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Creativate: Taking a glimpse into future of the arts

Published on 12 June 2020

The Creativate Digital Arts Festival, presented by Standard Bank, is back for its third year and continues to provide a digital playground for adventurous artists and curious audiences at the National Arts Festival. This year, Creativate forms a captivating thread through the Virtual National Arts programme with a collection of online interactive digital art workshops, new-media exhibitions and innovative performances pushing the boundaries of what we understand about “art”. With 42 pieces including 16 workshops and 15 world premieres on the programme, Creativate, this year, is about interaction, collaboration and breaking down barriers.

Creativate curator Lauren Fletcher says, “The move into a fully digital realm has created an upsurge in experimentation and genre-bending, and the results are proving fascinating and truly exciting. Through online connection, artists around the globe can create together, and we invite the viewer – you – to become the participator, the co-creator. You choose your own adventure in dance, decide the characters fates in performances, re-write the history of monuments. Furthermore, workshops hosted by Digital Creatives have been specifically selected for their hands-on approach, allowing for audiences to experiment and create with open source tools, along-side the professionals. “

The 2020 programme will features five key themes, Reflections on Humanity, Politics of Data and Surveillance, Reshape-Rewrite-Remix, Strange New World: non spaces, imagined spaces, and Workshops, which look at writing with data, encrypting poetry, making deep fakes, dancing with technology, green-screened performance spaces, CGI animation , drawing robots & chatting chat-bots.

Reflections on Humanity

Technology is presented as a storytelling tool to capture and reveal the inner workings of humanity – from ideas about the home and communities, complexities in morality and judgements, and reflections of frustrations and fears.

LO DEF FILM FACTORY: OPEN TIME is an experimental WhatsApp video workshop by young creatives from Cape Town made inside their homes and communities during lockdown and mentored by the Lo-Def Film Factory’s Amy Louise Wilson and Francois Knoetze. Filmed entirely on phones, the work recreates the experience of channel-hopping, spanning the bizarre, the surreal and the chaotic – providing some much-needed ‘open time’ from the grief, fear and panic of the current moment.

Palesa Matabane will be premiering an interactive WhatsApp performance AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART. Set as an online social media confessional, the audience gets to determine the narrative. After her untimely death, a young girl finds herself at the Pearly Gates having to save her soul by confessing her last few days on earth, what will be her fate? You will decide.

Navigate 360-film experiences in the South African premiers of films presented by Electric South, and CGI Animation by King Debs. History, colonialism, growth, nostalgia, decay and transformation collide in this introduction to LAGOS AT LARGE as three characters mould the identity of their megacity and where they belong in it.

AZIBUYE – THE OCCUPATION is a 360 documentary about Masello and Evan, two homeless black artist/activists who take up residence in a crumbling mansion, vacant for 20 years, in an affluent part of Johannesburg. TLHAGO, a 360 CGI film by King Debs explores issues of mourning the cultural and natural worlds we have lost. The film acts as a commentary about the debilitating feelings of powerlessness in the face of the massive issues we are facing.

Observe literal reflections on humanity, in Patrick Tresset’s HUMAN STUDY #1, 3RNP, DISTANCED. Tresset first created drawing robots as a release to his own debilitating painter’s block. Using autonomous robots to draw from observation enables Tresset to further his exploration of the drawing practice, and human depiction. Here, for the online version, premiered at the festival, some of you will have the opportunity to take part in the ‘HUMAN STUDY #1′ performances. Let the robots observe you, see how they ‘think’ about and how they react to your distant presence, and sketch your portrait.

Politics of Data and Surveillance

Data and surveillance has many political implications – who is watched, how are they watched, whose data is collected, what data is collected, is it collected willingly or subversively? How is this data interpreted, and is it objective? Can it ever be objective? What is done with this data – is it used to help sell more online shopping, is it used to create better education and health systems or is it used to track where civilians move and who they talk to, or too even sway governmental politics through voting scandals?

Politics of Data and Surveillance asks, how do online programmes and data sets view, categorise and use information about the world and about yourself? What are the implications of this, are there any alternatives, and can this change or be subverted?
Watch a conversation unfold as a programmed Bot reads to other chatbots, who in turn answer and learn from the conversation. The text being read, FUTURABILITIES, is a study into philosophy of contemporary life, politics and technology. Azahara Cerezo’s creation points to how these data systems learn and adapt and explores human-automatic conversational possibilities.

Award-winning MECHANICAL SOULS  will be debuting the first online version of a social experience/experiment, where the viewers work together to reconstruct a story in its entirety.  Directed by Gaëlle Mourre, each viewer is treated as a new Mechlife employee. As part of their training they are invited to watch a «case study» in VR: One of their beta-model was a bridesmaid at a high-society wedding in Asia. Its behaviour has been more than erratic. The audience needs to understand why.

‘Reshape, Rewrite, Remix’

This is the home to reconstructed genres and broken-down boundaries. Collaboration is the key – viewers collaborate with artists through the experience of interactive artworks, and artists of different genres have come together to create new works that experiment with original forms in a move to rewrite, remix, and reshape narratives, genres and histories.

META | morph is an interactive online experience fusing dance, music, projection art and animation. The work is created as a collaboration between Darkroom Contemporary artistic director and choreographer Louise Coetzer, projection artist Inka Kendzia, filmmaker Oscar O’Ryan and VR artist Jason StapletonMETA I MORPH results in a series of interactive dance films which puts the viewer in control of its outcome, in a  ‘choose your own adventure’ style virtual experience.

VIRTUAL BLACK OUT: EXPERIMENTS IN THE FUTURE OF FORM takes a bold step into digital “space” making for virtual theatre and performance. Starting with experienced scenographers and digital arts in a collaboration of skills in space, set, light, location and time this project engages form as the spark for new collaboration in digital theatre making. POPArt and Fakugesi Festival come together to bring into collaboration a stellar group of writers, directors, actors, scenographers and digital artists from South African and beyond to produce five short unique and diverse experiments in the future of form.

GIVING POETRY WINGS (GPW) comes back to Creativate for its third edition, with this year’s focus on an Extended Reality (XR) digital art exhibition. The exhibition will be a result of collaborative work between South African and Malawian poets and digital artists, coming together and creating work inspired by each other’s craft, through online workshops hosted by Thuthukani Ndlovu (The Radioactive Blog).

Marcio Carvalho invites anybody from the four corners of the world to collaborate with him in WHO DO WE COME TO H(A)UNT. This interactive project uses drawing to disrupt the memorial culture advertised by statues, monuments and memorials of colonial and imperial rulers still standing today in many cities around the globe. The idea is to create a pool of drawing-collaborations between the artist and audiences to share alternative stories and build a healing site to critically engage in re-interpreting the histories behind those objects. Each drawing will be published online and can be complemented and re-customized by a wider audience.

Strange New World: non-spaces, imagined spaces

Looking to imaginary worlds and fictional universes, here we explore the capturing and existence of these places within the digital realm. Through the forms of floating digital galleries and stories set amongst spaces and stars. These online spaces allow for the creation of new identities, spaces and ideas and questioning of old ones.

Phumulani Ntuli’sFREQUENCIES OF A BIRTHMARK – episode 2, uses the lens of the past to present the present. Ntuli’s work merges fictions and imaginary geographies around the Gaza Empire currently known as Mozambique, exploring the lineage of his clan’s name, visual archives and sonic histories. In a virtual architectural walkthrough exhibition, Ntuli uses collages and animations to revisit the 1895 image of Godide, his poses, audiences, accomplices and his exile, as a departure to ponder re-enactments of historical moments.

In an exploration of the relationship between reality, media technologies and dreams, Hlumela Matika will premier her short experimental film BETWEEN SPACES. This project serves as a portal into the 2020 experience of isolation, the everyday routine, the home experience that exists both in reality and in the cyberspace that is social media.

Simon has something in his head. Paul has lost someone. JIGSAW is a reunion of two close friends as they attempt to reconnect, to assemble the pieces of their lives, and to unpack the laws of thermodynamics. Created from a desire to explore live storytelling in a two-dimensional, distanced space, JIGSAW is told through film and Zoom and is a collaboration from five South Africans, working together across three different cities, to create a live performance streamed out from Makhanda and performed in front of a green screen. Created by James Cuningham (performer, Abu Dhabi) and Sylvaine Strike (director, Johannesburg) with Karen Logan (video/editing, Durban), Ewok Robinson (poetry/music, Durban) and ‘Hello Pocket‘ (animation, Durban).


Digital Art Workshops will be the highlight of this year at Creativate. These online interactive workshops will be a space for students, emerging artists and professionals looking for new creative tools, to explore new territories, create interesting experiments and get feedback and ask questions from creative industry professionals. All workshops are held in an interactive manner via Zoom. The workshop programme is free; however, space is limited. Booking is necessary for active participation in workshops and can be done via the Festival website from 18 June. Workshops will be recorded and available for viewing post the live event.  Selected experiments created in these workshops will go on to feature in a “Workshop Creations” exhibition on the website.

For beginners and emerging professionals, explore animation techniques with our local animation studios. An INTRODUCTION TO 3D ANIMATION by Bokang Koatja will guide you through a starter kit of how to get things moving, using free software Blender. CHARACTER AND CREATURE DESIGN with Caroline Vos and Ben Winfield, from animation studio Tulips & Chimneys will detail how you can create believable and imaginative characters and creatures for animation. Here you will create along-side Caroline and Ben and works will go on to feature in character/creature exhibition. For emerging animators who have an animated show idea but aren’t sure how to go about pitching it – join Mike Scott (creator of MOOSEBOX for Nickelodeon International and DOGSHOW WITH CAT for DisneyXD) in HOW TO PITCH AN ANIMATED SHOW IDEA! 

The visual spectacles of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Holograms will be explored in a series of Extended Reality workshops. Characterised by the BBC News as “a genius or a madman”, Adam Donen is best known for his monumental holographic dramas. Join him in his studio as he gives insights into USING TECH TO REALISE YOUR DRAMATIC VISION. Learn how to make your own creative Insta filters with Luke Draper, in this hands-on tutorial AN INTRODUCTION TO SPARK AR STUDIO , INTEGRATING AUGMENTED REALITY AND THE ARTS INTO SOCIAL MEDIA, or join Thuthukani Ndlovu in a practical learning HOW TO CREATE AUGMENTED REALITY ARTWORKS THE EASY WAY. Explore the world of Virtual Reality creation with Dylan Valley, director of 360 VR film AZIBUYE – THE OCCUPATION.

Play with sound with Sean Davenport in the INTRODUCTION TO MODULAR SYNTHESIS USING (free to use) VIRTUAL CV RACK SOFTWARE and following that an advanced course, or MAKE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING BY RECORDING MUSIC WITH NO INSTRUMENTS AND A CELLPHONE with composer and musician Chris Jefferies in a hands-on DIY music making workshop.

Politics of data and surveillance will be explored in fascinating workshops about Deep Fakes, Encryption and Data Surveillance. Eyal Gruss will show you how you can be anyone in ZoomSpace! AVATARS IN ZOOM – A GENERATIVE JAM will explore the use of very recent opensource code that allows for live realtime deepfakes in Zoom and Facebook Live. Join ALGORITHMIC AUTOBIOGRAPHIES (AND FICTIONS): WRITING WITH YOUR DIGITAL SELF, hosted by Tanya Kant and Sophie Bishop to discover how our algorithmic identities are created and what they can and cannot know about us.  In the age of datavellience, platform providers use such techniques to predict our age, gender and interests. Have you ever wondered who Facebook really thinks you are?

Creatively collaborate with your data self: through experimental drawing and/ or by writing a short story, based on the selves that social media platforms think that you are. Yoav Lifshitz creates abstract random poetry, encrypted, and readable only for the eyes of a specific recipient, and of spying agencies (if they can decrypt them). PGPOETRY (Pretty Good Poetry) WORKSHOP celebrates the aesthetic, poetic, and political possibilities of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption protocol. In this workshop, art meets activism, and here you can learn how to use PGP encryption protocol, while experimenting with creating pretty good poetry.

  • The Creativate Digital Arts Festival will be found across the daily programme and in a variety of free events. The Festival site and Early Bird passes launch on 18 June 2020.
  • Special Notice for Standard Bank Card Holders: Standard Bank cardholders qualify for a discount of 20% when using a valid Standard Bank debit, cheque or credit card. The discount is applicable to online purchases only. This offer will be available for a limited time only, subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply.
  • The Virtual National Arts Festival will take place on from 25 June-5 July 2020. The site will be live for browsing and early bird festival passes from 18 June.