I am pleased to announce that part 6 of my animation Playing with Plastic (2016) will be exhibited online as part of a new archive UN[dis]CRIMINATE with the Unstitute online gallery.

Located in courtyards of the Unstitute – in between spaces, between other structures, temporary or otherwise – is a network of diverse encampments serving any number of uses; political or otherwise. In these digital encampments you can see the building of a new archive: UN[dis]CRIMINATE.

The outlying buildings of The Unstitute are not guarded by anyone in particular, and often entrances sit wide open for anyone to see. But mainly the nomadic eruptions in disused or otherwise vague areas of The Unstitute appear of their own determination, and deterritorialize as long as they please.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (19/2/19)

Once again I’ve come across some unexpected free-time, something I’ll have for a while again, which I’m putting to productive use at the moment. Heading into the studio to add what are now the finishing touches to these two pieces.

First up I turned my attention to the cross-section, the most intricate piece that is finally coming to a conclusion soon. As much as I have enjoyed making it, I’m looking forward to the next challenge on my long list of pieces to make. I began with the smaller scale lift, where history repeated itself again, the lift was once again too wide to fit into the shaft, which after completing the bars on the open sides was disappointing. It’s something I always forget to consider. Leaving me with a simpler version of just the bar on either side. The roof of the piece was the first of the days intricate pieces to make up, with the hook being added. I’m starting to think that using tweezers at this scale moving forward might not be a bad idea as I stay working at this scale for future pieces. As much as I love the hands on approach, my fingers are getting in the way of pieces at this scale from being made – something to consider for now.

I them moved onto the tower, which has now been placed and fixed onto the top of the cross-section. Positioned over shaft, placing a strips of angled balsa in place, and held by more balsa from the framework around the wheel. I have also covered the surface in between the spokes so it appears more flush. The next stage is the string, which I am now considering being more than decorative. Maybe adding a spool hidden in the hut, this will allow me to lower the lift if I feel like it. It shouldn’t take too much work to pull this off.

Moving onto the Fort or Fort Smith, which after is pretty much finished now, with the addition of 8 ladders and a sign above the entrance my day in the studio drew to an earlier close than usual. I couldn’t help but get the soldiers out for today’s photo’s, they really look at home in their new Fort. My only concern is, how will they hold up against and alien invasion.

Looking forward I’ll be focusing still on the cross-section, whilst I finally get to the rock formation and decide which parts to keep before a full reduced version is completed. This version will be eventually fixed to a base with little tepees within. I’ll have a few fixed base pieces, these will allow me to shoot locations without taking up too much room, whilst larger models can be used for close-ups.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (15/2/19)

I’ve really surprised myself today in the studio. Making more progress than I thought I expected to.

I began with the smaller details of the cross-section, where I can see things getting more difficult as they reach completion. First up was the smaller scale lift which is really looking like its larger version with each additional detail. I’ve been working on both the roof and the sides where bars will be added, I’m thinking that the bar will be a thin/wafer thin piece of balsa, It’s something I need to see before moving forward.

Next up was the tower, which had the wheel fixed and a hole on the decking made, I had to reinforce with a bar underneath before I went any further. I know the next stage will be in the installation of the piece. This will see the final details being added, including the string that will hang below into the shaft. This is by far the most complex piece, never have I made piece’s that are interconnected to create a scene.

I then moved onto what consumed the rest of the day, making all the remaining buildings that sit against the walls. One wall saw the walkway above being cut into so a building could sit below. I have noticed that one piece is very close to another, a slight change may be made to correct that. Otherwise I can move onto the signage and the ladders, all 8 of them that lead up to the watchtowers.

Looking back at these pieces I have made another move forward in my making, more so the cross-section. If I take anything away from this piece it’s the progression I’ve made as a model maker.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (14/2/19)

I’ve stumbled across two free days this week, allowing me to get into the studio earlier than expected. This has allowed me to focus on the two current pieces that are both receiving a lot of attention now.

First up was the cross-section, with the balsa details, the lift has now been decked out, leaving the roof and rope fixing to be added a miniature bar on either sides below. That I am still unsure of how to miniaturise just yet. It’s a job to consider later for now.

I then turned to the tower, which I had left for a while, knowing that really I needed to add the extra detail. A wheel has been added, and features that will hold it in place are slowing taking shape. I can see that both these elements will be finished around the end of the month for sure.

Moving onto the fort, where I spent most of my day. First the final watchtowers’s roof was completed, allowing me to fix both parts together. Using the technique I employed for the hut on top of the cross-section, I a number of frames were built under the towers to fit perfectly into the bases of the watchtowers. This helps with both storage and set-up for the scene where the fort will be featured.

I then moved onto the buildings that sit within the fort. With one piece already made into the entrance I draw loosely where the other buildings will be sitting. So far one wall has been completed, with a gunnery, blacksmiths and hospital, each with a purpose built slot so they fit into place nicely and again can be stored away.

I think at this rate I can at at least do a wall a day in the studio, whilst being able to look at other things. I’ve decided next to take a closer look at the rock formation and reduce what I have, making a smaller 1 piece version. The larger pieces will be kept for close ups only. Just recently I’ve had to stop taking cardboard donations as I have more than enough material for the time. I need to take a few hours out to just sort it all out once more. It’s been good to get back in the studio and get stuck in with the work. These two pieces are very detailed, even if they are used for a few scenes, they still need to be made.

Anna and the King (1999) & The King and I (1956)

This double review comes purely out of curiosity. Originally I was drawn to just checking out The King and I (1956) however a chance to see Anna and the King (1999) also became available. I’ll be using this review to see how both time and genre can change the same basic plot. They’ll be a little bit of history involved as I begin to understand a classic of the musical genre and a more straightforward remake, that surprisingly has Jodie Foster in the lead. 

I think my approach to this review is completely wrong now. I felt during Anna and the King (1999) that was looking for the possible influences from The King and I (1956) which will always shadow over the later. Having only seen the odd clip in various programs and YouTube I can see some similarities, which I don’t think it would be fair to share until I catch the Musical.

Moving away from my initial regret I can see a matches the length of the original, not padded out with musical numbers written by Rodgers and Hammerstein we have a closer look at the relationship between English teacher Anna Leonowens (Jodie Foster) and the King of Siam King Mongkut of Siam (Yun-Fat Chow) who came on invitation to teach his dynasty of children and concubines, (a posh word for mistresses) English and the ways of the West. With an awareness of the Western world around him, with the British in Burma (Myanmar) and the French in Vietnam the developed world in imperial form was coming for them in the mid 1860’s.

Another major difference is the loss of the soundstage where the 1950’s musical would have been shot. Instead we are on location, which for me gives the film a firmer foundation in reality. You have less control over the locations, making even the possibility of breaking out into a musical number. We’re allowed to focus on the relationship between foreigner and king.

Moving away from the obvious differences it’s time to focus on the film itself. Told from the perspective of the oldest prince Prince Chowfa (Kay Siu Lim) whose looking back on the time when Anna came to visit, well her extended stay in his fathers employment. At first I thought it was the king himself, only to be cleverly revealed to be delivered as an extended diary entry. We first meet Leonowens as bereaved single mum traveling with her son Louis (a very young Tom Felton) who are eventually leaving the boat they arrived on with entourage in-tow as they make their way through the harbour in hopes of reaching the palace. So far we have a woman whose determined to make the most of her opportunity, a lone English woman with only son and servants for company. Bringing with her, the Western ideals that have brought her up.

Essentially it’s a culture clash of East meeting West and whose culture shall survive. Even at the King invitation he’s really unaware of the teachers influence on his family, not so much the country as a whole who are not really seen beyond being extra’s. All played with actors of Asian origin, bringing some extra authenticity. Updating what the original is plainly guilty of for one the leads, there’s no white washing or caricatures here. Instead the main cast are more rounded, admittedly the accent sounds a stereotyped, or am I just ignorant to the Taiwanese accent?

In the background we have the scent of war coming from the Burmese with villages being massacred, with the finger being pointed at the British. conveniently making things difficult for Anna who after getting off to a rough start in a sticky situation. Thankfully her unique approach has won his favour during her stay. It’s not quite feminine persuasion we are used to. It’s her will that doesn’t grind him down, it softens him to see her perspective that does cause trouble for him.

Just looking Anna and the King the expanded world of Siam with a war in the background, allows the film stand apart from the musical that focus on the teacher/king relationship. The war adds another dimension, the politics of the time to show how his position can easily be effected both emotionally and politically. With the classic culture clash running straight through it all. It’s not a stand out film for me, that makes me want to catch the original version to compare. The more serious and thoughtful tone is welcome for me placing it in a more real and historical setting. I’ll probably be bringing more thoughts to the review than just now.

It’s been almost a months since I watched the remake, admittedly in the wrong order. The Musical far less intense to absorb as a film. Being able to enjoy it as a classic Hollywood musical, without the heavy trappings of historical fact weighing it down. I did still however come to it, comparing it to the remake released 43 years later. Both are indeed visually sumptuous with close attention to the sets and the use of local designs to create a lost world of Eastern Asia. The original film follows the same basic structure from her arrival in Siam. The presence of the king is felt in the opening scene, when a boat’s sent to collect her from the port she has arrived in. There’s no sense of independence in her to make her own way with her servants through the town. Anna’s (Deborah Kerr) wanted in the palace far soon.

Her ability to make herself known to the king (Yul Brynner) shows she’s wasting no time, that even after the first number that demonstrates to the audience she’s as frightened as everyone else in the world. Her entrances to scenes are pretty much the same, her arrival from the side rear to a wide open stage to be greet the camera and her king who has requested her presence.

With the staging’s confined to the large expensive sets we lose the expansive wide open spaces of the court yards and location scenes that we find with Foster exploring the world around her more. Giving her time to see where she has come to, get to know the king beyond the role of monarch and father to his many children.

However one important element has remained here, the Tuptim (Rita Moreno) character was still given a sub-plot, still given as a gift to her king. When all she wanted was to be with her lover Kralahome (Martin Benson). The later version sees him give up and becoming a monk, enough for Tuptim escape her life of essentially being a sex-slave to her king. It’s her education with Leonowens, It’s the influence of a western education that opens her mind to follow her heart at any cost. Playing up the will of the heart, whilst her part on the staging of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which explores the ideas of slavery even under a Taiwanese translation the idea of emancipation is not lost on her.

I can’t ignore the racial stereotyping that is all over this film, more so with the passing of time. From the “etcetera” line being milked to death, a phrase that’s used to suggest more of the same is a novelty to the king who bouncing it around like a toy with every other line. Using it to create a sense of intelligence and the Westernisation that he longs for his country. His children and many mistresses/wives play up the ignorance of the culture as it’s portrayed, willing to learn, but falling back on the comfort of the myths that the King has constructed for them. The introduction of an improved map in the classroom’s mocked almost immediately, on learning that Taiwan is far smaller than they once believed it to be.

The whole sub-plot of Burma and the potential invasion of the British is brushed over in a few scenes. Presenting an image to visiting dignitaries and the ambassador he seems to soothe the whole issue completely. Whilst the theme of death’s treated with kid gloves, instead of a child dying, which is always more emotive, they go straight for the our King whose heart seems to give out after an argument with Anna from the previous scene. It’s his way of keeping her in the country long after his death. He may not be able to marry her out of her cultural refusal. It becomes an obligation to the future of the country to carry on her work. Whilst the new king lays out down the first laws to help modernise the country, which Leonowens has helped shape through her teachings. By the close of the film the country is slowly changing in her image, that of the West that has caused the industrial revolution.

It’s not too long before it will be creeping into this still very untouched nation that’s steeped in Buddhist tradition. It’s her stubbornness to not give in and conform that sees the country slowly change in her image. Foster’s Anna doesn’t stick around, instead she knows when to leave and move on with her life, it becomes just another chapter in her career, but that doesn’t make for the classic Hollywood ending that endures. One that last far longer than that of a ship sailing off into the horizon.




Cowboys Invaded – Update (3/2/19)

Once again things are going well with these two pieces. I only spent a few minutes on the cross-section as I began to properly assemble the lift, which will be suspended in the shaft. A few pieces of balsa cut to shape to begin shaping up the lift.

Moving onto the watchtowers of the fort. First turning my attention to the stations that sit above, I cladded more of the roofs, now only 1 remains bare at the top. I then moved onto the body of the towers, the three remaining to be cladded. I thought I would be stopped in my tracks making these up, thinking the cut of balsa I’m using would be exhausted first. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, allowing me to them move onto the entrance which has been made up, and framed with a space above for the sign to be added. I’m thinking of using matchsticks for this detailing.

I’ll be taking the next weekend off to reflect on what I’ve made and how to move forward. Most importantly I’ll be recharging the batteries, going in ready and wearing to continue my work. I know that after I’ve completed work on these two pieces I’ll be returning to the rock formation. The elements are taking up far too much room in the studio and needs to be addressed without impacting the look of the piece when I finally enter production. I will probably then make a smaller scale version of the formation that will be in one whole piece, complete with tepees that will sit inside

Cowboys Invaded – Update (2/2/19)

It’s been a day focusing on the Fort today, with a little time spent on the cross-section.

I began the day by making a start on a smaller scale lift that will be fitted inside the shaft of the cross-section. So far all I can do is make up two sides, taking my cue from the larger scale lift I shall pretty much follow the same course. The only difference being the detail that can be added to this version, which is limited.

Moving onto the larger much more detailed fort, which is slowly getting more cladding all round. The 4th tower now been cladded round the walls. I then moved onto the 3 already started last time, adding the cladding to the roofs. This time I had to consider the angle of each piece, where they meet in the corners. I thought this would be harder than it actually was really, but still a long process as I carved each piece into shape. With all 4 tops of the watchtowers having some level of attention I moved onto the bases of them. This is where my material starts to get eaten up, as I cut and carve longer pieces of balsa, so more will probably be ordered for my next weekend in the studio.

It’s shaping up pretty nicely, I’m thinking all sides of the towers so the gesture is continued. I’ll then work on the entrance using a different cut of balsa before moving onto the buildings set inside the fort.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (30/1/19)

I’ve enjoyed an unexpected day in the studio, so I took advantage of that and get out the balsa and start to flesh out the Fort.

I began the day by attending to the smaller details of the gold mine cross-section, bring together legs under the base of the tower, which should be fixed next time I’m in the studio. I then knew that I has to get another important detail into the cross-section, the boulders that sit above the entrance. So far I’ve used the remaining ones I made a few months ago. I maybe making another one next time to further mirror the view from the external entrance. It’s slowly coming together with all the little details that don’t require too much time.

That time is now being take up by the massive job which is the Fort. The watch-towers, a defining feature of the US forts found in the Western depict the watch-tower. I’m cladding out the towers and the bases at least. I don’t think I want to clad the whole structure, instead focus on emphasising details such as the entrance. The effect should also mask any joins that the piece has. The cladding has been carried out on the walls of the towers, 3 of the 4 have been completed so far. Once they are all done I’ll work on the roofs. Each piece of balsa have to be individually shaped, bring a unique look to each piece and tower. I’m enjoying the process, actually finding it rather calming as I have to focus on each piece before moving on. Then I’ll be moving onto what should be smaller fast pieces to complete the set.

It’s going really well with these two, I can see my work improving with the cross-section, maybe a future piece will be made at the 1.72 scale. I can work bigger at this scale and it pushes what I can make even further.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (27/1/19)

After post after post of mentioning this fort I have finally been able to make a sold on the piece today. Spurred on also by a massive donation of one of the sturdiest cardboard boxes that has formed the main body of the piece today.

I began the day by adding a little more detail to the gold mine cross-section that is racing to the finish line now. The buttresses at the front have now been added, bringing the detail to the main body complete. Whilst I made up the legs of the tower which will be later joining the platform that was made up last time.

Moving on from these little details to one of the pieces I have been waiting for months to make a start on, the Fort, where we will find the US cavalry – Fort Smith, which is already as vast improvement on the original piece I made for the previous animation. I now see the piece as very cumbersome and too big to work with. The new piece will again come in 4 parts again, but will be populated with buildings that will be fixed to at least one wall. This will also allow me to get into the piece. Today was all about getting things fleshed out, the basic shape, which is far smaller and sturdier. Using the strong box I was given last week, combined with the inserts I’ve been saving up for this piece.

One pieces were cut to the size, I had to work out just how to use these inserts. I originally thought about using them just as they are shaped in the boxes they are from, it turned out there were too small in height, so were opened up and fixed into place. Four more were then used for the watch-towers which are all sit on the right-hand side of the walls, which has in-turn extended the overall size. Staying with the towers I made a start on the houses that sit above, where the soldiers look out and defend the fort. Beginning with basic shapes which had to be accessible from either side – (I’ll be making ladders for each). I then added some balsa posts that allowed for 4 basic shapes to be created. I finished the day by making a start on the roofs, two of which are in place.

Once I have these in place I’ll be cladded them out. With this piece I want to attempt a log effect, which I’ll be experimenting with as the piece develops. Whilst the cross-section I’ll be dropping in on, I have only one extra detail to added, which are the boulders that sit above the entrance, hopefully I can use up the spare ones I made late last year, which just shows you shouldn’t throw anything away.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (26/1/19)

Things are slowly moving on and coming together. I’ve got the feeling that somethings really happening here in the studio now.

I began by removing the masking tape once more on the base to show that all the posts had been fixed. Allowing me to start on boxing up the piece before bringing both elements together.

Before doing that I adding more balsa detailing the tunnels, the rear posts under the beams have all now been fitted and waiting to fix now. One last stage and it will be complete down below. I then moved my attention to the bringing the two elements together, first by slowing boxing the base, partly to reduce the light coming in and to also add extra stability above. It took some time, as much as it appears top-heavy. I wanted to bring in the base without making too much work and draw attention away from the cross-sectional details.

Looking upwards – literally I made a start on the pieces that will be sitting there. The hut and tower with wheel that runs the lift (which I’ve still yet to make). I made the first of what I’ll be making a lot of for a future piece – the hut sits neatly under the cardboard slot that both holds the piece in place, but also allows it to be removed and gives extra stability too. I also made a slow start on the tower itself, with the platform which is currently covered in masking tape, another long job that will be completed in stages.

Looking forward I feel I will be making a start on the fort next time, the sketch is already fresh in the mind, something that will be made in sections, complete with it’s own pieces. I feel its the right time to make a start as I’ll be spending less and less time on the cross-section now.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (20/1/19)

I can now see the end is in sight for this piece currently under construction. After removing the masking tape from yesterday- the tense big reveal to discover everything is in place and holding well. I added the posts in positions that again best matched the larger version, bringing construction of this element hopefully to a close very soon. I only need to box it up and cover the sides. 

I then spent the remainder of the day working on the main structure, the cross-section itself, the brown paper soon covered the cardboard front which has now been transformed into a nice slice deep out of the ground. I thought this would take longer than expected. This allowed me to concentrate for the rest of the day on the balsa elements, the shaft was the first to get the treatment. I thought it would be best to work with the widest space first as I knew I could get a lot of that covered. Looking at it now, with all the masking tape, it’s complete in terms of the shaft.

Lastly I turned to the tunnels which I know are harder to work in, being far narrower I could only add the ceiling pieces for now. I’ll be returning to work in what I believe will be two stages, the back and front pieces that sit below. This will free me up to work on the details above ground, the entrance and mechanism and tower. It’s really coming along nicely and I can’t wait to see it finished, if only to see how this vision from sketch to reality has translated.