When I Leave Afghanistan

For the past two months, I have been working on a short animated documentary for The Children’s Society. The movie is based on an interview with a young Afghan refugee who arrived in the UK after a very difficult journey that led him to Calais, where he remained for five months before finding a safe place in the UK.

Below is a synopsis of the short:

When I Leave Afghanistan is a short animated documentary based on an interview with a young Afghan Refugee who arrived in the UK after a long and dangerous journey. The animation follows the protagonist and others through their journey from Afghanistan to Calais, including the moment when their status as refugees is recognised and they are saved from limbo.

The 3D animation was entirely realised in VR using Oculus Quill and the scenes were edited in Premier Pro. Working with Oculus Quill led to a character design that I would define as utilitarian. The characters were built with simple strokes, in an abstract style, so that I could go on render some of the scenes in Maya. Producing an animated interview was an experimental process to . To my knowledge, this is going to be the first animated documentary produced with Quill since the application was released in 2016.

Below are some still images from few scenes.


I was coming home from uni and I bumped into this little boat that says Lampedusa-London on it, moored by the steps down to the canal in Granary Square.
I then discovered that it is a floating art installation by British artist, Lucy Wood. She sailed on an epic, four month solo trip from the Sicilian island of Lampedusa all the way to Granary Square. On its small deck are scattered the belongings of the migrants it carried from Libya. There were 35 of them. It seems hard to believe that they travelled through the Mediterranean on that tiny thing now gently floating on Regent’s Canal. The piece is in association with the show, Sink Without Trace, being held at P21 Gallery as part of Refugee Week. Please see link below:


After looking at the artist’s work, could not help thinking of Lucy Wood as an anti-Christoph Büchel. The Swiss-Icelandic artist exhibited a shipwreck at the Venice Biennale earlier this year. It sank in 2015 killing between 700 and 1,100 migrants. While migrants are still drowning today, I’m not sure that the scene of one of the largest hecatombs at sea for the past ten years should be claimed by a conceptual artist so easily.

After reading few articles, however, I am left with the impression that this is the latest case of a big, contemporary art gallery paying a ridiculous amount of money to whoever it may be to grab something from a community. The title, Barca Nostra, that means “our boat”, should probably be changed to Barca Mia, my boat.

Put one day on the Bus a Junky and Marshall McLuhan…

I pointlessly went down to school today. I couldn’t find some files I thought I had on a computer there so I dragged my sorry body to King’s Cross on a packed Saturday afternoon. While on the bus I was thinking about what to write for my weekly blog post. Then I suddenly smelled boozy BO and realised that the person who’d just sat two rows behind me had been out since last night, at least. In London it seems that people avoid interacting with strangers like the plague; this practice is reserved for outcasts and the out-there mad. Going back to the junkie… he started talking to a guy that looked like a garden gnome coming to town in plain clothes by saying, “Where are we heading to? Nothing makes sense anymore. Look at the cartoons: once there was Looney Toons, Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry. Now cartoons all look the same. They say we are all the same, but this is bullshit! We are not the same, we are different! Look at me, I am not the same as a smart guy, we are different!” I don’t know why but I imagined what Marshall McLuhan would have made of the man’s talk. The father of modern media theory, whose most famous quote is “the medium is the message” had other lesser known expressions. One was “the man from the street”. I remember thinking it was hilarious; that it had something patronising and brutal about it at the same time. Was the junkie on the bus the 2019, London-version of the “the man from the street”? McLuhan would probably have reminded him that the content of the media is not what matters but the media itself. Materials for a blog post can be found in the most unexpected places; even from a junkie on the bus. The man was right though, cartoons have changed a lot since the Looney Toons, along with society.

Going back to the blog’s subject, that is animation, I found these amazing shorts commissioned by Al Jazeera and created by Daniel Savage about Marshall McLuhan.

The series is part of the Listening Post’s project: Media Theorised and I recommend it to anyone who may feel like the junkie on the bus.

What too much VR did to me.

After working in VR for a month on an animated short movie, I feel it’s time to document the effects that the medium is having on my mind and body.

VR gives you a bald patch in the middle of your skull. At first it’s a laughing matter but the penis-shaped, compressed hair look will persist, even after showering. The hideous square silhouette will appear after a week and will develop into a light, almost imperceptible, hair loss in the region by around the fourth week (just on time for the project’s deadline).

The effects on my eyes have been several, ranging from swelling to eye infection symptoms. Most notably, my right eye feels different and, for the first time, I experienced not being able to focus on something. Sometimes I see white dots. I need to see an Optometrist.

VR makes you quite irritable. Nowadays, after spending hours tapping on a virtual interface to transform the things around me, when I come back to the real world and board the 73 bus In Kings Cross, I want to tap passengers’ noses to see if they’ll delete from in front of me. Just saying.

Your Body is a Battleground!!!

Last week Louisiana became the fourth American State to pass an anti-abortion law. These reactionary laws have the common ground of stripping women of their right to decide about their bodies. It seems like women’s reproductive rights are under attack once again along with many other human rights we had thought we would no longer needed to fight for.

In this context, the work of Conceptual Artist and activist, Barbara Kruger, seems more current than ever. Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground !!!) was created as a poster for the 1989 Washington Women’s March in support of the right of women to choose. The stereotypical idea of beauty, displayed by the woman in the black and white picture staring directly towards us, puts this representation in the context of male-gaze driven, patriarchal society. The text addresses the viewer directly. Like in all Krueger’s art, text is used to inject meaning back into the image. It subverts the endless flow of images without a message that is mass media advertising and uses it for the opposite goal: the highlight of social injustice. The surface is then split in two, to highlight the fight for gender equality; a battle that Krueger believes is far from over. The result is a punch to the viewer’s eye: they are no longer perceiving this image as a beautiful woman but instead are forced to acknowledge the feminist struggle as an ongoing issue of society.

© Barbara Kruger

Going back to the U.S. and to this blog’s subject, which is animation, Hollywood reacted to these legislations with a call to boycott these states and Disney, Netflix and other big names of the industry are now threatening to stop their ongoing productions there.