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.

SINK WITHOUT TRACE @P21

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:

https://www.sinkwithouttrace.com/

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.

I watched the new Aladdin and here’s the T!

I watched the new Aladdin movie and I have to say, it’s tacky beyond expectations but not as disturbing as other animation classics that Disney have resuscitated in the form of live action CGI.

The film is held together by the Genie character, most of the time a stocky mesh of Will Smith, who we see in ‘person’ only in the few scenes where he turns into a human. All the other members of the cast are pretty much unknown and not memorable at all. You get the impression that they could have just landed from a random 5pm Disneyland street parade.

The CGI is spectacular in rendering all sorts of magic effects and visual stuff. Throughout the movie the Genie has some funny campy moments (like in the cartoon version) but in the end, when he is finally set free as a human, he opts for a heteronormative lifestyle. This ending is probably intended to reassure the audience that, even 30 years after the fist Aladdin movie, the Genie (a.k.a. “the most powerful being in the universe”) would still choose a suburban life with wife and kids above all else. I think this is depressing.

Paradigm Shift

I collaborated with Lynn and Arabella for their degree show project. It was a great chance for me to create some animation by using Unreal for the first time. Lynn needed help animating a dragon. You can watch a full video of the performance via the link beneath the images below. The live performance took place during CSM Alive 2019. This is a pilot episode as Lynn intended the work to be a series. The first chapter is called The Gate.

Here is a link to the full video:

https://lkamiya.wixsite.com/dreamland

https://lkamiya.wixsite.com/dreamland
https://lkamiya.wixsite.com/dreamland

Today?! Let’s go to LA!

On Saturday the 8th April, I woke up and looked outside the window. London’s sky was grey and filled with thick miserable clouds, as usual. After getting back from Italy a few days before, my body was refusing to cope with the lack of sun and joy offered by this no-longer-European island.

I opened skyscanner.com, typed “everywhere” in the destination field and guess what? Same day flights to LA for just £400! My partner and I could not believe it. Just four hours later, we were taking off from Heathrow.

This was my first time in LA, so the trip was a journey of discovery. I have been always obsessed with the whole LA thing but have never had the chance to go. We were there for one week only, which was ok for first-timers. When you visit somewhere so large you don’t worry about FOMO anymore and you let yourself go to some old-fashioned flânerie. You can get an Uber here and there or an electric scooter to prevent your feet detaching from your body at the end of the day.

We spent few days in Downtown LA and absolutely loved it. For an architecture nerd like me, who loves Modernism, it was a visual delight. We stayed at The ACE Hotel, a dreamy gothic revivalist tower. Gagging! We went to Venice, Santa Monica, all around town.

For the second part of of the holiday, we stayed in West Hollywood where we did all the classic, touristy stuff including a super ratchet, open-top bus tour of Beverly Hills with stops outside celebrities’ homes. Here is a picture of Donald Duck’s foot prints at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Intensive Architectural Drawings Weekend

Last week I was commissioned for four pictures Notting Hill street views for an up and coming posh pub in the area. To make the job worthwhile I had to complete the task within two days. It was super intense as the pictures are quite big (about 50cm by 48cm) and all the lines were made by hand, of course! These types of drawing are great background art exercises but, most importantly, will help pay my bills!!!

Some Character and Background Design From My Work Placement

During my two week work placement I collaborated with a second year student, Brogan Jones, on her graduation short movie, based on a script by Henry Egar titled Critical Update. 

The movie is set in a futuristic city whose inhabitants are immersed in some sort of collective, augmented reality game.
Taya, the protagonist, is an androgynous young woman that, due to a software crash and consequent head set update, is temporarily plunged back into the real world.
Here she bumps into a graffiti artist, the only character that does not operate in the virtual game world. The graffiti artist is rebelling against the real world’s white backdrop, injecting colour with graffiti to bring it back to life.
To visually highlight the contrast between the clinical and bleak real world versus the colourful and vivid virtual reality, the author decided to use two different animation techniques: 3D and 2D respectively. As a result, I was required to produce work in both formats.
For the two-dimensional work, I was given rough sketches to develop into five characters and one background.
It was a very smooth process, overall, as I was able to replicate the style of the author and match her colour palette.
Working on the background was a great chance to make my own creative contribution, whilst still adhering to the brief. The author was happy to take my suggestions on board and was open to how they could complement her work.