The Seventh Shenzhen Cultural Industries Fair (文博会) opened three days ago. Of note is the ongoing institutionalization of types of creativity; by Hall theme, various Shenzhen ministries recognize and promote the following types of cultural industry:
- Integrate Culture and Science and technology, Advance Industry and Market Development 文化与科技相融合，产业与市场相促进
- Creativity, Taste, Life 创意 • 品味 • 生活
- New Media, New Life, New Future 新媒体 • 新生活 • 新未来
- Inheritance, Craft, Products, Preservation 传承•技艺•产品•保护
- [No Hall 5]
- Design, Branding, Quality 设计 • 品牌 • 价值
- News Publications 新闻出版馆
- Culture, Collision, Exchange 文化·碰撞·交融
- Creativity, Challenge, Going Beyond 创意·挑战·跨越
Organizers’ emphasis on cultural creativity is tied to the City’s recent promotion of copyright law. Yesterday in conjunction with the Cultural Industries Fair, Shenzhen was the first Mainland city to publish a “Copyright White Paper (深圳市版权产业发展状况)”. According to the report, copyright protected industries are 15.39% of the City’s GDP, which is the highest percentage in the country. Indeed, the Shenzhen Copyright Society (深圳版权协会) not only promotes awareness of copyright law, but also encourages higher rates of investment into research and development in order to take advantage of the added value and economic monopolies that come from copyrights.
One of the more interesting words in Shenzhen debates about cultural creativity and copyright law is 原创 (yuan2chuang4), which can function as either a noun (an original creation) or an adjective (original). Importantly, in everyday conversation, speakers use yuanchuang to refer to forms of creativity that generate profit or to emphasize authorship. In contrast, words like 创意 (creativity) emphasize making (创 chuang4) and intention (意 yi4), while words like 技艺 (skill) highlight technique (技 ji4) and art (艺 yi4). In other words, yuanchuang is part of China’s emergent lexicon of claiming the right to earn profits off of ideas and the organization of symbols.
I first noticed the bias of yuanchuang in a conversation between a conceptual artist and a young artist living in Dafen. When the conceptual artist asked the Dafen artist what he did, the young painter replied that he did “yuanchuang“. The conceptual artist immediately noticed and commented that only in Dafen did artists call their creative work, yuanchuang in order to distinguish between copied and original paintings. The conceptual artist the encouraged the young painter to call himself a “painter” or an “artist” and to leave the discussion of yuanchuang in Dafen.
The importance of copyright in the current world economy explains Shenzhen’s valorization of creativity as a form of competitive advantage, which finds contemporary expression in the word yuanchuang. Moreover, in a society suffused with pirated goods, knock offs, and forgeries, yuanchuang has become the standard for good taste. Broadcasts about the Cultural Industries Fair not only emphasize the need for Shenzhen to increase its yuanchuang economy, but also for individual consumers to express their good taste through selective consumption of yuanchuang.In fact, the ideology of yuanchuang reduces value to profit and authenticity to copyright as if the point were to make money. Thus understood, the goal of cultural creativity becomes limited to the manufacture and consumption of originality for profit.
I do believe that creativity is necessary to human wellbeing. I do not think, however, that creativity is about copyrighting originality, rather, I locate creativity in how we reuse and repurpose the ideas and things and dreams and symbols given to us; we are not original, we are elaborations on common themes.