well as visual) that are sparse in the kind of flowing continual blendable stimuli that are an essential part of the experiencing of traditional more organic works of art. Without these stimuli, meaningful connections cannot be formed between the viewers or the audience, on the one hand, and the works of art on the other.

In today’s world, messes and clutter get a bad rap. At least in the area of the creative arts, this bad rap is not deserved, and, on the contrary, messes and clutter are an essential element of the whole creative process.

© 2016 Laurence Mesirow
Photo by fdecomite