Peeling Away the Mystery of Cultural Creativity

on pretending to sit at john peel’s desk.

The website of the John Peel Center (oops, we’re in England, so Centre) for Creative Arts makes me think about the strange intersection of private and public in efforts at creating spaces for culture.

First, it’s a marvelous and magnificent website, sure only to improve. And the actual efforts to develop the physical center (I mean centre) are impressive.

But what I am most struck by is that the whole project suggests how much individual figures come to serve as conduits for collaborative openness and cooperative creativity in the arts. Why and how do these singular icons of collective visions of culture come to exist?

Part of what is exciting about the Centre as presented online is that it really truly is an honorable project, worthy of gadzillions of dollars in funding and support. It celebrates a person who celebrated the creativity and artistry of others. So we are enjoying someone else’s profound expressions of enjoyment. There is a conviviality in this, a life force, a power.

But for me, the website also registers how this power works by tapping into the desire (at least for me) that one could sort of pretend to be John Peel. There’s a vicariousness involved in the effort of this website to deliver immediacy. I mean, don’t you kind of really want to sit down in that chair in the photograph? It’s as if somehow we have left the domain of cultural heritage and creativity and suddenly stepped into the pages of Dwell magazine! Mine, mine, mine, the picture says, even as it also insists, ours, ours, ours.

It’s a fascinating dynamic: cultural heritage and creativity coming excitedly to life somewhere between one’s desk, one’s stuff, and the world beyond one’s window.

But only if one pretends, for a moment, to be someone else.

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