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Unit X – Reflection

London Scottish House, by Tom Warburton

Unit X is finally over and the exhibition was a success. It all happened here, at London Scottish House, a now empty office space. The exhibition spanned four floors showcasing work from all disciplines from the Manchester School of Art. The opening on Friday was nice to see, as many people came and spent time looking at the artwork. Even the Hairy Bikers showed up (credit to Clare Campion). You can read an article about it here (Manchester Evening News) or keep an eye out for a full review here (Project Unit X).


As a group we were incredibly happy with our work. Seeing it finally showcased was rewarding and a new step for me, as I had never shown any of my work in the context of an art gallery or exhibition. I received invaluable feedback from tutors, as well as peers and attendants, which highlights the importance of the artist/viewer mechanic. I am a huge believer that the audience interpretation is more important than the artist’s intention. We were also visited by the English National Ballet, as we chose to work on their brief for Akram Khan’s Giselle. They genuinely seemed to enjoy it and were able to understand our intention easily. It was reassuring to know that our concepts and ideas were clear enough to be decoded properly. They also commended the piece as it encompassed the spirit of collaboration whilst using different mediums and styles of practices.

It is very interesting to look back to the very beginning. The inception stages of our work. We had ambitious yet vague ideas that we managed to polish and simplify without compromising the core message. We ran into technical obstacles that we were able to resolve as a group. There were brief moments of panic, but we helped each other remain calm and focus at the tasks at hand. As individual artists with individual voices we were still able to find common ground and come together in harmony as opposed as just mashing random ideas together. Our core ideas and the purpose of the work gre stronger and stronger the longer we went on to develop it. Not only were we able to deliver a product meeting a deadline, but we were able to work together to create something we are very proud of. This is very significant from a personal point of view, because the rest of the team were people I had never met before. It was a group that was randomly generated, so we could not choose our usual work partners. We were forced outside of our comfort zone into the unknown. We did not know what to expect and it was up to us to figure it out.  It was a long process that required a lot of hard work, but the end result is a testament to the power of creativity and collaboration.


Truth through film

One of the first things you are going to find out about me is that I am Chilean. I tell everyone, all the time. I have almost become more Chilean now that I no longer live there, but it is probably because the distance allows me to analyse Chile in a more objective way.
It was living here in the UK when I first heard about Patricio Guzmán, a Chilean

Patricio Guzmán (Radio U de Chile)

documentary filmmaker. A Chilean friend who also lives in the UK mentioned him in passing and told me all about his work. It was interesting to me, as he appeared to deal with the two biggest issues in Chile, the second one being the Coup d’état.

Shortly after being exposed to Guzmán’s work, I was asked by my tutors at the Manchester School of Art to introduce Nostalgia for the Light to the rest of the filmmaking students. Life is full of coincidences like that. I was happy to do it, but as I was speaking about it in front of everyone I realised how textbook -like my knowledge was. And I grew up there!



I was born in ’89, the beginning of a new era in Chile. My working class family struggled as most working class families did, but they were very fortunate to never have experienced the horrors of the Pinochet‘s military government directly. The ’88 plebiscite changed Chile forever. Pinochet was no longer in power, but the damage was already done as Chile continued to be divided, politically and culturally, going beyond social status. This is Chile’s number one problem.

Patricio Guzmán’s approach to these issues is perhaps the best way to approach them. His documentaries are tackled in a rather poetic way, making them very effective as it proves the problems trascend politics. It should not be a case of whether you are conservative or liberal, rich or poor, educated or ignorant or whether your family was affected directly by the derranged military government or not. It is an issue that concerns everyone and should be accessible to everyone. This is why Patricio’s work is important. The human approach to these horrors trascend everything else. His works are a testament to the power of film.

Nobody talked about politics in my family and we only needed to know the basics: democracy is good, tyranny is bad and money is a necessity. These are the ingredients for conformity, forcing yourself to play the game even if you don’t like the rules. Patricio Guzmán has taught me more than just facts and has revealed more than buried secrets, he has made me care about the division that tears our country apart everyday, politically and socially.

Recently, Home organised a preview screening for The Pearl Button, followed by a Q&A with the man himself. This is where I was able to ask him if we could ever fix this problem of estrangement in Chile and his answer put my worries to rest. We must work hard to dig up the truth. The memories that had been hidden from us, away from reality. Only memory can unite a country. The goal is to move forward by remembering the past.

You can catch the Q&A from Home below. My question is towards the end:

NASA – CineSpace

As an external project, we will be submitting a short film for CineSpace. I am using Guzmán’s approach to documentary to explore the spiritual drive behind space exploration and how it it uses science as a tool for emotional discovery. We are hoping to use resources such as poetic imagery, thought-provoking voice-overs and minimalistic soundtrack.

I will be blogging about that project soon.





Unit x – Research

Research is hard. Especially hard when your goal is not clearly established. This was the biggest problem I ran into when trying to get inspired for this particular task. We are to make a piece of work for Akram Khan’s Giselle (English National Ballet), as part of Unit X for the Manchester School of Art. The team I’m working on consists of students from filmmaking, photography and animation, so finding a way to balance all practices without making the final work feel cluttered was one of our main concerns. Too many cooks can indeed spoil the broth!

For this assignment, we will be focusing on the theme of the underworld, and more importantly, Giselle’s transition into the underworld. The underworld is a concept that has been explored in an infinite amount of media, so we took inspiration from a particular aesthetic, such as a blue/purple and washed-out colour palette and the idea of inversion. We wanted to mirror the real world in this underworld.

First Draft for Unit X. Drawn by Anita Kwiecien.

So this is our first draft. We decided that we wanted to turn this piece vertically, as it conveys the idea of worlds divided, coexisting with eachother, and also allows for an interesting and less common presentation. The underworld would be a mirroring of the real world, using a different colour palette and alternative representation of elements. In terms of narrative, our character would die at the top half and transition into the underworld by literally crossing the division line.
Our approach for this, in terms of practice, will be to use photography to create the backgrounds, animation to showcase the character and  sound design to create an atmospheric soundscape.

See a concept image created by Lucy Adam below:

unit x background concept
Background Concept – Lucy Adam

For the approach of animating the character, we will be using Ryan Woodward’s Thought of You short film.

Ryan Woodward’s sketches


This way we can get a result that is beautiful, simplistic and fluid. I will help the animation specialists in our team in anything I can, as I have experience with frame-by-frame animation, and it will be perhaps the more taxing process of all.
I will particularly be in charge of creating the soundscape, which will be influenced by bleak and droning sounds as well as broken music boxes. The combination of those two puts me in the right frame of mind for this story of love, betrayal, revenge and absolution.

We had a vague idea of what we wanted to do from the very first meeting we had as a team, but these concepts did not materialise until we decided the format. The idea of it being presented in a vertical fashion instead of horizontal was crucial here, not only did it lead to making the work split-screen, but also it aids us to circumvent potential technical limitations. This way we can showcase the work through a projector, a single monitor or two monitors.

Personally, I am very happy I took a Experimental Portraiture workshop at the Manchester School of Art, as it taught me to think how to convey several complex ideas into one image. Without this workshop I would not have realised it was possible to construct tand balance a piece with all the ideas we had, nor have the confidence to know that we could execute it in the way that we have planned.

Experimental portraiture workshop – Tom Warburton, Sarah Palmer & Leo Astudillo