The most serious creative people I’ve met have very clear feelings about the studio. They are frustrated when told they must be in it, and frustrated when told they must keep away.
In the world of professional creativity, the studio (my catch-all term for any building that houses paid creatives) is an odd concept. It’s almost as if somebody has actively sought out the people with the most profound connection to the secret rhythms of life, and built a stone box around them.
The argument for such a space existing is, fundamentally, based on a traditional model of work. Labour and supervision. A visible, physical hierarchy. An elaborately corporate cartography of who is permitted to do what.
Of course, creative businesses will tell you that the studio is designed to stimulate creative thought and shield us from thinking like the people beyond the walls (which in itself is problematic).
It does this job, I suppose, and it also doesn’t. Often, without any of the inmates realising it, the studio becomes a petri dish of imaginative conformity – where the only challenge or reinforcement we ever get is from people who see the world in a too-similar way to us.
At its worst, no matter how vibrant it looks and feels, the studio turns original thought into insipid consensus. The very opposite of what the creative process should aim toward.
Then again, the world we live in now – with the doors to the studio bolted while our abandoned lunches form a forgotten Tupperware kingdom of noxious fuzz – is hardly a utopia.
Even those creatives who think of nothing but scooping out an escape tunnel from behind a ‘When the World Zigs, Zag’ poster, find themselves, in small and unexpected ways, bereft at the separation.
For while the studio may not be the optimal creative space that was sold to us, it certainly has its advantages compared to our kitchen and our pyjama bottoms and our silently-mouthing, perennially-muted colleagues.
I’d argue that creativity has been institutionalised, in the same way it has been mechanised. In other words these ‘creative’ places, much like our ‘creative’ apparatus, have fooled us into thinking they are more important than they really are. What we don’t see, like with religion and churches, is that the studio is not where creativity comes from but rather where it goes to – or is compelled to go to.
However, I would never argue for the studios to be shuttered up, or turned into indoor bee colonies or trampoline parks.
There is, in both this strange world and the one we hope to see soon, a place for the creative building. But, rather than being the pit into which we are tossed each morning and only escape from once all the thinking has been done, I think we need to review – as organisations and individuals – how the studio can best serve our imaginations, and not the other way around.
I’d even suggest that the studio is not a place to think. It is a place to share and review and, ultimately, a place to do. The studio comes into play only after the delicate egg of an idea has been birthed elsewhere – so that we return to it only when we’re in need of the creative equivalent of a warm lightbulb and a bed of shredded newspaper.
Instead, the place to think can and should be anywhere that isn’t pre-defined as a place for thought. Any place where there are no expectations to produce, nor memories of what has already been produced.
I talk about this so often I’m in danger of becoming something of a sky-nutter – a Thoreau-esque figure desperately boring everybody with his dream of a creative’s Walden.
And yet I believe so utterly that the outside world, the sky, movement, weather, unregulated temperatures, untrodden routes, irregular light, aimless wandering, glorious unfamiliarity all contribute more fully to good creative than anything we could ever build and furnish.