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Creativate curator tells us what it’s all about

Published on 11 June 2018

Toby Shapshak is the co-curator of the inaugural Creativate Digital Arts Festival, which runs from 28 June to 1 July. British Airways’ HIGH LIFE magazine interviewed him about this festival-within-the-Festival

ART HAS ALWAYS BEEN MADE… with the materials of the day. For caveman, it was a burnt stick on a stone wall. For generations of painters it was canvas and oil paint. For Michelangelo it was the roof of the occasional chapel and a huge slab of marble. In this age we have computers, video cameras and the internet. That is the canvas of today, in all its richness and with all its possibilities. Like all art, it needs to make us feel and make us think.

CREATIVATE IS… a new string to the National Arts Festival bow, I’d like to think. It was the brainchild of Tony Lankester, the organisation’s energetic CEO, who asked me to curate it. He wants to expand the scope of the art Festival to include this new form of artistic endeavour. I think it’s a natural evolution. This is the inaugural year so we’re looking at some of the prominent forms of digital art, including video and visual design. We’re also including some interesting things in VR, which is a bustling new arena in so many ways.

IT’S CALLED CREATIVATE BECAUSE… it’s meant to imply how creativity has been enhanced by technology. I think of it as a combination of the words “creativity” and “cultivate”, but I don’t think those were the origins.

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Futurist Monika Bielskyt
Futurist Monika Bielskyt

TOP TALKS TO LOOK FORWARD TO ARE… Yoav Dagan, a brilliant producer who works with William Kentridge on his videos. Bradley Kirshenbaum is a gifted designer whose Love Jozi range of T-shirts and fashion shoots are as much art as they are fashion. Daron Chatz oozes talent as a photographer and filmmaker, and has designed virtual art apps.

I’M VERY EXCITED ABOUT… Monika Bielskyte, who is a futurist and VR fundi who visualises what future realities look like. She does wok for big name movies and even bigger name tech firms.

WE ARE LIVING IN AN AGE… where visual literacy and artistic appreciation are becoming mainstream. Two of the most popular apps are Instagram and Pinterest, while Snapchat is a visual interface more than text, however trite an older generation may think of it. Digital arts and tech-meets-design events are on the rise globally, including such multi-disciplinary conferences like South by South West in Austin, Texas. It began more than 30 years ago as a music event, added film and has included digital for over a decade. We’re all much more tech and digital-savvy now.

FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO BETWEEN SHOWS IN GRAHAMSTOWN IS… the Rat and Parrot. It remains the town’s eternal favourite watering hole – except now it serves craft gin. Try the Hope on Hopkins, made by the family who own it.

  • An edited version of this interview was first published in the June issue of High Life South Africa. Republished here with kind permission.
  • A number of bursaries to Creativate events are available. If you’d like to take part in any event and would like to request financial assistance to do so, please email