The overrated Originality and why do we equate it with Excellence
An artwork, a photograph, a movie, a book, a song, a tv show, a talent, or a masterpiece; what do they have in common? The element of originality. People equate originality to excellence because the word ‘originality’ appears to be something to look up to. Just like an original item from the US compared to a local product in the Philippines. In other cases, having your work commented with “it’s fantastic and original” makes you feel like no one can beat your work, or that it’s the highest of its form.
This blog unfortunately does not believe in originality, so as the blogger.
I’ve heard from many people, commonly speakers, that (in the case of photography), a picture stands out when it has its originality. So I’ve always seen it as an alien entity to a competition (for example). In other contests I’ve joined, a huge percentage of judging my entry relied on originality taking up to 50% of the whole criteria. Every participant would think of the best original idea to compete and it felt like you just can’t have those ideas.
There is no way that we can produce original ideas, technically. We can only say one thing is original if it is based on our own perspective. Let’s say your classmate showed you his project. It was so detailed and colorful, probably the best project execution you have ever seen. So you may have thought- it’s originally made. A couple of minutes later, your classmate showed his project to one of your other classmates and the comment was “oh, it’s like the one they made in the movie blah blah”. This instance is in no peculiarity, it happens everyday, and we just don’t notice it. It may be original to you, but it’s just a whole lot of a copy from somewhere else.
Another example is my job as a designer. In as much as I would like for my designs to flow out as originally made by me, I cannot do so. All parts of my design could somehow be a replica of some designs I’ve seen before. I may claim it as something I thought of but I know that those pieces of design were stored subconsciously inside my brain while looking at designs from different places and time.
So how come?
Human beings live inside a closed sphere. All that we see, all that we hear, smell, touch, taste, all of it is a part of our memories. Memories which were drawn from the time we were created. This is where we get our instincts and ideas, all our experiences lead to something we do in the future. It’s safe to say that originality exists within the grounds of one’s perception but is not applicable for all. We don’t need to be afraid to say we’re not original because we are not. We are in the process of constantly adapting to our environment. Like a child learning to speak or beginning his first steps. He’s trying to imitate other people because those are the only things available for him to rely. It’s impossible to create something out of nothing without using a part of our memories.
Because this kind of thing cannot be controlled, laws were applied since everyone is obliged to obey the law. We have patents, intellectual property rights, and so on.
Embrace the fact that we can’t be original. I believe that something is excellent when it’s done with pure intent to be the best and pure effort to express something. Authenticity is not being original or ‘alien’. Authenticity is being real and it is invaluable.
It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.
-Jean Luc Godard
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