Why a History graduate chose to make art about identity

This blog is a starter’s journey into the world of animation. A compass for friends and fellow minds. I will share the evolution of my first animation piece, as well as touch-points on different areas of research, software and creativity. This first piece will be broadly preoccupied with identity. But as the title suggests, why in God’s good name am I doing this? And yes … I referred to myself in the third person.

I have a feeling sometimes there. Whether I’m cognizant of it or not. That of reality not being quite linear. What tremors is my perception of reality. As such I feel somewhat displaced.

The fact is I, as we all do, have inhabited different personas and have a multitude of facets to my identity. This is where my sense of tension lies.

However, what if we could extend imagination to embrace this oscillation?What if the reality we take for granted, isn’t as we see it? We have to question the reliability of our perception of human consciousness. Animation is an ideal tool to imaginatively express these notions and I will explain why. But first, this preoccupation was pre-dated by my study in history.

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Precariousness of consciousness, memory and identity

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My arrows point to both East and West. I grew up in London, with a Chinese mother and Italian father. I yearned to assert my identity and to retake a view of the East that transcended the prism of colonialism. To do that I went to the LSE (London School of Economics), to study the expressions of consciousness and historical longings of the Chinese.

I gained a broader picture of 20th century Asian history and could imaginatively inhabit the experiences of my ancestors. I recognized the scars of a hard recent history in my mother’s toughness, and Confucian values in her words. Manifestations of Asian culture were self-evident in my identity as part of the Asian diaspora. But, most importantly the education granted a re-thinking of identity itself. Identities are fluid. Cultural values found in ethnicity, friends, family are constantly shaping and reshaping us. Consequently, we need not subscribe to a fixed self and accept the change. I found this hugely relieving and also found and re-connected to the idea in meditation and Eastern Philosophy.

Rather than search for one single answer. I find it interesting to see if we can bring all these identities together. Merge them as in Satoshi kon’s films and observe that in relation to our consciousness. Anime auteur, Satoshi Kon’s film Paprika (2006) was a big inspiration to me. It represents beautifully, the imaginative expression possible in animation and it’s advantages in exploring such concepts → The Anime aesthetic.

Animation is unconstrained by the indexicality in other forms of moving image. The digital frame by frame creation of the animated image frees it from being represented in the real world through a camera. Animation is not subject to a routinized accommodation of the mundane understanding of the world. Rather than realism, it is the embracing of the metamorphic image, with all the refutations of the physical world, space and time, that provides the impetus for wider imaginative expression.

3D animation in particular is a novel lens for exploring concepts of identity. I will explore and learn different 3D softwares to test these novel possibilities. While as an art form I will look to visually express something that hitherto was only vaguely sensed about identity. Animation is the chosen language because of its expressive and imaginative qualities. These forays, mistakes and insights will be shared here. Both as a personal retrospective journal and I hope as something that transcends my own cultural specificity.