Translating sensations at Richmond film and media arts festival

Vjeko Sager says true art is a style, an immersive experience. | Photo by Simon Yee

Vjeko Sager says true art is a style, an immersive experience. | Photo by Simon Yee

Local artist and Emily Carr University instructor Vjeko Sager believes art is an external and ineffable idea comprehended through an immersion of spiritual sensations and the artist is a performer who is responsible for the translation of those sensations. From dawn to dusk, Sager will translate those sensations from atop Divination Tower, the featured exhibit of Cinevolution’s Your Kontinent Film and Media Arts Festival, from July 17 to 26 at Minoru Plaza in Richmond.

“The highest level of artistic creativity is to figure out what the idea wants to become, not what the artist wants it to become,” Sager says.

Classical aesthetic theory, such as those advanced by the 18th century aesthetics thinker Alexander Baumgarten, privileges sight and sound, provided by the eyes and ears, as the only senses capable of understanding beauty and art. The other senses are relegated as primitive as they are only needed for survival. Sager believes otherwise: all the senses are needed and essential to access and translate art.

“The biggest problem today is that the eyes and ears are the easiest to trick and we have the trickery interpreted as art,” says Sager. “True art is a style, an immersion. I find artists today focus too much on the tools of art, not on the art itself.”

Art that is interpreted as entertainment, as therapy, or as the output from the latest technological gadget becomes banal or novel and is, for Sager, a misuse of art. And art instruction that focuses too much on photo editing, camera settings, sound mixing, and other manipulations detracts from experiencing art itself. According to Sager, the artist’s challenge is to minimize degrading the artistic idea when trying to communicate with those tools.

“Tools limit art, and the emphasis on tools today is what I grieve,” Sager says.

Sager finds inspiration through provocateurs, iconoclasts and thinkers who challenge the status quo and established dogma. He counts figures like Nikola Tesla, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Slovenian cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek among some of his influences.

“I lived in Montenegro and Žižek lived in Slovenia (at the time, both socialist republics of the former Yugoslavia), and he was a formative influence on me. He collaborated with some of the most avant-garde musicians and artists in my old country, such as Neue Slowenische Kunst. Žižek doesn’t subscribe to any rule, he breaks them all,” says Sager.

Sager sees these rule-breaking acts as true expressions of one’s own unique and ultimate humanity, qualities that are vital for accessing and discovering art, truth and beauty. Although Sager doesn’t see himself as an iconoclast, he hopes his artistic journey on Divination Tower re-emphasizes the artist and its poiesis, the act of being creative.

“In this project, I will be portraying seven personas to show how humanity can progress from being technologically imprisoned to a spiritual being,” says Sager.

Clothing, diet, behaviour, thoughts, attitudes and the means of creation vary with each persona, which in turn influences the sensations that are felt, the art work which is produced and the messages that are relayed.

“In our everyday lives, we usually subscribe to one persona, and we don’t allow ourselves to experience different attitudes. The project is called Divination, because I view it as a prophecy of what has happened to humanity and what can happen,” says Sager.

Sager will unveil the Tower and help open Your Kontinent’s Film and Media Arts Festival, which showcases digital and media artists from diverse backgrounds. Film screenings, theatre performances, light shows and youth programs are among some of the program highlights. The theme of the festival is the connections between humanity, art and technology, which encourages festivalgoers to rethink their relationship with technology amidst technology’s isolating, connecting and globalizing forces.

To learn more about Vjeko Sager’s philosophy of art and the film and media arts festival, please visit