Capturing the Daydream
Our interview with Van Sarkissian, winner of the $2,000 Self-Quarantine Challenge
July 16, 2020 | by Creative Armenia
From baroque to rock and hip-hop — no musical genre is off the charts for Van Sarkissian. And his winning work Daydream showed that neither is directing and editing. We reached out to the musician to talk about his newly-adopted quarantine habit, the dangers of meditations, and his upcoming EP album The 2%. Learn more about the winner of the challenge from our exclusive interview.
CA: Give us more insight into your musical composition. How did you conceive the idea?
VS: Daydreaming has recently become part of my routine and that was the seed of the work. The Corona, self-isolation, my tiny studio near the Spree river, and a new strange daydreaming ritual were all sources of inspiration. While I was slowly falling into a dream, a fraction of an idea came to me. At first, it felt like it was hidden behind the clouds. Then, one by one, the mood, the words, the humming of a melody arrived, and there it was, fully-formed. The idea was so strong I couldn't sleep any longer. I opened my eyes and started writing.
You can create wonders by just daydreaming. You might be within the constraints of your room but have a whole universe within you. What you need is trust. Once you give power to your imagination, it can take you to places your consciousness could not have even dreamed of. That’s how you can let your mind crawl inside harmonies, notes, and colors then feel and capture them.
CA: What were the challenges and the benefits of creating the work from your quarantine?
VS: The quarantine gave me time for self-discovery. But I wouldn’t reach that discovery through spiritual means like meditation or enlightenment. I actually think that trying to understand yourself only through meditation can be destructive. Art and the act of creating can be a more powerful tool in getting to know yourself. That is when you feel the most fragile and exposed —like a painter with a brush confronting the blank canvas.
In one of his interviews, Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky advised young directors to learn how to be in solitude. That is powerful advice. In fact, everyone should know how to do it. Today, there are so many distractions. Social media, Netflix, mass media, and the endless stream of information that is supposed to make us smarter but ends up doing the opposite. To focus and be in a creative flow, you need less information. Otherwise, it is like overloading a computer.
CA: You not only composed the music track for the challenge but also created the music video. Tell us more about the video. Was it your first attempt of being both the composer and the cameraman?
VS: I had periods in my life when I would just film whatever I saw and then turn the footage into music videos. I like editing. It comes easily to me. Perhaps, I don't take it too seriously.
The beautiful thing about Daydream was that I decided to work on both the music video and the track simultaneously. What I was not expecting is that they would start influencing each other. I would feel inspired working on some part of the video and reflect it on the song and vise versa. It felt like writing a film score and that is something I really enjoy doing.
Sometimes, I would put one of my favorite movies, like Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and just let myself go on a journey with the music. I think it is a good technique. The opposite works well too. I know it is common among painters to put on music while painting.
CA: Did your own quarantine and the Self-Quarantine Challenge influence on your methods, techniques, and tools of creation?
VS: The fact that I had a close deadline gave me drive and focus. To be honest, I never worked on a piece so intensely, concentrated on one thing until it was done.
These types of challenges are a huge force for artists. We need some pressure to create the unimaginable. It is not a coincidence that the more developed a country is the more it produces art. An artist needs a spark to focus on an idea, a push to say something, and raise a hand when nobody else does.
I wish the new Armenia would understand it and actually challenge its artists. We have always had great talents. What we lack is motivation. I am an optimist but, frankly, I do not think it will happen in the near future. That is why so many Armenian artists only find the spark abroad.
CA: What are your creative resolutions for the post-COVID world?
VS: The ideal creative resolution would be to not have any creative resolutions. I will try to discover my inner child and what he is capable of doing. Will just play instead of planning to play.
I would also like to release a few EPs and make creative music videos for each of them. I would love to learn to be more patient, sing more, fall in love over and over, write more music in mixed styles, experiment, and travel not thinking of the way back home.
CA: In several days you will also release your new EP album The 2%, supported by Creative Armenia, and the track you composed for the challenge will also be included in the album. Give a short teaser.
VS: Happy to announce the release of my upcoming EP The 2%, supported by Creative Armenia. It will be released on July 24, but people can pre-order starting from July 17. There will be an online release party alongside Arthur Sarkissian's virtual solo exhibition at the Tufenkian Fine Arts in LA.
Why The 2%? It is the difference between humans and monkey’s DNA and a slang term to describe people breaking a rule or a social barrier. The slang term comes from the idea that condoms are only effective 98% of the time — the 2% gets through not following the rules. The concept of the album is to mix different styles, from classical to techno, rock to hip-hop, trap to tribal.