Kirby Ferguson on Creativity: Nothing is Original, Everything is a Remix. But Does it Really Matter?
Kirby Ferguson made a name for himself with the popular series Everything is a Remix, in which he proposes that everything mankind creates takes inspiration from something that has come before. He gathers a mountain of evidence that backs up this point, and the topics range from simple borrowing to our complex legal system that doesn’t acknowledge the derivative nature of creativity. In the TED talk embedded below, Kirby attempts to summarize a lot of his conclusions from the series.
The end of the video explains his thoughts perfectly on creativity:
Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self made, we are dependent on one another. Admitting this to ourselves isn’t an embrace of mediocrity and derivativeness — it’s a liberation from our misconceptions, and it’s an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves, and to simply begin.
His conclusion is intriguing: stop trying to reinvent the wheel and instead build off of everything that has come before. There’s no question that all artists (and certainly all individuals who are creative for a living) are influenced by everything around them. In fact, it’s often other works that inspire us to create in the first place. If we already borrow so much from our predecessors, he argues, we should stop considering this “stealing.” Some of the most successful people are doing this everyday — they don’t worry about whether they are doing something “original,” because they, like Kirby, believe that originality doesn’t really exist — we simply rework what already exists in our own way.
Just because you might try to avoid copying someone or something doesn’t mean that you are conscious of all of your influences (much like the Bob Dylan song in the video). I know that in my own films I always try to embrace the work that inspires me the most or is the most similar to what I’m doing because it’s going to make for a more cohesive movie in the end. Just because I’m influenced by something, doesn’t mean I’m going to copy it exactly, because it still goes through the filter of my own mind as well as the filter of the story and the characters that I’ve created.
Check out the 4-part Everything is a Remix series:
What do you guys think? Do you think we need to reform intellectual property laws to better represent how ideas actually spread? Is it possible to have original work, or is everything truly a remix?