Ferran Adria, one of the founders of the groundbreaking, highly innovative restaurant El Bulli had a wonderful simple definition of creativity: “No copying.” Basically: understand what has been done – and don’t repeat it – don’t repeat it at any level.
It is a negative definition – it says nothing about what to do or what is possible – only what not to do. It recognizes that if something is radically new one cannot know anything about it in advance – so how could one say anything positive about it? Or claim to know exactly what to do? It is a definition that uses knowing to refuse what is known. This negativity – this path of the negative for a radically new future – is powerfully generous and demandingly rigorous. It asks of us to comport ourselves in such a way that will allow for the genuinely new to come into being. We are asked to style our lives and practices in a manner that makes the new as the new and non-pre-existent a potential. In this, the via negativa of creativity is more than just a “belief” that the new is possible.