What are you learning about yourself and your creative process as a result of this unit’s discussion of values? How do you find that values (personal, political, cultural, etc.) inform your creative practices?
This is an awesome question, and one that surely brings up multiple thoughts and issues for each individual. I think the largest way that values inform my creative practice is mainly by influencing and guiding those things in my life that are not actually directly related to design and creativity but give rise to it. Part of what I mean is that one of the more common notions of the ‘self’ in our culture is somewhat fractured – there is the “home self” and the “work self” and the “religious self” and the “leisure sex and sports self” and these are all basically incompatible, or at least can be autonomous and independent of one another. So I suppose my value structure says that this is actually dangerous and somewhat impossible notion (though seductive for many obvious reasons). As I believe we are whole people, and the things we think and believe and do and say have a kind of multiplicative effect on all the other areas of our lives, I believe that it’s important to integrate patterns of attention that help us address our ‘selves’ first, to become healthy and whole people, and then to do things that we all have to do – like work and play and rest and eat and design, etc.
So with that said, I think my faith as a Christian is by far the primary way that my creative processes are influenced, mainly because it gives me a framework by which I can see and understand the world (both existentially and intellectually) and from there, I am becoming the kind of person who strives to be an excellent designer. What that means in practical language is that the valuations of my design work are always compared against the baseline of my faith which says “work is not what defines you”. I am therefore free to not be defined by my work (which as anyone who has worked seriously at anything knows, is a good thing), but I’m also free to engage more rigorously with my work because I’m not looking to it for my ultimate sense of personal value and worth. Paradoxically, this is also a good thing!
In more practical language, this sometimes means that my design work is a communicative expression of my beliefs and the hope that I have as a Christian (as you’ll see in some projects on my personal website). Other times, it just means doing the best job I can as a designer and making beautiful things, which can be an act of worship. My personal values would surely preclude me from designing something that I felt was essentially evil, or was antithetical to the beliefs that I do hold, but this hasn’t ever come up for me yet in my career. I think Jenny Holzer’s work has been really inspirational in the sense that she is really “talking about values” in an oblique way, even though she evades that question. Though my own personal value structure is probably quite different than Holzer’s, I can very much appreciate what she is doing and why.