Your Kontinent festival has towering ideas

One of the seven personas Vjeko Sager will take on in his diviNation Tower project during the Your Kontinent Film & Media Arts Festival. -
One of the seven personas Vjeko Sager will take on in his diviNation Tower project during the Your Kontinent Film & Media Arts Festival.
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A huge aspect of any expressive undertaking that most people — even artists themselves — often overlook is the creative process itself. What ideas do you use when you create something? What ideas do you discard? Will you express yourself with words? Dance? Paint or charcoal?

Do you want your piece to last forever? Or disappear like a sandcastle at the shore?

Every year Richmond’s Your Kontinent Film & Media Arts Festival, explores a dynamic new theme, and every year the festival highlights an artist whose practice has contributed significantly to media arts in Canada.

This year’s theme asks questions about the interface between being human, art and technology, and this year’s featured artist, Vjeko Sager, is tackling it head on by demonstrating his own creative process and expression, live and in real time from the top of diviNation Tower, a 30-foot tower he’s built in front of the Richmond Cultural Centre.

A powerful multi-media artist with international reach, Sager earned his master’s in Applied Arts at the University of Belgrade; his drawings are in collections around the world, including the Drawing Center in New York and the Museum of Modern Art; he curated CBC Studio’s Art in Exile; plus he’s been featured in Vancouver’s PuSh Festival and Paul Wong’s engaging Thru the Trapdoor

Part reality TV, part anthropological study of the creative process, Sager’s project is centred on living and creating on top of his tower 12 hours a day for seven consecutive days — no matter what the weather.

During that time, live streaming will connect him to our everyday world below, just like webcams connect us to those other-worldly events like baby eagles hatching or astronauts floating in space. In this case, our subject will be pondering, drawing and creating non-stop using a wide range of media while documenting his creative process and responding to real-time input on his work via tweets and blogs.

“I’m using my hand to write and draw, and I’m using my phone to make recordings, videos, photos. I’m using a computer. I’m using my fingers to draw in the sand — everything which allows me to become creative is my tool,” he says.

“I don’t find computers any different than making marks in the sand.”

Each day of the week-long creative journey, Sager will assume a different persona — from a techno geek and ordinary guy to a rebel/anarchist, a philosopher and a spiritual person. About 60 per cent of his project will be curated; 40 per cent will be shaped by his viewers and audience. Each persona will determine the clothes he wears, the food he eats, the nature of the artwork he produces, and the media he chooses to create it with.

It all symbolizes “how an ordinary person who uses technology learns, evolves and is transformed by the psychological, philosophical, physical and mental work of creating,” a considered theme in his art practice and teaching. Sager, who’s taught at Arts Umbrella and Vancouver’s International Children’s Festival, is currently an instructor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

What is the truth of things vs. what it seems to be? What will a post-digital age be like? These are the kinds of questions Sager will explore.

Another aspect of Sager’s diviNation Tower demonstrates that creativity is rooted in the idea of playing and just being free.

“When we think about games, they all have rules. We can win or lose,” he says. “But with play there are no rules. I think creativity is playful, without any boundaries or any rules. When you start playing in the sand, you don’t expect to have end results. It’s going to vanish the next day.”

“…Probably that’s one of the reasons we are scared of creativity, because we expect a finished product. For kids it’s very, very important to remove the fear of finishing anything.”

diviNation also speaks to solitude. It’s inspired partly by a dream Sager has had since childhood to be a solitary lighthouse keeper, and partly by the stylites — saints and ascetics of the ancient world who lived atop pillars to transcend the ordinary world. (One stylite in Syria lived on his pillar for 37 years!) It also echoes a broadcast tower, one sending out messages on creativity.

“When I was a boy, I had my world and I enjoyed it immensely,” he says. “If I was not alone daily I would really suffer as a person.

“I’m sorry to say but sometimes in our society, aloneness and solitude are treated as a negative. But that is the most wonderful human aspect because if we cannot be alone, we cannot be human,” he says.

In fact, he believes one side of our personality, the creative side, needs to be isolated to incubate ideas, so they can carefully grow, protected, “until they gain some force, some life of their own, and then they become public.”

Check out more details of DiviNation Tower at: http://ykfestival.ca/event/divination-tower.

For live streaming, go to www.divination2014.tumblr.com

Your Kontinent

•Presented by Cinevolution Media Arts Society and the City of Richmond, Your Kontinent takes place at Richmond Cultural Centre July 17 to July 26.

•Now in its fourth year, the festival will showcase over 40 international films, media art installations and performances, workshops, discussions and summer camps for youth.

•Among the first special events is Theatre Under the Sky, a drive-in style family-friendly event at Lansdowne Centre’s parking lot July 18 from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. featuring the screening of the animated film Spirited Away.

•For tickets to events, including festival passes, visit ykfestival.ca.



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