The Five Stages of Creation during the 2020 lockdown

Assemblage member Amy Spaughton discusses creativity during a lockdown.

Window View by Assemblage member Joshua von Uexkull: “In my painting I tend to go drawing around Central London but that vast area with infinite views became reduced to the two or three views from my window. As a result I ended up studying the same perspectives again and again and have learnt a lot more about my home environment- here the crowded, stacked building blocks of the villas that sit tightly on the edges of the natural landscape.”

1. Boredom

The path to creation always begins with an absence. A gap in the world appears, or is finally noticed, and it demands to be filled. In 2020, these blank spaces became even more apparent and even harder to ignore. With schedules wiped clean and the always longed for free time now painfully abundant, rifts in time could open freely. Once you have done every task you kept putting off, cleaned everything you always forget to clean and watched every show you have been meaning to watch, the beast of boredom finds a home in the newly torn hole in your carefully planned timetable. Soon your eyes, and your mind, wander. But being stuck within a finite space, no matter how roomy, means your creativity can only wander so far. Soon your view is all you have and you start to observe it at every opportunity like a comforting and well-watched film. In a way, it is simply to pass the time, to swallow half an hour or so.

Playful Display by Assemblage member Senah Tuma:
“These function as a response to a need for new plinths in a gallery. 
This is a partnered response to the following brief (set by ourselves!) in collaboration with my boyfriend and I.

The plinths needed to be:

2. Inspiration

This “mere pastime” of “creating”, whatever it may be, however, soon mutates into more. Once you open the door to creation, you begin to see the possibilities everywhere. The possibility of connection, of display, of being able to travel far beyond your government allotted space. You begin to realise that if you took even half an hour away from your schedule of binge-watching shows you have already seen and doom-scrolling, and instead put it towards creation, you might even build something – even if it is just a more varied day. The glimmering idea that you could even create something lasting, something to look back on one day and smile, is almost intoxicating in the current climate of total impermanence and uncertainty. The idea of being in total control of just one small thing in your day with no expectation or pressure is sort of thrilling. Suddenly the closed world you are trapped in abounds with possibility. The people you are stuck indoors with are now possible collaborators and the four walls you stared at every inch of tirelessly become your stage for creation.

Zuko as Iroh by Assemblage member Karen Ng: “I thought about people I know who are quarantining with people they haven’t lived with in a long time, like their parents and other family members. This is Zuko as Iroh, but it can also be interpreted as Firelord Zuko in his old clothes from his time as an Earth Kingdom refugee. Questions to think about include: how much of our own character is derived from the people around us? Are we really destined to become like our guardians when we grow up? And do past experiences ever really stop impacting us, even when we’ve moved on or forgotten?”

3. Overload

Soon, however, like with many things in life, the act overtakes you. The tide begins to turn from happy distraction to all-consuming creation. You stand on the precipice between simply trying to fill your newly found extra hours to searching for further hours in the day to do your project justice. Creation becomes less of a simple salve for your boredom and begins to grow into something you almost, horror of horrors, take seriously. You feel you must justify the hours spent by making it “good” and through “committing” to it. Of course, this idea of having to justify hours spent in play is a hanger-on from the time before, the time when you had little time to play. When every hour and its progress had to be accounted for and had to have a quantifiable result. The barrage of banana bread, clay pots, photography projects and stunning landscapes that scroll past your eyes with increasing speed each day seem to be sending you a message- you must have a result- no matter how fleeting. Creation borne of boredom, however, does not always fit this rigid mould and the pressure of committing to your pastime can become overwhelming. You can see the edges of this not being fun anymore and, worst of all, it begins to feel almost like work.

4. Self-criticism

It is then that the doubt begins. You look at what you have created, what you have spent your once valuable time upon and wonder if it was worth it. You allowed creation to gobble up time quickly and efficiently here and there in order to bypass the blankness. But now you worry you have been foolish, that it was reckless somehow to even try. As if you will emerge at the end of the year all wrong, all misaligned and out of sync somehow. You worry that that little half an hour here and there you were so eager to dispose of was secretly some vital element of your year you cannot quite fathom at present. Your eyes wander from your own work to the “achievements” of others – the online courses and unending zines and the quantifiable. Your work was just for you, it had no easily measured effect on the world outside your window. It is difficult now to see the true value in that when so many have worked so hard to keep the world afloat.

Reconnecting by Assemblage member Charlotte Dobson: “A short moving image film, reflecting on change in technology, appreciation and beauty of nature and memories, stimulated due to slowing down as a result of the  current situation.  
The title ‘reconnecting’ is significant in relating to the film: reconnecting through becoming closer to nature, to memories – which makes us who we are today.”

You see the full film here:

5. Balance

Finally, your creation finds its balance and begins to punctuate the seemingly featureless landscape of time rather than dominate it. You find the right mix of boredom, absorption, and sense of achievement without slipping into the bog of undue pressure. It becomes a good use of your time, a good way to pass the time, a method of self-soothing, an achievement of a difficult year, a testament to that thing you always used to wish you had time to do. The act of creation settles into a special role in your life and achieves that rare perfection of being whatever you need it to be.

By Amy Spaughton

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