As I began to ready for the forthcoming series of creative workshops and presentations, it also dawns on me, why not dedicate a singular blog to this very topic? And so, this is the one. I shall attempt to express why such workshops are so imperative, impactful and, at least in my personal conclusion, simply fundamental. As always, reader’s comments are welcome.
The process that propels my creative workshops is an outcome of a distillation of both my artistic, creative and production experiences and the academic initiatives and mentoring. It is not simply dedicated to creative ideation, imaginative storytelling or innovative concept designs but also the process of defining one’s personal, individual essences, which in turn inspire the kind of “ideas worth fighting for”. It is why my creative workshops are designed to ignite self-search, self-discovery and empowerment arousing evocative self-expression.
Furthermore, due of my travels, I have become acutely aware of the impact of globalization on the world, its diversity, discourses, directions, dynamics and their impact on our future generations. Hence I dedicate much of my time to providing some global exposure to those I mentor. I do so by presenting short animated films created by independent artists who use the magical media of animation to express not only their ideas and stories but also their viewpoints on the world they live in, their ecosystem, politics and beliefs they are impacted by, the values they prize and those they revolt against, the ideas they are willing to stand up for and fight for, as well as those they fight against. These screening are aimed to exemplify to students the potent role artists can play and the power of IDEAS that are greater than “I”.
My involvement in education began when I was invited to launch my first ever animation class, at Pratt institute in NYC. It is there that I mentored students from around the world. This is how I realized how much students learn from each other, not just about ideas and stories but about politics, beliefs, cultures, global outlooks and perceptions on everything. And so, in contrast, having a uniformed student, or the faculty body, results in uniformity.
This experience and resulting beliefs were reinforced by the kind of a nomad life I have led much of my life. It exposed me to the words diversity, contrasts, discourses and richness. It made me realize how crucial awareness of the various facets of the world’s eco and cultural systems is, and how depriving and restricting lack of such exposure is to one’s perspective.
And so, when invited to design and launch the first of my academic programs, and this one was in the middle of Midwest where exposure to the world’s diversity is somewhat limited, I elected not to hire steady faculty, which would makes it stable and easy but also constant.
Instead I establish an ongoing procedure by which I invite artists, producers, scholars and festival directors from around the world. They came for a semester of mentoring students and sharing their creative work, ideas, experiences, aspirations, perspectives, dreams and beliefs. I choreographed it in such a way that those who came at the same time represented contrasting thinking, cultures, politics, beliefs, attitudes, styles and technics by which they created their films. The potent tensions and discourses this resulted in motivated students to define for themselves, as individuals, what it is they themselves believe in and which of the perspectives on the world and creativity they feel most closely aligned with. And, at the same time, they were very fortunate to be mentored by some of the most independently minded, creative, inspiring, enlightening and challenging of worldwide artists. Who can ask for anything more? Through such a system they also gained exposure to the world at large. No wonder this initiative soon became known as the “international animation programs”. If I may say so myself, it was fantastic and, not only for students but also those faculty, from the other departments, who were open-minded enough, and willing, to expose themselves to such a global challenge. Surprisingly though, or maybe not, many elected to stay away…
It is these precious values, goals and ideas that I have build my creative workshops around.
When invited, as a Visiting Professor, to a university in Istanbul, I designed and conducted two individual series of weekly classes. Both were dedicated to the same mission: inspiring imagination that in turn spawns ideas, stories and designs which benefit from the “gravity free and reality independent” thinking, thus expanding the students’ imaginary horizons. Since the institution was dedicated to research and scholarly study of existing body of work by their predecessors, the students who I was asked to mentor, never had opportunities to “research” themselves, their own identity, their own stories and means for self-expression. Researching scholarly dissertation is not the same as conceiving and creating your own art.
Twelfth of the semester’s classes were dedicated to individual weekly assignments aimed to focus students on self-discovery: what makes them unique, what they care most about, and how that, in turn, inspires the kind of ideas, aspirations, stories and design that reflect them, and hence they are willing to fight for, giving up their sleep for and doing whatever it takes to see them effectively realized. The last three classes were devoted to creation of the final projects, or concept design, with which to seek further founding support. At no point did I devote any time to any technique or technology. In other words, none of the “how to” was discussed. All the students were left to find their own ways to visualize their designs or create their own short animated film. Guess what? Because they cared so much about the ideas they originated, they all found their own individual ways to complete their projects.
I deem that this is due to the process that triggers such self-discovery and leads to the kind of empowerment that originates ideas and visions students are willing to fight for. Think about it, if you truly do not know who you are, what your essence is, what you care about, or what you are willing to strive for, how potent, deep and meaningful can your ideas be?
The next series of creative workshops and presentation will take me to Jerusalem, in Israel. I am eager and truly excited about what I might learn and discover, but also how my ideas and methods will be met and reacted to. One never knows, does one? Making a difference, a thought provoking impact, unveiling new horizons and insights, inspiring new perspectives and ways of viewing and reacting to the world around us, is what this is all about. It is also my reward. It has been my mission in life, fueling both the creative and academic pursuits.
A week upon my return from Israel, I am invited to the famous design school at a university in Netherlands. In some ways this could be an intense switch from the hot to the cold, and not just geographically or temperature wise but also culturally, politically, ideologically and temperament wise. The Israeli academy is devoted to the arts and creative expression. And yet they are wise enough to also invite foreign perspectives, ideas and forms of storytelling. The Netherlands school is a technological institute pursuing design research and invention. Thus their attitude is likely much more scientific, methodical and pragmatic. And yet, they too expressed an interest in my ideas, perspective, and way of thinking that may be at odds with theirs. Yet such discourses are fascinating, provocative, invigorating, and hence vital.
All I can say for now is: stay tuned; I am confident that both these encounters will result in new reflections depicting my observations, and not just to the workshops but cultures and students’ spirits, passions, ideas, aspirations, visions and, above all else, open mindedness.
And, later next year, already planned and scheduled for, will take me to one of the best film schools in the world, this one is located in Cuba, a country I have wished to visit for so long. Is it likely that one of the reasons it is so, is because we are drawn to the forbidden fruits? Based on my past workshops in Costa Rica, I anticipate passionate students and wild ideas.