Creativity's Rainbow

Seymour, Benedict. 2009. Creativity's Rainbow. MUTE MAGAZINE, 2(14), pp. 100-107. ISSN ISSN 1356-7748-214 [Article]

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3,000 word short story, published in Mute Magazine, Vol.2, no.14., Dec 2009 (online 8 December ) and translated into Russian for the catalogue of the First Ural Industrial Biennale of Contemporary Art 2010, Ekaterinberg, Russia. Curated by Ekaterina Degot, David Riff (Chto Delat) and Cosmin Costinas. ( ).

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This text straddles creative fiction, theory and sociology to explore some hypotheses about the development of capitalism, art, and the creative economy in the present crisis. Adopting a science fiction premise it investigates the reconfiguration of art, urbanism and regeneration in the context of cuts and privatization. It aims at a constellation/distillation of a field of forces through a mongrel aesthetic form.

The approach owes something to Stewart Home’s satirical and critical practice of plagiarism. Issues explored include Richard Florida’s theory of ‘The Creative Class’, Paolo Virno’s essay ‘Grammar of the Multitude’ and Boltanski and Chiapello’s ‘New Spirit of Capitalism’. Current research into the value form and culture, specifically the 20th century history of aesthetic and cultural ‘devalorisation’ (from high modernism to the situationist international and beyond) is also a key context.


The story pastiches Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’, transposing his vision of World War 2 as a process of ‘creative destruction’ to a post-Olympic London in 2017 to explore the fate of the UK’s ‘creative economy’ in a new global depression. A few key motifs from Pynchon’s magnum opus, and Phillip K Dick’s ‘The Zap Gun’, are reproduced in the text. Principally the concern with (spiral) forms of creative destruction, historical recurrence (as decadence or entropy), and, through reference to earlier modernist writers such as Apollinaire and the futurists, the inter-relations between artistic, technological and military innovation. The text also appropriates and detourns documentary materials from contemporary economics journals, government housing and development policies, and consumer magazines.

I have taken a related approach in earlier fictive/documentary works engaging with the issues of regeneration and the creative class (cf the art project ‘Fear Death by Water: on the Regen Siege in Central Hackney‘ (2002), and the videos ’The London Particular’ (2004) and ‘Olympicfield‘ (2009)). Developing from these works’ use of existing literary and cinematic narratives or poetic recombinations of mythology, here fiction functions both to create historical depth and explore antecedents and as a device to heighten a sense of the performative and absurd characteristics of the contemporary economy and its rituals of renewal and growth. It was particularly appropriate in this context to capture both a sense of the scale of the devastation now in train (hence the reference to World War 2) and of the estrangements - of everyday life and basic conceptions of what is ’normal’ - being undertaken with avant-garde rigour by the powers that be (hence the science fiction scenario). Moving simultaneously forward and backward in time seemed the best way to capture the current historical dynamic.


In Mute magazine the text appeared as part of ‘Post-Crunch Futures: A Mute Fiction Special’ featuring new pieces by novelist Hari Kunzru, and artist Laura Oldfield Ford. The print edition of Mute is held in universities and art school libraries across the UK, US and Europe. Circulation is 6,000 copies with an estimated 18,000 readers. The online version of the text received approximately 10,000 hits before the website relaunched this spring.

The catalogue for ‘Shockworkers Of The Mobile Image’ was printed in an edition of 1,000. The text appeared alongside theoretical essays by Boris Groys and the curators, and was translated into Russian by the Russian translator of Thomas Pynchon’s novels. The Biennale was reviewed and discussed in the Frieze website blog.

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1 December 2009Published

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13 Jun 2012 19:50

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19 Jun 2017 10:24


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