Convergence: Integrative media experiment at Kino Tuškanac

“Covergence” is an integrative media experiment combining fashion, art, music and film. It features original new paintings by Johnathan A. Roberts, a Spring fashion collection by DORA Modni Salon which uses textile designs created from Johnathan’s paintings, a short impressionistic film directed by Goran Ribarić that draws on aesthetic elements from both the paintings and fashion designs as the basis for its atmosphere and mood, as well as live music performances connected with the short film.

Each work of art stands alone on its own strengths, but nevertheless adopts components from its counterparts in other mediums in order to generate a feedback cycle which produces a whole that is more alluring than the sum of its parts.

Read: Elle magazine article about the Convergence project
Click image for Elle magazine article on the Convergence project (Photo by Mislav Rubić)

Dobro Jutro Hrvatska/Good Morning Croatia TV broadcast about the Convergence project:

Short film: Spring Convergence

“Spring Convergence”, a short film impressionistic film conceived by Johnathan A. Roberts, directed by Goran Ribarić

Atemporal: Art, music and fashion event at Kamenita Vrata

Atemporal Artists’ Statement

Global interconnection treats us to a suffocating daily avalanche of global culture, and with it an implicit pressure to constantly update our concepts of style and fashion. Last year alone, the garment industry produced 100 billion articles of clothing for the 7 billion inhabitants of our planet – enough to keep all of our backs covered for years to come. Most of it was destined to be worn only a few times before being “donated” to a waste bin.  Billions of euros worth of yesterday’s fashion are burned every year. From an esthetic perspective, this may be an act of mercy. In a similar vein, the landfills of the western world are overflowing with artworks created on factory assembly lines in Asia, having been purchased on a whim and later cast aside without a twinge of remorse. What a cultural and ecological catastrophe!

We are adrift on a sea of single-use consumer items and triviality without any harbor or permanent anchorage to be found. Under the circumstances, the urge to reject planned obsolescence and instead hand craft timeless and resonantly beautiful clothing, jewelry and artworks can be interpreted as a survival mechanism – a very human impulse to bring a sense of meaning, stability and order to our world. Perhaps the best way to find our bearings is to draw on those parts of the past which are most enduring and valuable, then assimilate them into ourselves and refashion them (with the benefit of modern technology!) to suit our present needs. At the same time, we can cast a line to future generations by accepting the natural world and ancient mythology as the sturdiest sources of inspiration, to ensure our creations will be recognizable as sublime for as far off as our imagination will take us. 

The abstract features of the paintings and graphics on display, and the textile designs used in DORA’s collection of bespoke attire that is based on the paintings, are inspired by the fundamental algorithms that describe the formation of crystals and organic chemical structures. Their more easily recognizable figurative elements focus on natural settings bursting with symbols of love, fertility and acceptance, with thematic references to Sumerian, Greek and Etruscan mythology. These are complimented by handcrafted jewelry from Lapidarium that is made from bronze, gold and precious stones, which also take their design inspiration from nature, as well as coral and pearls harvested from the Adriatic Sea. 

In the spirit of timelessness which we want to invoke, the best location we could imagine for this exhibition is directly beside Zagreb’s oldest standing structure, Kamenita vrata, which has endured for nearly 800 years. Having put forth the effort to create art that can be passed down to future generations, we dare not hope that it could last for centuries – but each of us is convinced that this is certainly a worthwhile aspiration.

Watch: Atemporal collection at Zagreb Fashion Destination

Augmented Reality

ZARK presents: The first Croatian augmented reality exhibition

Manifesto of the Zagreb Augmented Reality Kolektiv

Bees produce honey, spiders weave webs, the birds of spring sing free jazz and humans invent new realities.

Once more, the borders of reality are being redefined. Once more, humanity has shown that what previously seemed possible only as a feat of the imagination is quietly taking shape as the new landscape of reality: Colorful and surreal pointillist paintings dwarf high rise buildings, people whose time has come and gone return to their daily routines, haunting homes that were long thought to have vanished without a trace, while the stories of their descendants play out over every possible narrative pathway, (as well as every street of the city), instead of following a single linear thread, and anyone may quickly learn all there is to know about a person, place or object with a cursory glance. For the time being, our windows onto these alternative realities overlaid on Zagreb are handheld mobile computing devices. In a short time, the technology that allows us to experience them will be wearable. Before too long, they will be implantable in our bodies.

Now that the personal computer has evolved into something more mobile, (something with eyes and legs, so to speak), Augmented Reality promises to transform all points on the map into unlimited spaces that can be exploited for self-expression by anyone. Has an era ended? That of the handful of well connected and moneyed aesthetes who position themselves as the final arbiters and filters of public culture, placing their ideals, interests and prejudices in the foreground of social discourse while relegating all other potential contributions to the shadows? Yes, it has: Augmented Reality has made it possible for all who were swept away into the shadows and forgotten to take over the best and most beautiful spaces the city has to offer, laying down barrage after barrage of the unfiltered products of their imaginations upon the land with, quite literally, the precision of a targeted missile strike. No more must artists await the approval of a committee to display their works in galleries or museums. Not only will publicly shared spaces such as town squares and parks come to resemble vast art galleries, but also places to which the public has traditionally had little access. The Presidential Palace, the Parliament and even the Ministry of Defense are now open to colonization by every person with artistic aspirations: GPS coordinates are free – nobody owns those numbers.

The emergence of mobile technologies like Augmented Reality in conjunction with the overturning of the established cultural model could not have arrived at a more convenient time. The rising tide of information brought about by Moore’s Law compels us to seek out new ways of webbing together the knowledge of all disciplines into meaningful, easily understandable frameworks. Nurturing the proliferation of fully immersive, deeply experiential art forms which are egalitarian and inclusive by their nature will enable us to discover the best pathways through the new frontiers of the knowledge economy arising from the confluence of what used to be considered separate fields of study. In an augmented cityscape where traditional cultural boundaries are blurred or even erased altogether, where the past, present and future are endlessly reshuffled, giving rise not only to juxtapositional shocks and insights, but also to new sources of inspiration and cooperation, the intellectual capital of our country can only increase. Thus, our goal is to turn Zagreb into nothing less than a great laboratory for exploring the potential of Augmented Reality.

Watch: eHrvatska TV broadcast about the first Croatian AR exhibition

Boutique art hotel director on Šipan Island

One of the first places I visited in Croatia was Šipan Island, near Dubrovnik, Croatia, and I instantly became enamored of its lush forests concealing ruined Renaissance era palaces, its fields and hills bursting with wildflowers and its pristine secluded beaches. In the pre-modern era, it had been a favorite getaway of the local elite, dotted with mansions, covered in terraced gardens and boasting a population of about 6,000. Today, there are only a few hundred hundred souls living there, mostly subsisting from fishing, agriculture and hosting a small number of annual tourists.

Hotel Šipan, in Šipanska Luka, Croatia

The harbor village of Šipanska Luka was – and is – strongly dependent on an old olive processing factory-turned-hotel for its survival. In 2011, the hotel went bankrupt and rapidly fell into disrepair. On a visit to the island that year, I spoke to a number of islanders who expressed grave concern about the future of the town. In 2012 I learned that an investment fund had purchased the hotel with the intention of refurbishing it. Having worked as a manager in the hotel industry in Yellowstone National Park before moving to Croatia, I eagerly put myself forward for the position of general director of the hotel. I was taken on board with a two-year contract and tasked with bringing the property back from the dead.

The investment fund managers who had purchased it gave me carte blanche to handle operations as I saw fit. With the combined efforts of a lot of hardworking people (and the eviction of an alarming number of stray cats from crawl spaces), we managed to bring the hotel up from the brink of collapse to a respectable 3-star property. In the spring of 2013, the Hotel Šipan re-opened, branded as a boutique art hotel. Over the next two years, the hotel hosted monthly exhibitions of regionally important artists such as Fadil Vejzović, Josip Trostmann, and Nikolina Šimunović. As a perennially shy individual, being outside the spotlight – as an exhibition organizer rather than author – was a nice change for me.

The first fine art exhibition at the newly opened Hotel Šipan boutique art hotel featured the widely respected artist Fadil Vejzović.

Among other initiatives, we sponsored an art colony, a summer film school/festival for children, art workshops, and other educational programs, as well as live performances by local singers and musicians. During that time, we also sponsored a number of initiatives aimed at improving the islands ecological situation, such as extensive coastal cleanup efforts, making much needed upgrades to the local energy and waste management systems, and sponsoring a crew of volunteer divers who removed detritus from the bottom of the harbor. Ultimately the overall situation of the village was much improved by these endeavors – and when my two year contract was finished, I was just as eager to return to urban life in Zagreb as I had been to escape from it.

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