To speak is not only to make creative decisions regarding the best series of words by which to convey your message, but to acknowledge the difference that makes us at once individual and indivisible from our community. The role of the artist, far from being the creator of artefacts, is to make resonant the latent potentiality present – but not necessarily enacted – in the myriad of relationships-to-Other that comprise the everyday.

Several years ago I visited a museum dedicated to a particularly famous, long-dead artist. After several hours of queueing, visitors were separated into groups of ten or so, and led past poorly lit paintings set behind thick Perspex. The museum staff ushered the gathered crowds past these great works at such a speed that making out any detail of the paintings was near-impossible. Given that none of us could really see any of the artists’ work, I was initially baffled to hear the constant proclamations about how wonderful it all was - but an hour later, sat in the park outside, I finally began to understand what my fellow visitors had subconsciously felt. Seeing art wasn’t entirely the point of our trip.

The point, it turned out, was to be able to tell people we had been there, to participate in the ongoing cultural dialogue of this great, dead painter. It feels, on occasion, easy to suggest that conceptual art is the domain of the avant-garde - that the ‘general’ public are still more interested in paintings on walls, actors on stages, albums on CD. And yet, as my trip to the gallery made clear, social context is fundamental to not only our experience of art, but our experience of communality as a whole. We define ourselves by the context under which we come together. 

This research project begins from three related propositions. The first, is that the creative act is experienced as an event – that is, to watch a play, listen to a song, or view a painting, is not to engage with its specific content in isolation, but to participate in the immersive totality of that content’s form, site, and relative cultural position. Creative acts are therefore inextricable from general social activity – there is no point in our experience where the artwork ends and its context begins. The second proposition is that since the creative act is inextricable from the everyday acts of the community of which it is but a part, that community is itself perpetually engaged in the act of creativity. Finally, the third proposition concerns the nature of the self, and its relationship to the community. If the self relies on a creative coconstruction with Other as a fundamental requirement of being – an idea that will be explored throughout this thesis – then such co-construction is the basis of community. Put simply, finding creative solutions to the challenges of shared space is the means by which we define the terms of our self-construct – the boundary of Other is the limit of self.