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Creativity and Co-creativity Part 2: What are the differences?

This step differentiates co-creative practice from creative practice.
I understand creativity as a relatively recent term. It was one that entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 1875. It tends to be associated with a lone genius, and it also tends to be associated with the arts. If creativity is fairly new, co-creativity has only been around in the last few years. And in fact, as part of our work in With All, we did a search on this term and found that it’s not been defined in the Oxford English Dictionary. Although there are conceptualisations of it, which are now emerging. So I understand it as being much more connected with a group process. So being something, a creativity that happens together with people in which you create together and are created together.
The difference between creativity and co-creativity, creativity I think is just boundless, and I would say it’s not just between people. It’s between elements, nature, everything. And co-creativity entails some connection with maybe somebody else, or it’s being made one on one. And in creativity, you could be making something separately, but co-creativity is coming together to make something. So it is about what is made between connecting, in this sense, people. So co-creativity is that coming together. When we invite people who are living with dementias to take part co-creatively in arts based activities, I think that what that does is that it removes some of the barriers to participation that people with dementia quite often face, so it removes the reliance on memory.
It removes a reliance upon verbal skill and verbal communication, and it opens up a way of communicating and being that is much more fluid and much more subtle. For the artists that are involved, it really asks them to consider the ways in which they are using their skills and their knowledge and that they’re using their skills in a way that is dispersed throughout the group, and that supports and enhances the contributions of the other people who are taking part, the people who are living with dementias. It’s not about the necessarily withholding or withdrawing that skill, but just thinking about how they contribute it and when they contribute it.
One of the images that we found when we were thinking about how to go about this kind of work, that we found really, really useful was a picture of a seesaw. On one end of the seesaw is a very large gentleman. On the other end is a very small girl. They clearly have found a way to work together on this seesaw, even though the kind of physics of it show that it shouldn’t be possible. But they have found a way to work together, and that, that’s been a really useful image for us.

This step focuses on differentiating co-creative practice from creative practice, and highlights how co-creative practice can lead artists and arts practitioners to adapt their way of working.

It covers:

  • How co-creative arts practices can remove a number of barriers which may keep people living with dementia from participating in other creative activities.

  • How co-creativity engages artists and arts practitioners in ways which may not be in line with their normal mode of practice.

  • The way in which co-creative practice finds a new balance between the way in which ‘participants’ and ‘artists’ create and contribute alongside each other.

CREDIT Photograph of man and girl on seesaw: © Elliott Erwitt/ Magnum Photos.
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Dementia and the Arts: Sharing Practice, Developing Understanding and Enhancing Lives

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