Sitting in a college classroom many years ago, I was looking at an image. It was a very simple image of two common objects, a bicycle seat and handlebars. Nothing was hidden, you could plainly see the seat and handlebars, yet there, too, was what appeared to be a bull’s head. It turns out, this was a well know bit of art work created in 1942 called, … yes, “Bull’s Head,” by Pablo Picasso. He didn’t create the seat or handlebars, but he did create this new art from pieces that were already there.
This image comes to mind again because we seem to be getting more and more comments on a variety of articles in the vein of, “That’s not new, XYZ company did that years ago,” or “It’s just a simple combination of A and B. Anyone can do that.” I wonder if Picasso heard that.
We showed you one man’s design for a possible Moto Guzzi sport bike, the other day and while the design is in no way high art, it is what one person saw in his own mind, and with the help of an existing image of an Aprilia as a start, he changed and rearranged it until a different image emerged so he could show others what he was thinking. The comments about the Aprilia soon followed.
The very next topic, the Grail Engine brought similar comments referring to an earlier aero engine called the Gnome as its precursor, something which the Grail designers themselves acknowledge. Does the fact that earlier designs and ideas were used in the design of this engine, make it nothing new? I wonder.
Look at the long list of past builds and designs over in the right hand column on this website. It’s an impressive list filled with derivatives of something that already existed, but with a lot of thought and no small amount of effort, became something new. Are all of those accomplishments less worthy of our attention as a result?
If you carry this “it’s not new” idea to its logical conclusion, even Charles Taylor would be subject to the same criticism, after all, he used a wheel, a gas engine or two, a gyro and all sorts of preexisting technology. Anyone could do it, right? … So why didn’t they?
There’s certainly nothing wrong with showing how previous ideas are related and contribute to a particular new work, it can help us understand how the new idea came about and enable us to grasp a sometimes complex operation. Unfortunately, being too quick and insistent in this “hey, it’s not new” commentary, makes it appear to be a bit more than a simple historical reference.
Hey, what’s new?
Ever since the earth was formed, everything we see, everything we have, is some combination, rearrangement or modification of things already here. Some people constantly look for new combinations where others insist on seeing only what already exists. The ability to see new combinations and even more, the drive to actually bring them into being so others can see them, too, and benefit from their existence, is a quality not present in everyone. I strongly believe that those focused on pointing out that every new attempt is simply a rehash of old ideas, would accomplish far more, if they tried, instead, to create something new themselves. They might stumble on to something wonderful, or in the very least, develop a new appreciation for the work these others are trying do.