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Why Me?

When invited to become a AWN expert blogger, my instantaneous reaction was - “why me?”

When invited to become a AWN expert blogger, my instantaneous reaction was - “why me?”

“I think you are perfect for the medium.  You are passionate about what you do, opinionated about what you care about and not afraid to express yourself. “ – was the offered answer.

Over the next days I reflected on my initial question. Does my life represent a role model for others? While there are many who have grown deep roots, achieved stability, accrued property and wellbeing, I am a product of a broken family, which I held against my father for the rest of his life. But then, like he, I caused a crushing of my own. And thus my life turned out to be an emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical roller coaster. I love, some, roller coasters, but yet there are many who fear it or throw up on it.

From the initiation to this world, I have carried on the tradition of my ancestors, who wandered the desert for 40 years before finding the Promised Land. Yet after an extensive career, traveling to opposite ends of the world, living there, I am still at it. How twisted is that? Where is my Land of Milk and Honey? And this is not because I have not been trying hard. There are those who deem me to too passionate, too driven, too persistent, too motivated, too…. So, what does that say about me, how does it reflect on me? This I ask of myself, and so do certain others who questioning my impetuses and, at times, sanity.

I am told that even at birth, I wandered off into the unknown, only to be revised and brought back to this earth, reality and consciousness by an MD who fought hard just because he loved my father’s music. So, is that why I do not like doctors, or is that why my mother told me not to ever become an artist…?

Not given a choice back I came, starting an aching process of growing up as, what was referred to in the communist country I happened to be born in, a “banana kid”. This term was applied to kids of well of families that could afford bananas in a nation where these represented envied luxury. But this privileged “high life” did not last long. As a teen still, I found myself standing up for who I am. As anti-Semitism swept the country, one I loved till then, I was “chosen” to taste rejection, hate, prosecution, chased by my classmates eager to beat the … out of me. And so, the moment I became legible to vote, with great passion and satisfaction, I resigned by newly earned citizenship, and emigrated into the unknown lands and future. Oh yes, we were forced to leave all our belongings behind. This was a tactic the leaders of my “mother land” acquired from the Third Reich. So who says history is not enlightening or enriching…?

Eventually, with three words of English I had time to acquire, I landed in the New World, one of the very few places that welcomed political refugees. Here, as though in reenactment of the “Prince and the Piper” fable, this prince, who till then looked down upon any physical labor, has found himself tasting a life of a piper: pressing trousers in a sweat shop, punching holes for spiral binding, painting walls, drafting and tasting other such sobering treats. All I had in my new home was a mattress to sleep on. And yet, believe me, I felt free. No money, possessions, citizenship, no sense of obligations or being tied to any place, ideology or nation. Eventually, eager to resume my art studies, I entered college, but only to discover it to be an unaffordable luxury, for me. And so, this is how this banana lost its skin, again.

And so, only a year after crash landing here, I packed a few belonging, again, said goodbye to mom and my mattress and left for yet another land, one where education is a right of those who desire it. There, while loving my art study and being prized for my talent, this token foreigner, still unable to speak a proper English, found himself alienated and rejected by classmates raised within, what was back then, puritan Anglo-Saxon tradition. I recall well everyone in the lunchroom bursting in laughter when hearing me order a “hammer sandwich”. To crown it all, after graduation my Dean told me, in a beautiful English accent: “I would not say that it was a pleasure to have known you, but it definitely was an experience”.

Benefiting from living in the capitalist Western Europe, given freedom to do so, I had occasions to travel around the continent. And whom did I meet in some of these countries? The very classmates who, not so long ago, tried to beat the … out of me for being a Jew. Guess why? They discovered their derivation. Hence, they were “asked” to pack up and get out. I must admit to feeling a certain sense of gratification.

Life continued. Upon graduation I returned to the New World, joining graduate film directing program.  Here I met a very beautiful lady studying animation. Eager to spend “quality” time with her, I too found myself animating, and not just films but also each other. Upon graduation, this animated affair expanded into a professional partnership. I fell in love with the magical, god like powers of animation. And thus, after the lady left, I embarked on an award-winning career as a creative designer and director. I took on projects that allowed me to explore and express ideas that were meaningful to me, while finding imaginative and creative ways to apply them to clients needs. It was challenging but exciting too.

And thus some of my creative, professional and personal dreams have come true. Yet, I remain driven, hungry, eager for more, greater, impacting and meaningful… While I have won a share of international accolades, there are those who have achieved more. While wandering the world, I have experienced its diversity, discovering its bright and dark sides, working with the smallest and largest production studios, consulting, presenting, jurying at international festivals, conducting creative workshops, master classes, mentoring, challenging and inspiring people of various cultures, political, economic and social milieus. While having an amazing time, it has come at a high cost, for I have lost a place some call their “home”.  

Yet I have experienced the joy of initiating, envisioning, designing, launching and leading brand new creative projects, initiatives, programs, departments and even new schools dedicated to creativity in art, design and media exploring interdisciplinary fusion and resulting experimentation. All these activities have been conducted on the opposite ends of the world. I love it. Yet, frequently, I find myself competing against pedigreed academicians who have spent their career within one academic institution, eventually becoming recognized and highly reputed as great academic thinkers, researchers and published scholars. I am not a member of such a pure breed. Yet they know their tomorrow. I am still seeking my heaven. And so, till I find it, from year to year, from one end of the world to another, I will wander in search of the place where my dreams, ideas and conceptual designs will find their realization.

Do I have regrets? It is a hard and trying way to live. At the same time, I can honestly state that an occasional step into the “wild side” is motivating, inspiring, mind and eye opening, revealing and reflective, thus enlightening and enriching. It challenges one’s beliefs, values, perspectives and determination. It forces one to distill personal values. It ignites survival instincts, inspires imagination, evocative and innovative ideas. It, merged with some stability, community and security, would be ideal.

As a result of this journey, challenging physically emotionally creatively and intellectually, I have concluded that “imagination is the matter of which the future is made”. It motivates curiosity, evolution and advancement of humanity. It acts as the fuel and generator inspiring ideation, innovation and visionary thinking. Yet to ignite, liberate, empower and explore such imagination we need to embrace "gravity free and reality independent” thinking. Only then are we transformed into an infinite state of a creative mind within which all is attainable and nothing is unthinkable. Here creativity roams uninhibited and unbounded by time, space, reality, logic, rules, mental, physical or budgetary gravity and laws.

This motivated my desire to become an artist, creative designer and a mentor. Via the magical art of animation and more recently New Media, I reflect on my experiences and project them through create ideas, projects and conceptual designs striving to escape bounds of reality by seamlessly fusing it with virtuality. I probe a potential impact such alchemic amalgam might have on a future of entertainment, arts, education, performance, play, learning, experimentation, spatial, architectural or exhibition design.

In the world of cultural, political, economic and social diversities of those I mentor, many of whom are brought up not to question, take risks, challenge authority or rules, I say “take the condom of your mind and have an unsafe idea, expose yourself to prospects not considered, encountered or attempted before. While you don’t know potential outcome, if you don’t try you will never taste the joy or benefits of what you may discover, but yet are currently missing in the world of the notorious known status quo.

And so, while consulting, sharing my creative work, ideas, beliefs, views and abilities with others, I also learn a lot from them, the ways they think, feel, live, the impact their distinct political, social, cultural, economic and educational milieus have had on them. My “trip” of life has taken me to Poland, Russia, Austria, Israel, Greece, Czechoslovakia, USA, England, Italy, France, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Korea, Hong Kong, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan. Have I forgotten some, very likely, yet that is not my point.

As I culminate my most recent wander, this as a visiting professorship at Kyoto University, inspired by this amazing encounter with a uniquely distinct culture, society, its way of life and behavior, especially at this dramatic time in its history. But the topic of my encounter with Japan is reserved for my next blog. Right now, I am thrilled by artwork this experience has inspired. Meanwhile, enriched by multicultural exposures, outlooks and global visions acquired as a result of this wondrous trek around the world, I am, once again, about to begin a search for the next challenge in my life, my creative and academic careers.

Reflecting, I can “safely” state that I have led a fractured life. I have no roots, no sense of belonging to a group, nationality, religion, society, home or a country I could call my motherland. But do I miss them? Yes, to some extend. Will I ever discover, or be invited to my promised land? I will certainly never give up my wonderful journey of wander, my passion, dreams or aspirations and unwavering strive until I do.

While aware of AWN focus on animation, I see this magical art as a form of visual storytelling, personal and emotional expression of ideas via metamorphic time, space, dimensions and depth, which reflect its Creator. The deeper, the more reflective, thoughtful, and the richer its author (and I am not referring to money), the more potent the animated outcome and its impact can be. And so it is invigorating and exciting to be invited to contribute my reflections to this forum, not just as they refer to animation or education but the ways diversity of the world, its artistic, cultures, social, political, economic, educational and other circumstances impact on this art and who we are. My hope is that the readers shall find this mutually rewarding, and who knows, maybe even motivating and, dare I hope, reflective?

And so, reflecting on it all, maybe the answer to “why me” is… that’s why?

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Encounter with Japan Part 1
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