In Memoriam Dejan Pestotnik
In Loving Memory of Dejan Pestotnik
On Thursday, 4 November 2021, Dejan's heart stopped. With his irrevocable departure, an era is also coming to an end. A rich, golden era, brimming with creative work brought to the limit, an era of endless inspirational debates, a time of broad-mindedness and of evading social rules.
He has done one of the longest and most difficult cultural transversals, under one brand, KIBLA, for which Dejan has fought so hard; it is Dejan's inimitable transversal of art, culture, technological innovation, new professions, education, creative design, integrated graphic design, aesthetics, social, entertainment and people.
It is impossible to write a 20-year story of a close colleague and friend on a few pages. The multi-faceted nature of Dejan's work reveals that creativity has no boundaries and that when such a person leaves, skills and knowledge disappear with him. There is a hole, a void. The more one person knows and gives, the bigger the void. And Dejan kept giving and giving...
I remember my travels with Dejan in a flash. From the first trip to Rotterdam and Amsterdam way back in the year 2000, to Brussels, Miami, Belgrade, Cagliari, Sofia, Venice, Rome and to Berlin to see the curator Maja Škerbot... this is just a small excerpt in the series of Kibla's numerous European travels, well, at least those that we experienced together. Dejan loved to travel, he also loved to take artists and collaborators on 'trips'. Kibla was bursting with possibilities in his time. With Dejan, it was always intense, lively and extraordinarily fun, from the first minute we got into the car and drove off to the airport, with his morning blast of Egoist cologne, till the end when we were dropped off at home, exhausted.
In a big city, everything had to be taken with a big spoon. This golden Spartan spoon has become a classic Kibla EU model. The "Job must be done!" Dejan always said, so meetings always came first, then the mandatory responsibilities with partners, then discussions over 'after work' drinks, then out and about for the requisite visits to exhibitions, museums, performances, meetings with other partners in the city, a quick shopping detour to buy a new blazer, then a gourmet dinner, even if it was a curry sausage on the Berliner stand and finally a kick-ass party at the city's top venue.
It was especially insane at the Art Basel Miami 2009, where Dejan flourished amidst art dealers, gallerists and artists, so much so that artists and gallerists practically fought over him. Worldly. Full of motivational talks, humor, flattery, mocking and courting artists. He put them on a pedestal and attributed them high value. That was essential and he knew how to do it perfectly.
Even at home. In Maribor. KIBLA is a living organism and Dejan was an enormous heart of it. Tall, upright, handsome and always well-groomed, he often hugged the Kiblarians in the vestibule with unbridled laughter: “I alone am nothing, together we are everything!”. He loved individuality, seemingly perfect people and people with all their imperfections and deviations. He sincerely loved his colleagues, artists, cultural workers, designers, photographers, organizers, journalists, critics, writers, curators, advertisers, brilliant or disorganized, but above all creative people with whom he could live out his ideas that were borderline impossible. And he would scold mercilessly when there wasn't enough passion, or when the results didn’t reach his high standards: "Come on, you're lame!". He also played a bridging role in different social strata, vertically, horizontally and diagonally, from politicians, decision-makers, CEOs, PR people to mothers, fathers, children, gays, hustlers, the disabled, the blind, the deaf, the small, the plus size, people with disabilities... all were valuable audiences for him.
In 2000, he came to Kibla to see the exhibition as an admirer, but was otherwise an economist: "I would like to work here, at Kibla!". And he joined as a marketing professional and strategist for the festival Days of Curiosity under the leadership of Maša Šega and later Jana Zadravec. In 2005 he took it over. How to Become, a festival for high school students who were introduced to professions, ranging from a fitter to the president of a country. He supported the ideas of the leaders, significantly enriched and strengthened them with sponsorships and fresh perspectives on the design and overall appearance of the festival.
At the beginning, his cornerstone was the process of raising finance for Kibla's activities, the eight years of Simobile until the onset of the recession. This is the most difficult thing to do in Slovenia, although it was achievable for him. We studied the European funding mechanisms and immersed ourselves into the confines of what was possible, we acknowledged PR, thanks to Dejan, focused on integrated products and on a bunch of integrated graphic designs, from the logotype, the website to the printed materials... From the ECoC Cork 2005, Sibiu 2007, Istanbul 2011 to the European Capital of Culture Maribor 2012. "Hey, dudette, if the 'underdeveloped' East gets disconnected, Western Slovenia can put the pedal to the metal!" and we laughed our eyes out. He carefully worked out the design idea with Uroš Lehner (they even covered Adria Airways planes in the ECoC 2012 logo), the PR strategy and together with Sonja Sibila Lebe, from the Faculty of Economics and Business, best understood the overall product of cultural tourism. It was a total challenge for him.
In 2004, Dejan and I took over the management of ACE KIBLA from Peter Tomaž Dobrila and Dejan Štampar, the first founders of KIBLA. Thus began our crazy story of excesses, endless meetings, brainstorming and successes. He worked outwards, I worked inwards. The perfect pair. We immediately set about rebuilding Kibla with Primož Jeza and we built the architecture of kibla.org website, which is still running today.
In 2002, Dejan went for the first time, with s suitcase, on a 'European project', to Brussels, to meet the top cats of the European multimedia scene: "I had no idea what to do there. Peco (P.T.Dobrila) threw me in the water and I swam." How well Dejan swam is evident from numerous projects that could be strung on a thick necklace.
He was also interested in transferring technological knowledge into culture. As head of the ACE communication and information point in Maribor City Hall, he connected the local scene with the European one. By that time, he was already heavily involved in European projects, the first one being the EMMA business project, the European Multimedia Accelerator, with the aim of creating an entry point for European multimedia companies into the US market. To the Silicon Valley, where many of the first generation Kiblarians were drawn. Thus began a long-standing collaboration with Phillip Wacker from Strassbourg, his great role model.
EMMA was followed by PATENT, which created a European platform of services aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) working in ICT and multimedia. He was creatively and passionately involved in the Europrix TOP Talent Award (TTA), a competition for students and young professionals, creators of innovative e-content and for designers of any kind of multimedia products and platforms, where he consistently launched Slovenian creatives. The culmination of these activities was CeBit in Hannover, 2008, when ACE KIBLA was awarded the Silver Seal of Excellence in Multimedia. This award is given to companies with excellent credentials in product and service innovation and excellence in marketing.
He was also interested in the transfer of knowledge to the younger generations, evident from many parallel projects from YOUp@, E-games, Mobile Games to ALDA, Joconde and EQF. The latter seriously set out to inventory the profiles of the e-content professions, especially in relation to culture. This is the second fundamental area he has developed throughout his career: professions carried out by people, with a focus on the future; professions that were not yet established at the time, such as social network editors, computer profiles, user experience designers, etc. From here he ventured into the field of cultural heritage and technologies, where he has worked with Margaretha Mazura in Brussels on a number of projects (eCultValue, eCultSkills, Vetlicat). The eCultValue 2015 book, which he produced with Tadej Vindiš, is still a reference book in the field of digitization of cultural heritage.
He strongly supported all the city's festivals, apart from the Days of Curiosity, which he extended from Maribor to the Slovenian cities, such as the Magdalena Festival, which was dedicated to visual communication, and the talents who organized and participated (Nastja Mulej, Dragan Sakan, Srđan Trifunović... ), the IT@K festival with Alen Breznik, MED - International Electronic Destination with Pina Gabrijan and Štefan Simončič, the Festival of Love with Simona Kopinšek, Izzven with David Braun, DA(NE)S with Cameron Beaver, MUS with Nina Jeza, KIBLIX with Peter Tomaž Dobrila, Miha Horvat, Marc Dusseiller and Monika Pocrnjić... He was a distinctly festival loving man. He knew what had to be done. He translated PR techniques from the business world to the cultural world.
He exponentially strengthened and expanded his knowledge outwards in many directions: cultural and innovation business, festival policies, creative collaborations with artists, curators, designers, city, national and European institutions... and internal collaborations at the Za:misel bookstore with Martina Kositer and Mirjana Predojevič, and at the TOX publishing house and the Folio magazine with Snežana Štabi, and in administrative project management with Lidija Pačnik Awais, amongst many others.
No matter which project, you can make any of them 'toptoptop'. He has also enjoyed collaborating in border projects, New Media Crossborder with partners ACT from Čakovec, the Varaždin Underground Club and One from Prosenjakovci (2011-2013). He took each project holistically, whether it was a large, medium or a small one, as a one-off a kind art project, such as with artists Alenka Pirman, Mirjana Rukavina, Nataša Berk, Jasna Kozar, JAŠA, Peta Montanez, Richard Barnbrook, David Carson, Wojtek Wawszczyk, Martin Bricl Baraga, Matjaz Krivic, Barbara Novakovič and many others. He has developed processes in groups, from an idea, content and form to positioning it in space and communicating it with different publics. Talking, explaining, even for a hundredth time if necessary. It was most clear to him that a great idea also needs to be developed to a final product. It is not enough to put an object or an event on an exhibition/venue, it needs an extensive process to make it visible to the public. This is how Dejan has written and updated one of Kibla's core documents over the years: the comprehensive strategic communication plan, which constructively contributes to all European, local and national projects, most recently with the RUK project.
The archive on kibla.org, this incredible array of projects, collaborations, actions, etc., makes one think: he has completed one of the longest and most difficult cultural transversals, under one brand, KIBLA, for which Dejan has fought so hard; this is Dejan's inimitable transversal of art, culture, technological innovation, new professions, new education, creative design, integrated graphic designs, aesthetics, social, entertainment and people.
I am pretty sure that Dejan is already forming a local community and doing PR in heaven, purgatory or hell, wherever he is. Maybe he's reincarnated as a reindeer... and I can already see the logo with the antlers. It seems impossible that we would not meet again.
"It’s great that you came. Now look at this!" and he gestures to me with his hand the beauty of the afterlife.
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