When UBC Okanagan drawing and computer arts professor Aleksandra Dulic is asked for a word to describe herself, she says professionally she is an animator, personally, she is a mom. After only an hour in her company, however, it becomes apparent that there are many other words that describe her: enthusiastic, inspired, visionary, brilliant.
Professor Dulic is still new at UBCO, having arrived less than one year ago from Vancouver. Originally from Serbia, Professor Dulic has been in Canada for twelve years, moving here to study contemporary art at SFU in Burnaby. She chose to remain in Canada despite offers elsewhere because of funding and professional opportunities. Much of her recent work is reflective of the multi-cultural nature of Canada’s West Coast society.
At UBC Okanagan, Professor Dulic teaches first and second year courses in drawing and computer imaging development, courses which, as an instructor, she finds complementary. In computer imaging, she says, the students need to develop a technical literacy so that they can access their own personal expressiveness with the materials.
Because of the constantly shifting and developing nature of technology, however, Professor Dulic’s courses revolve around composition and how composition functions rather than around software: “One of the challenges in our field is that the ground is constantly shifting. [You are] constantly having to teach tools and instruments that are changing and evolving. You can get used to approaches and strategies that haven’t changed, but it is hard for students. [As an instructor] you really have to focus on teaching students how to learn, rather than to learn a particular software.” This is one reason why she enjoys teaching her drawing classes, as well. “Drawing hasn’t changed in thousands of years, so it is nice to be connected to that, as well.”
Professor Dulic brings more than just her skill and understanding of her subject matter to class. She also brings a number of well-funded animation arts projects in which, with the help of UBC Okangan’s work study program, she is able to involve her students. Having three times been awarded SSHRC Funding, Professor Dulic tells me that her projects are expensive and can cost upwards of $60,000. These constitute large productions, and Professor Dulic realizes first-year students would not normally have an opportunity for involvement on projects of such a size. It is one reason she came to UBC Okanagan – to “expand her collaborative field. It is okay for me to allow students to learn, and they can be part of a big production that they never as first-year students would be able to part of and to collaborate with international artists – real opportunities to be involved in major collaborations and majorly funded.”
Professor Dulic currently has students collaborating with her on more than one project. She has been funded through a Canada Council grant to develop music and scroll painting animation based on Chinese landscape art. For this project, she sent a cinematographer to China to film Yellow Mountain, and now has hours of film of mountain peaks in clouds. She describes the work as both abstract and also a common theme for painters. Her own approach, however, considers the notions of meditation, and yin and yang, and will feature her own particular touch on the brushwork and flow of the work. She will then put all the techniques and approaches into a performance state. She has several students working on the project with her: “I have already done a bunch of the work, but they will take it to their own places. That is the beautiful thing about living in multicultural Canada – everybody brings their own.”
Another of Professor Dulic’s current projects is nearing its completion date. “Marathonologue” is a project in which Aleksandra Dulic and Kenneth Newby collaborate for Art Partners in Creative Development – for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, in Vancouver, BC. The project combines animation, Scottish bagpipes, Japanese Taiko drums, and Balinese gamelan, and will have a three-day performance run just prior to the Olympic games. This project can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVwVp_bUGKM.
Speaking with Professor Dulic, it is evident that she loves the work she does. She also feels that internet sites such as YouTube, which allow people to access her art for free, are beneficial. “As a teacher and a researcher,” she says, “accessibility is essential. It is my responsibility to share my knowledge.” She does have one lament, though. Unlike a manuscript, which upon completion takes the form of a tangible hard copy, her product has only archived longevity. Although the productions Professor Dulic works on consist of elaborate installations coordinated with performance and media and interactive animation, they will, upon completion, be torn down. Although components remain, “The real magic is in the moment, and it all goes down. It doesn’t exist. You have to let it go and just do it another time and then another time. Even if you have a recording, it’s not the same.”
She won’t have this problem with her next project. Professor Dulic tells me that while her inspiration for her projects comes from many sources and what she wishes her projects to say varies widely, her recent concerns have been largely environmental. “I feel that we have an emergency ecologically, and that I should use my own intelligence as much as I can to share the responsibility.” This concern has led Professor Dulic to approach UBC Vancouver professor, Dr. Stephen Sheppard, about a climate change visioning project he has developed for his work in forestry and landscape architecture. She intends to use a down-sized version of Dr. Sheppard’s program to help create a 3-D video game that would feature different climate change scenarios. “It’s a kind of visualization project. It’s based on climate change science, but is trying to employ game strategies and basically reveal the different possibilities. [For example] in the environment of Delta, there is no question the water level will rise and wipe out the whole community. The question is, how do we adapt?”
Games, according to Dr. Dulic, are important, since people learn through play. The skills involved, however, extend beyond technology. While technology can add layers of information to the environments computers generate, the skills Dr. Dulic believes people most need to develop are those of drawing and painting and music and poetry. If you learn poetry, Dr. Dulic says, you will be able to add layers of metaphor to your work, and that will add meaning. “It is good to be a good writer and a good drawer. If you have those basic skills, you can make the computer sing and fly.” Still, Dr. Dulic says the best advice she can give her students in terms of drawing is to go out into the world and observe. In terms of computer arts, Professor Dulic advises her students, “Practice and all will come.”
Article by Leigh Macfarlane
Last reviewed 11/14/2014 3:53:20 PM