Tiny houses & creepy babies: Pushing the limits of creativity

by David Holub

Remember when you could do just one thing and be called a creative genius, one thing that we now look at and are all like, “Well, duh”?

Like babies in Medieval paintings made to look like creepy, miniature adults. Someone finally came along, someone undoubtedly with “The Elder” attached to the end of his name and said, “Hey, that’s not what babies look like!” and just painted a baby to look like – I don’t know – a baby. Genius! (Editor’s note: This had more to do with how those societies viewed children, not art technique, dude.)

These days, you’ve got to do a bit more to come off as doing something artistically innovative. You can’t just make large-scale sculpture installations anymore. One must incorporate space, location and context. Simple. But they have to engage in blistering social and political commentary, too. Fair enough. And these sculptures have to be conceived, built and installed with CIA-level secrecy and displayed spectacularly in public spaces, conceived by a media genius/artist who, based on his or her guarded anonymity, may as well look like The Elephant Man for all we know.

When thinking of artists who have floored me with their inventiveness, I think of the Gregory Brothers, made famous by “Autotune the News,” where they would take average-if-offbeat local news clips and set them to music, “songifying” the words spoken by real eyewitnesses using the vocal editing software Autotune. The results were something brand new, mashups that utilized the found objects of unwitting-yet-talkative bystanders, pop music, TV news and music videos, and wrapping them all up with humor, satire and cultural tensions.

They take it a step further, songifying political speeches and debates as they happen, showing Joe Biden or Donald Trump dance and bob and sing, spliced, cut and edited to make the unwitting singer’s song a satirical commentary. It’s not just writing funny songs. Or using technology to comedically turn speech into singing. Or developing an ironic DIY retro visual aesthetic. Or punctuating everything with relevant social and political commentary that pokes fun at the powerful or empowers the little guy. It’s all of it.

With this week’s cover story on Greg Parham and Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses, I got thinking about creativity and artistry and how we can broaden those definitions and expectations.

At first glance, Parham’s tiny houses might appear to be more about utility and functionality, more craft than art. Maybe so. But I like to see tiny houses as creative and artistic endeavors. They are about creative uses of space, imaginative collaborations between builder and owner, and a lust for aesthetics and design, implementing a command of shape, color, proportion, line, texture and any other art element you’d find in the glossary of a 101-level art textbook. If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.

But tiny houses are not about one thing and that’s why they’re fascinating. The tiny-house movement incorporates multiple factors that strike contemporary chords and resonate with a lot of people around here, younger folks especially. Tiny houses are about mobility, mindfully simplistic living, environmental awareness and affordability, among others. It’s not just about intuitive and ingenious design; it’s about values and lifestyle, where people’s lives become art. It is people doing something new and seeking to make choices on a way of life.

Tiny houses showed me a magnificent convergence of positive, creative and artistic social energy. The magic and materials are out there, and whether you call yourself an artist or not, let’s continue to gather it and keep building.

David Holub is the editor for DGO. [email protected]


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