Etanna Sack, the Life Artist

Etanna Sack, the Life Artist

Etanna Sack, Californian funder & Artist Radio Free Clear Light

Can you present your educational background ?

When I was young, I personalized my educational plan with my local school district. I attended the 3 classes that I felt were of value at my High School : Theatre, French and History. These were the classes where the teachers were very passionate and genuinely interested in teaching. For the rest of my subjects I home schooled myself. This situation was something I arranged for myself rather than something that was being offered or suggested to students.

Can you tell us about 3 experiences that changed your life ?

I was standing in this huge line to pass my driving exam. The man in line beside me told me, “In life people are either for you or against you.” He made the point that sometimes people who are close to us say they are for us, but really they are thwarting us, preventing us from being who we want to be and achieving what we want to achieve. Even if they love you and have the best of intentions, if their values aren’t in alignment with yours and they won’t allow you the freedom to express yourself and live according to those values, then they are working against you.

I realized that this was precisely what was happening to me and that I needed to surround myself with the people who would support my vision rather than try to undermine it.

I also had the good fortune of being exposed to and having the opportunity to practice what one might call Shamanic techniques for expanding consciousness and opening the doors of perception. These experiences were presented to me relatively early in life. By continuing various shamanic practices I am constantly given opportunities for life changing experiences. I am making my life new as often as possible.

And tied with this shamanic work came the big decision to move to San Francisco and work with Juan Carlos as part of Radio Free Clear Light. The creative work that we do was unlike anything that I had done before that point. I certainly did not consider myself an artist before my involvement with this group. Collaboration and a use of technology have enabled me to become an artist. More accurately, it has allowed all of us to become a creative entity together.

The collaboration helps each of us to move beyond our individual limitations. Together we are capable of quite a lot more than any of us could be individually. In fact, in our minds our main discipline is that of process driven collaboration. It's not that Radio Free Clear Light is a visual artist or an electronic musician, or a video editor, or an author, or graphic artist. We may work with any of those mediums or none. It's that Radio Free Clear Light is a process of collaboration.

In a sense our lives have become this very high concept performance art piece. Ideally everything we do individually feeds back into our creative work together and our creative work as Radio Free Clear Light flows back out into our individual lives shaping and changing each of us.

In addition to this sort of transformative alchemical approach to art as life and life as art there is also a very practical perk to working collectively. We have a much higher output of creative work than an individual and we have a bigger team to tackle the challenges of marketing that work; running Kickstarter campaigns, exhibiting at conventions, volunteering at co-op art galleries etc.

What inspires you and how do you nourish your work with inspiration?

Technology inspires me. I'm not an illustrator, or a painter. I have yet to master an acoustic instrument. But through technology, using digital cameras, computers and programs like photoshop, LIVE, and Vegas, I have created visual art, comic books, videos, web installations, and electronic music as Radio Free Clear Light. Everything that we produce is possible because of the technology we use and the unique ways it allows us to collaborate. The simplest example of this is the way we are able to share files of any kind so that each of us can easily contribute to a piece of art or music.

We can work closely together without even being in the same building. We use an application called Casual to manage our various projects in real time. A loftier example of the way we use technology to collaborate is our Pluribus project, a program we wrote with MAX that allows a group of people to use various controllers to create a single musical voice and corresponding set of visuals in an improvised session.

What was the most challenging thing you have done working with your collective?

Collaboration is a challenge. Letting go of control of the outcome, sacrificing ownership. Every day is a challenge. It is always much easier to surrender to the material needs and desires of our individual human biological machines and even to the culture of sleep surrounding us and do nothing, produce nothing. Having the will to follow through with the intention to create despite those obstacles is a miracle. Forgiveness is a challenge. This type of creative work and collaboration can lead to heated situations despite the best of intentions. We all make mistakes. Forgiving each other and ourselves is no small feat.

3 actions you have realized you didn't think were possible or people didn't think was possible.

We were big fans of graphic novels and hadn't realized that we could create one ourselves. There was literally an aha moment as we strolled down an artist alley in a big comic book convention. Juan Carlos said, "It would be really cool if we could do this." And I agreed. Then he stopped in his tracks, looked at me and said, "Hey, maybe we can." So we figured out a way to use our tools and abilities and we did it.

The Man With A Gun album was the first where Lydia and I took a hand in actually composing the pieces of music rather than just singing or providing loops or samples to Juan Carlos, whose educational background is in music composition. For myself at least, if you had asked me, "Hey can you compose 6 electronic tracks?" I would have said no. It didn't even dawn on me that it was happening as I did it, because I was just following the steps of a predetermined process, functioning as part of Radio Free clear Light and it was only later that I realized Lydia and I had just become composers.

And when I first started this work with Juan Carlos, before we met Lydia, there were people who were vocal about their expectation that we would crash and burn, that this form of collaboration was crazy and maybe even dangerous. But like the Wright Brothers, we've got it off the ground despite any lunacy or peril.

What is your vision of art ?

We have a process-oriented approach to all of our creative work. We approach everything as an experiment or a game, establishing a list of steps we are going take before beginning any process, and then sticking to it. Any person can adhere to a creative process and produce meaningful work, not just those who identify as artists. We firmly feel that it is not the content but the act of producing that is creative. The only time anyone is an artist is in the moment that they are creating, and whatever they produce is just a relic of creativity, a sign that something creative happened.

We want to empower anyone who wants to be part of a creative process, and to this end we often incorporate the "audience" because we are against the idea of audience, we'd rather awaken participation. We also collaborate with people from outside our core group when the opportunity arises.

What motivates to create ?

That kind of effort we are making is a movement against the force of entropy. We feel compelled to do something. When you are making that effort to create something, that's when you are alive. It doesn't matter how much perceived impact your actions or the resultant artifacts have, how they are received, or if they are even noticed by others. Fire is only fire while it burns. Creation is a fight to be alive, not just for your life, but for all life everywhere.

Create something. There doesn't need to be a reason. So many artists need their work to be a statement of an idea, whether it's political philosophical or so on. For them the art is just the vehicle or platform for the idea. We reject this approach. We create art for the sake of creating art. Any ideas or philosophy expressed in our work are accidental, merely a temporary arbitrary vehicle for the art itself.

What is your vision of education ? I really do think that individuals learn differently. You will have to champion your own education. Be your own advocate. Identify what you need to make progress and find a way to get it. Be really vocal about what you need with those in a position to help. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no. But if you don't ask, then the answer is no by default.

What is your vision of work ?

You have to pursue your passions. If you don't have passion then you are already dead.

What advice/experience would you give to youths to help them find themselves ?

To someone who resonates with our approach I would say practice breathing. Put your attention on your self. Doing so you will be more capable of bringing your vision into the world. Honour your vision. Be creative everyday. Every day that you don't create is a missed opportunity.

If we lose ourselves in the world around us, we can't do anything. We lose our power when we release our attention accidentally every where it is demanded. We have to maintain a circle of sanctuary around ourselves and direct our attention willfully upon ourselves and our work.

Keep a project secret until it is ready. Just like a mother keeps a child encircled within her own body for nine months until it is fully formed, so you should do with your creative projects. Only those involved should know about it. In this way you protect a project from influences that would dissolve it including the dissipation of your own energy.

Lastly surround yourself with the people who are for you, those who share your values and passions, those who can teach you what you want to be taught, guide you where you want to be guided, and help you to see yourself more clearly.

Links to some of our projects:



Visual Art

Web Installation

Interview conducted by Diane Lenne on 24th June 2015 in San Francisco