Context Matters! You're Not Creating in A Vacuum

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By Jaylin Paschal

Before you put any creative work into the world, you need to know the context of the ecosystem it will exist in. The politics. The business. The streets. The culture. The consumer. No work exists in a vacuum. All of it will interact with everyone it meets; all of it will reflect the society which consumes it.

A drawing of a middle finger means something very different on a wall in Williamsburg than it does on a wall in Capital Hill.

Your photo series on redefining black masculinity means something much different on your college campus than it does back in your grandma's neighborhood.

Your provocative blackletter-typed t-shirt sends a different message in Germany than in Calabasas.

Being aware of where you work lives is more complex than just deciding where to post it. The "where" is the time period. The sociopolitical climate. The demographic shift. It is a cultural "where," composed of the contextual space more so than the literal one.

Knowing how the two will mix is not only critical to the success of the work--it’s the only responsible way to share your vision.

Most self-proclaimed “creatives” will too often ignore the conditions of the surrounding environment and be shocked when it’s not well received. Or not received at all. I know a lot of us just want to focus on “creating” and making art. But the publication of that art means that your intentions now matter much less than your actions. Tone-deafness has lead to the end of many careers in the creative class. From releasing ridiculous advertising like the infamous Pepsi commercial, to falling from TV-rating glory like Empire--the world will react to what you said. Not to what you meant to say.

More to the point, though. The only good "creative" is the contextual creative. Work that is contextually relevant and culturally fluent is the work that really provokes us. Beyond being inspired, or amused, or entertained, we are seen by the work. And we see differently after interacting with it. Work at this level of competency is what (I'd hope) we're all striving for; work that knows us better. The work that makes the connections we miss, the commentary we can't, or the shift we need.

Jaylin PaschalComment