The Palette: Monika Bielskyte

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“The Palette” is a series of interviews, realized for the Color Issue of Llamas Valley – inspired by mesmerizing and creative world of colors, we decided to talk with some of the most colorful people (in terms of creativity and personalities) of the art and design world. They agree  to share their ideas with us and create their own special palettes. Meet Monika Bielskyte, Nathan Jurevicius and Ernest Zacharevic!

How would you present yourself in three sentences?

I am a creative director, consultant and strategist working in the crossroads of technology, culture and entertainment. Lately I’ve been focusing on VR/AR (virtual reality and augmented reality) and multi-platform storytelling. I am most interested in: scientific innovation, sustainability, shifting the boundaries of our digital future, and, above everything, (stealing a phrase from my colleague Howard Goldkrand) building compassionate collaborative network(s) whilst prototyping the future.

 

As youve mentioned in previous interviews, art has been an organic part of your life since early days. Even though you have been distant from art for some time already, it was the realm where you took your first steps. Wasnt it challenging to carve an identity for yourself in a world full of aspiring artists and young talents?

I think everything is challenging in life if you try to push the envelope. The art world (just like any elitist society) is very hermetic, capricious and judgmental. Frankly, I don’t think that today creativity takes place mostly in the “art world”. Creativity is everywhere where people try to create meanings, innovate, shift our notions of what’s possible. As a teen and a young adult I did not necessarily have the easiest start. I was very lucky to be exposed to some amazing people from a very early age that gave me their hand, shared their knowledge, insight, experience, network — yet still I felt very lost and uncertain whether I really had what it took to get there. There were definitely challenging moments, full of negativity or frustration but giving up was never really an option.

You are constantly traveling. Do different experiences get transferred into your works?

Of course they do. I often say I was born in Lithuania, lived in Paris, died in Japan, was reborn in Iceland and currently I’m trying to make some serious magic happen in the West Coast. I like to travel as much as I can and by that I mean change not only places, but also my mindset. I’ve been immersed in so many different cultures I couldn’t say which one is mine. I am a mad mix and a reflection of all that life has allowed me to be exposed to. Yet travelling can also be rough. Sometimes things go wrong and you are in the middle of nowhere, alone, helpless. I’ve broken down more than once and started questioning whether I really need to lead this crazy life the way I do but as the problems get solved and things are bright again, I’d never regretted even the most dangerous or challenging situations I’ve put myself through. It’s all food for thought, everything’s a lesson. As Charles Bukowski says, “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

 

Youre deeply immersed in the world of technology right now. How did you get attracted to it?

I love people in science and technology because it takes A LOT to create anything really new in it. People give their lives to it. You just can’t invent anything really new unless you are REALLY good at it. I always loved people who strive for excellence, think beyond the defined horizon and deeply believe we can change something. Not everyone in science and technology is like that but the ratio is pretty good. Conversations are inspiring and they usually start with the idea of possibility — it’s not about gossiping about someone’s looks or talking weather, but talking what really matters to us and trying to understand how things work.

How do you perceive color? Is it important in your work?

Of course it is. Colors, textures, composition… They are just as important as feelings, ideas and stories. With light we create volumes, atmosphere and ultimately “physically” immerse people in the world that “is not”. Sadly, very little has been done with something that takes into account how color affects us, how we create space (mental space, in this case) with light, how we enhance immersion by rendering texture. I’m looking forward to be involved in, or to see, projects that use the full spectrum, not just of technological tools but also visual ones. I’m also very interested in the way color and light can be used not to represent the reality but to create new kinds of worlds.

 

You have been responsible for numerous projects throughout your career. Are there any that you are especially proud of?

Back in the day when I was running a magazine and an agency in Paris we did some cool stuff: INTEL, CERN and a long collaboration with Rick Owens. INTEL was really my first big foray into technology — rethinking how microchips and wafers could be images not as technological goods but as technological artefacts. Being with CERN people was the most inspiring experience by far, seeing thousands of the world’s brightest minds working together for a shared goal, having access to most likely the world’s most complex machinery… Also having just “out-there” conversations (think multiple dimensions, other worlds) with researchers in theoretical quantum physics. Working with Rick Owens and his wife Michelle Lamy was what opened the doors to fashion and Paris. Although I am not too involved in the worlds of fashion or luxury anymore, all that I learned there serves me every day. Now my challenge is to use that knowledge to sell people ideas: get the world’s wealthiest people thinking it’s cool to co-fund the future, get the kids excited to learn, get anyone engaged and willing to give back to the world in doing whatever they can do best, thinking beyond what’s best for themselves. I’ve also been working with a bunch of film-makers and production companies in Hollywood. Sadly, the commercial world as we know can get a little confining. I really would like to see and hopefully even initiate projects that would make the shift from spending millions of dollars on commercials no one wants to watch to brands funding creativity that the world needs to see.

 What is it about your work that you are most excited about?

Spending time with some of the most awesome people walking our planet right now. Awesome is subjective, so what it might be for me might not be for others. I know that people I love tend to be: pathologically curious; very open; non-judgmental yet with very sharp critical thinking; doing something crazy; bundles of joy, energy and inspiration; yet also super real. Learning from them, helping them with whatever they do, collaborating, expanding their vision or simply spending really fun times is what excites me most about my work right now.

 

What are your biggest ambitions right now?

It’s working on a big project with the space industry that involves virtual reality, engaging large audiences in thinking why co-funding the future matters. It’s also about inspiring people to ask themselves questions, breeding a new generation of innovators. After that, I’m also concerned about the strategy for my very favorite EP (entertainment property) of all times. I am also working with some really cool cats in the VR/AR world helping them to brand their businesses. Finally, but most importantly, this autumn will see the launch of a new media platform I’ve been working on since last year, allfutureeverything.com, or AFE MEDIA. It’s about everything that revolves around the future or involves future thinking. The main goal we want to try to achieve with this is future prototyping — getting ideas out there and finding them a resonance strong enough so they could come to life. In addition, after 5 years of running a magazine (SOME/THINGS) and the 2 year gap in between, I must say I am really looking forward to also go back to taking interviews and chatting about the wildest ideas with all the crazy smart people around the world that we’re planning to feature. Here’s a sneak peek into AFE’s mission statement (quoting Bret Victor): “Visions matter. Visions give people a direction and inspire people to act, and a group of inspired people is the most powerful force in the world. Hopefully, all these projects combined will add up to lots of inspiring conversations which in itself really means my near future could be rather awesome.

II.

 What color are your emotions right now?

The many shades of off-white… Warm tones mostly and lots of transparencies. Touches of indigo and petrol hues.

 What color would you label as the most positive?

Warm earthy tones for me, burnt sienna, saffron, ochre, burnt umber, venetian red, naples yellow… I love all the colors that monks wear as their robes in southeast Asia. It’s energizing and soothing at the same time.

 If you had to keep a wardrobe full of one color, what color would it be?

Thinking practical: black. Thinking ideal: all the warmer shades of gray.

Is there a color youd never fall in love with?

I have hated all pinks and magentas since I was a little girl (or a little boy at that, hah!)

What is the color of beauty?

Ever-changing, chameleon. It can’t be pinned down.

What color would sum up your aesthetics?

I think or hope that one color is not enough. It’s all about the color flow, how the light reflects and is absorbed. I’d like to believe those would be deep, intense, potent colors nuanced by the softness of grays or melted to black. I really try to avoid flat, obvious, in-your-face, easy to define everything, be it colors, textures, or shapes. I want it all to be about sensual, inviting combos, making people want to stay in the world you create. Warm shades definitely dominate the cold. These are some ideas that I have.

If you had to paint one of your recent dreams consisting of two colors, which ones would they be?

Vermillion, white… Lots of light and flesh.

Is there a color which has a negative impact on you?

Pinks! Anything pink throws me off like nothing else can. Cheesy baby blues too, as well as light annoying yellows. Anything flat and anything vanilla, really. As a kid I used to dislike navy blue and military green as that was the school uniform that was imposed on us, but I’m loosening my attitude on these.

Black or white?

One cannot exist without the other but what really interests me is the gray..

What is the color of creation?

Sun, fire… Illuminating, deep, sexual, consuming.


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