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Creativity, relationality, affect, ethics: outlining a modest (aesthetic) ontology Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Tiessen, Matthew P
Supervisor and department
Whitelaw, Anne (Art & Design)
Shields, Rob (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Caulfield, Sean (Art & Design)
Chisholm, Dianne (English and Film Studies)
Seigworth, Gregory (Communication and Theatre)
Department of Sociology and Department of Art and Design

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Are artists autonomous agents? Are they individuals? Engaging with these seemingly commonsensical questions is the objective of this doctoral dissertation. Moreover, my answer to both questions is: no. My objective herein, then, will be to develop the following argument: that because the individual elements of creative, art-producing networks are so profoundly relational, to speak of individual elements or of agents or artists at all is to describe an incomplete picture. After all, how can any individual action occur or individual element exist in the absence of that upon which that action is enacted, or without that action being made possible by another element or "individual"? By engaging with these questions this dissertation challenges conventional notions of creativity, individuality, and agency by suggesting that creative forms of expression – for example: artistic, technological, social, political – are always collective enunciations that issue forth and come into being as products of interdependent relationships. I dismantle and then recast how we think about artistic creativity by arguing that if individuals are so intertwined with their networks that their very capacities are produced by the network’s relationality itself, they (individuals) might be able to be (categorically) dispensed with entirely. In other words, I begin to ponder the question: How can we think about networks without thinking – or making assumptions about – individuals? I suggest that emphasizing that relationships are the generative actors that produce actuality compels us to rethink anthropocentric assumptions, and can lead to more open and creative ways of relating to the world around us. I conclude by arguing that since our fate, existence, and identity as creators is inextricably linked to, and determined by, our relations with others, we must predispose ourselves to this co-fatedness by recalling Nietzsche’s invocation that we embrace and be open to our fate by loving it – that we “amor fati.” In other words, in order to attune ourselves to the fullest range of possibilities in a situation – in order to be truly creative and to “become-artist” – we must become open to the creative potential of relationality itself, even if it requires that we assume a more modest view of ourselves.
License granted by Matthew Tiessen ( on 2010-09-21T21:27:55Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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