An insight into You are in Control 2014
You are in Control is an international conference held annually in Reykjavík. The conference is a collaboration between Iceland’s creative industries – design, visual arts, literature, music, media, films and gaming – and is meant to explore innovative thinking across these fields. The seventh edition of the YAIC took place November 3-4 2014 in Bíó Paradís and this year the focus was on “creative synergy”. According to dictionary, synergy is ‘the increased effectiveness that results when two or more people or businesses work together’ or ‘the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts’. So, in order to shed light onto synergy within creative industries, international and local guests, experts and creative thinkers from every field came together at YAIC to interact, inspire and be inspired through talks, workshops, screening and events.
YAIC started off slowly on Monday afternoon with a formal opening and a welcome speech by the conference manager, Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir, accompanied by drinks and followed by a danceoke – a kareoke, but instead of singing you dance! After the launching of the conference the evening was dedicated to failures as the Festival of Failure took place in Harpa. Festival of Failure is a micro lecture marathon were creative people share their experiences of failure. Interesting lectures were held that all dealt with different topics including book publishing, political parties and Hollywood. It is rare to hear about other people’s mistakes and failures so it was refreshing to attend the festival and get an insight into it. None of the speakers regretted the failures they spoke of and the conclusion of this ode to experiments and ideas was that mistakes are to learn from, mistakes are a journey and above all, you have to believe in what you’re doing.
Tuesday the 4th started off early in the morning with coffee and registration and then the keynote speaker, Christine Boland, held the first talk. Boland is a trend analyst with a background in psychology and fashion and is an expert in analyzing the future by looking at things around us today. World affairs and news affect consumers and call for certain trends. Boland sheds light onto what’s happening in the world and asks where we’re heading? In our fast-pacing world filled with images and overproduction people have the urge to be able to be alone for a while and hide from the daily stress. Out of this comes purity in fashion, two-dimensional designs, trends like mindfulness, slow-food and places like Een Maal – a restaurant in Amsterdam for people to come alone, sit alone, and eat alone. Boland’s view is that people have to regain empathy and re-see each other and she has analyzed creativity as the force of the future.
– asked Edward Nawotka who was the second speaker that morning. Nawotka comes from the book publishing business and is the founder and editor in chief of Publishing Perspectives in New York. Both Nawotka and Boland pointed out that human beings are losing their attention span. Between the years 2000 and 2008 the attention span of a human being has gone from twelve seconds to eight. A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds. We need tools that help us navigate in this jungle of images and information we live in, and as Boland, Nawotka asks, where are we heading, where do we want to go, and why do we do what we do?
With new technology, easy access to information and rapid information flow, everybody is able to create, whether it is books, design, art, music, films, fashion or something else. Nawotka points out that what we are seeing in creative industries today is plenty of stuff that is ‘good enough’ and a lot of people that are happy with ‘good enough’. Creation is about advancing culture and in his admittedly elitist view, Nawotka wants creators to be picky, try harder and not settle with good enough. Be critical of what you’re doing and always answer WHY?
A Lot of Synergy
‘Love, respect and collaboration’ was the title of artist Ragnar Kjartansson‘s talk where he introduced his works to guests and gave examples of his collaborative projects but Kjartansson has been referred to as ‘the master of artistic synergy’. In the production of his works he collaborates with people from other creative fields; filmmakers, actors, writers, composers and other artists, and the results of their collaboration is a ‘combined effect greater than each individual effect’, as the word synergy implies.
After three interesting and inspiring talks it was a pleasure to walk out of the hall and into the lovely smell of Icelandic traditional ‘kleinur’ that filled the halls of Bíó Paradís. The ‘Kleinu-bar’ (ísl. Kleinubarinn), a pop-up bar serving ‘kleinur’ with a twist, had put together a special YAIC Trio made up of delicious savoury ‘kleinur’ for hungry guests during lunch, including ‘kleinur’ with bacon and blue cheese and dates and tahini.
Alike but different to Kjartansson is Zebra Katz who was next up after lunch. Kjartansson and Zebra Katz share a working method as in they both bring together creative people from different scenes to work together to make something new. Also, the act of pretending is vital in their work. Zebra Katz is the alias of multi-talented Ojay Morgan – a trained actor and artist, with passion for fashion, turned rapper who has built up a carreer by creating content for and performing under the alias of Zebra Katz. He is overly cool with a humble and genuine presence and for those who haven’t seen his music videos, filled with creative synergy, I recommend taking a look.
Fun and games
From the gaming business, Vala Halldórsdóttir, head of content at Plain Vanilla, came and told us how the company made the fastest-growing iPhone game in the world, Quiz Up. Quiz Up has its roots in the success of the Twilight Saga-quiz up they made earlier that was a huge success for the company. Another key to Quiz Up’s success is vanity. People want others to know how good they are and Quiz Up is a great platform for vanity to shine. Halldórsdóttir reminded us that all creative processes are similar, although they deal with different topics, you have to love the idea.
Last but not least was Nelly Ben Hayoun who took us on a journey about designing the impossible. Hayoun is an experience designer and showed us bits and pieces of what she’s done in her carreer and told interesting stories. Through her talk I started wondering that she must have a few more hours in the day than the rest of us, considering all the things she’s done despite her young age.
To Hayoun, no is always a yes, as she put it. She had the dream of creating an International Space Orchestra, where employees of NASA would form a band, rehearse a space opera they made together, record it and send into space. At first she got a no, that turned into a yes, and the ISO came to reality.
Hayoun found the limitations of who gets to go to space unfair (it depends on your size, weight, education and other factors) and in order to enable more people to ‘go to space’ she created an experience of space in a living room. In collaboration with other experts she designed a virtual world with soundtrack, images and lighting and created an opportunity for people to experience a journey to space. She also created a small volcano in a living room, made with gun powder and other materials, that would erupt without notice. In Iceland, she pointed out, we don’t need this kind of volcano since we are busy dealing with our own real volcano and don’t need extra excitement in our lives, volcano-vise.
After six interesting and inspiring talks the conference split up into various workshops and screenings and was then wrapped up with a party with live act from Icelandic band Good Moon Deer and dj Zebra Katz. You are in Control 2014 is officially over but the interesting talks from these fun, humble, talented and experienced people will keep on giving. After a conference like this, with so much knowledge sharing, engagement and ideas, it’s good to have Christine Boland’s words in mind: “What you remember tomorrow is what matters, everything else will pop up when you need it.”