IMG 4026Necesitando al Otro (Needing the Other) is a three-channel video installation exploring the health, nutrition, and spirit of the Mexican Migrant, as well as the effects of mass migration on los que se quedan (those who remain). This project premiered at the 2017 CUNY Film Festival at Macaulay Honor College, April 28-30 (as seen to the right).

 

Necesitando Al Otro pamphlet DRAFT01The installation employs components visible to the audience (three LCD screens or similar display devices), and components that are hidden or obscured from view: a computer terminal running the installation and a simple web camera to detect movement and presence.

The video content of this installation is part of a larger documentary film project entitled ¡Salud! Myths and Realities of Mexican Immigrant Health. This project is focused primarily on the healthcare and health disparities of Mexican immigrants in the United States, the ‘Latino health paradox’, and the social contexts of health, mental illness, and reproductive health.

In the Winter of 2015, Lehman College Profs. Alyshia Gálvez and David Schwittek sought to complement their research into social determinants of health and migrant communities in the New York area, with an investigation of the social contexts in migrant communities of origin in Mexico. Building on a proposed pilot collaboration with a university in Puebla, Mexico, they garnered enough support to run a Winter session study abroad course there. Fourteen students enrolled, from four different CUNY campuses, including 5 students of Mexican origin who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (an executive order that enables undocumented students to participate in study-related international travel upon successfully soliciting a State Department permission called Advanced Parole). Funding for the program was raised from Lehman College, Anahuac University of Puebla, the Migrant Affairs Office of the State of Puebla, Aeromexico, and private donors. During this ten-day research and production trip, Gálvez and Schwittek and their students traveled to rural migrant-sending villages like San Antonio Texcala, Tulcingo, and Chinantla, as well as highly developed, urban areas like Ciudad de Puebla and Cholula.

 

Installation Description

This installation – and its interactivity – can best be described in three states: inactive, partial, and active.

Inactive

proposal diagrams inactiveThe installation detects the relative presence of viewers and, when it detects an absence of any viewers in the vicinity, it enters the inactive state. In this state, as if to suggest the increasing denial of the migrant’s position and struggles in our society, the three channels enter a state of data corruption that escalates with the duration of inactivity.

Partial

proposal diagrams   partialWhen the installation detects a partial presence (e.g. one or two people relatively nearby, though not front and center), it enters the partial state. In this state, the corruption of the three video channels becomes increasingly more subtle, and the viewing therefore less challenging.

 

Active

proposal diagrams active copy

As the audience increases in number and enters the front and center area of the installation space, the installation enters the active state, wherein data corruption of the three channels is nearly unnoticeable. This interplay of obscurity  and visibility is designed to interrogate the Western Hemisphere’s relative indifference to the struggles of the Mexican migrant, and that an active interest in – and attention to – the struggles can lead to a clearer understanding of our shared humanity.

 

Objectives

  • Present at interactive film festivals such as Tribeca Interactive and the CUNY Film Festival.
  • Mimic my own process of coming to understand the Mexicans, Mexican migrants, and Mexican-Americans: from ignorance, to increasing interest, and finally to respect, empathy, and a persistent desire to incorporate aspects of their culture into my own.
  • Obscure glimpses into the life of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans until full attention is given.
  • Present sequences from the ¡Salud! Myths and Realities of Mexican Immigrant Health documentary in a non-traditional way.
  • Give students the opportunity to understand central components of User Interface and User Experience design, as well as installation art.

poster_frame.jpg

So it had been a few years since I did any work for The Bronx Children’s Museum. Set to (finally) open in late 2019, Executive Director Carla Precht wanted something different for their yearly video project – something more energetic and lively.

 

Creative Brief

Develop and produce a broadcast package for a five-minute promotional video that explains the overall story of the Bronx Children's Museum as told through the children who will be served by it. This package will include 1.)an intro animation, 2.)interstitial animations, 3.)transitions, and 4.)an outro video clip.

 

Research Phase

To change up the BCM's media direction, Carla turned to animation as the answer, and provided me with this short clip, a promotional animation for Spotify US:

Designed, directed and produced by POTEMKIN in cooperation with Carl Waldekrantz and Kaj Drobin from Identity Works.
Music by Tobias Norberg.
Illustrations by Johan Eliasson and Victoria Brolin Berg.

Around the same time, I began researching the visual style I was looking for, finding three items in particular that inspired me:

 

Ideation

Carla and I discussed some creative ideas, structure, and the overall messaging of the spots. Carla provided some initial ideas, like kids playing tug of war, flying, drumming, etc. With this in mind, I also came up with some ideas. At the end of our ideation phase, the following visual images remained:

  • Kids forming a pyramid
  • Kid flying like superman, through scenes
  • Kid holding up a heavy weight
  • Kids playing tug-o-war

 

Script Development

With these visual cues in hand, I wrote up a brief narrative treatment:

This animation piece would start with kids searching, with their hands over their eyes to block the sun, looking left and right. Then they would look up and point, as if someone were flying overhead. This would cut to a superman-like kid flying through the sky. The ‘superkid' looks down at crowd and waves at the kids below.

The superkid would come at the screen from several angles, each time wiping to a new scene. Superkid holds up a heavy weight. Kids play tug of war, with the losing side bringing in another scene. Kids form a pyramid, which superkid can hold up in her hand.

And from this I developed a script, which would appear as text on screen:

We went searching for a children’s museum In the Bronx… Guess what?!
We couldn’t find one anywhere… So we decided to make our own!
To strengthen our community, To inspire and engage children, And most of all, to have fun!
When we connect our community with our programming …We’re stronger!
Together... we have built the one and only children’s museum in the Bronx.

The BCM: community, education, fun for every child of the Bronx ... and beyond!

 

Storyboard Development

As with any storyboard, one should always begin with low-stakes sketches, or thumbnails. Below is the set of thumbnail sketches I created from the above script:
2019 bcm thumbs 002019 bcm storyboards 01
From these I was able to create some initial, more refined storyboards (in Illustrator).



At the start, I was trying to keep the color palette and overall style more on brand with the BCM. They have a specific branding strategy that is typified by their logo.

BCM logo.png

 

Style Development

Looking at the storyboards above, and considering their overall look and feel, I wasn’t really happy with how tey presented. The colors felt garish and messy, and the whole thing seemed a little unprofessional, even when keeping in mind that it was supposed to look a little jejune. That’s when I tried to implement one of the styles I found during my research.

But defore implementing these looks, I just wanted to get a look at how such a style would present, so I created what is normally called a 'styleframe,' essentially a low-stakes, though fully fleshed out composition that communicates the visual style of an animated piece:

BCM_styleframe.jpg
Mostly happy with it, and after sending it off to Carla (who didn’t raise an objection), I set about to begin creating assets and animating them.

 

Assets

I wanted to insert images of actual kids associated with the BCM into this piece, so Carla coordinated, and I thereupon directed a photo shoot right next door to the Museum building space with photographer Joe Martin and a whole bunch of adorable children. Below are some images from the shoot…fun!

 

Animation Design

From an animation perspective, there were a few complicated things happening in this project – nested clips, 3D cameras panning and tracking over large compositions, depth of field changes, waving capes, etc. – so I spent about an hour just sketching out how the compositions were going to be structured and arranged, and how the camera and different assets were going to move. Below are sketches of how I wanted the movement designed:



For example, I wanted a kind of carousel animation that rotated different ‘Superkid’ poses around in a single scene. Lacking character animation, this was a creative way to change character poses in one scene. The process of creating this animation in After Effects involved a.)creating a rotating null object, parenting three character layers evenly around this null, and then c.)rotating each character layer 120 degrees in the opposite direction as the null to ensure they always faced the camera. But in order to design this movement, I needed to sketch it out:

carosel_sketch.jpg

Here is an example of what this looks like when implemented in AFX:

 

Initial Draft Animation

I finished the above first draft of the animation in about 3-4 days,. The client was neither jubilant nor confused, but provided the following feedback:

"I like it- we will need to brand it of course with our colors and type and the music is not right but I like it.”

This is good feedback for an initial draft, but, as it turned out, Carla hated the color pink and did not think it was right for the BCM…not at all. The final product must be in line with BCM’s branding. Therefore, I went back to the original storyboards and tried to create a synthesis between the two.

 

Final Delivery

After a few weeks of reworking animations and completing punchless of changes, I completed the entire broadcast package. In addition to the Intro video outlined above, I created a few other pieces for the package, as specified in the creative brief above. These interstitials and transitions will be used by the videographer to put together a well-paced and exciting video. See below for the final pieces:

Intro

 

Tug-of-War (to the left) transition

 

Tug-of-War (to the right) transition 

 

Bus Wipe Transition

 

Human Pyramid Interstitial

 

Superkid transition

 

Superkid transition

 

Superkid Wipe Transition

 

Outro

Unidos Y Adelante

21 Trucks of San Antonio Texcala is a fiber-based, graphic design series exploring the importance of trucks and other vehicles to the people of rural Mexico and Mexican migrants in the US. 

Through depictions of trucks, towns, and people, this series explores the roles of trucks and the paquetero (individuals who transport goods across the border) in these rural communities. This project is inspired by folk-art traditions of amate bark painting and quilting found in Mexico, Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series (1940-41) and the Quilts of Gee’s Bend in the US.

chayote en la fronteraThis series consists of ten to fifteen distinct pieces varying in size from as small as 30 by 40 inches, to as large as 6 by 8 feet.  The various media used in these pieces includes, but is not limited to, canvas, commercial textiles, fiber, buttons, die-cut cloth and foam, photograms, brass, acrylic, and found objects.  These compositions explore individual trucks, groups of trucks, individuals involved in the use and transport of trucks, as well as individuals who depend on the goods transported by these trucks.   

 

Moises Fuentes (2018)\

 

21 Trucks... is inspired by a documentary film I am producing with Prof. Alyshia Gálvez entitled ¡Salud! Myths and Realities of Mexican Immigrant Health, which explores the healthcare and health disparities of Mexican immigrants in the United States and the ‘Latino health paradox.’  Building on a proposed pilot collaboration with a university in Puebla, Mexico, we ran a Winter session study abroad course in Puebla, Mexico.  During this ten-day research and production trip, Prof. Gálvez, myself, and our students travelled to rural migrant-sending villages like San Antonio Texcala, Tulcingo, and Chinantla, as well as highly developed, urban areas like Ciudad de Puebla and Cholula. See the video below for a work-in-progress glimpse of this developing documentary:

 

 

These regions have sent large numbers of migrants to the New York tri-state area and the migratory flows have produced deep connections in which migrants and their families work to pursue their goals for economic, social and professional mobility in spite of barriers which prevent most of them from migrating with authorization, working legally or circulating freely across borders. Paqueteros, possessing visas allowing them to circulate freely and transport goods in both directions, playing a key role in connecting people divided by borders.  

 

El Fusilero y Alebrije (2018)

 

Because current immigration law does not allow most working class migrants to circulate freely, their efforts to maintain foodways, traditional health practices and family ties are challenged. Despite this, people continue to seek ways to pursue health and well being, including consuming foods and remedies from their home communities. Falsely associated with epidemics and health risks, many people in the US are unaware of the many practices people engage in to sustain health in spite of socioeconomic disadvantage.  Moreover, these connections have direct and well-documented links to the health and wellness of these migrant communities. Given the current administration’s hostility to immigrant communities, these connections are even more under threat than in previous years. 

 

truck 15   milpa
Milpa (2019)

 

It was in these rural towns of Tulcingo, Chinantla, and specifically San Antonio Texcala (SAT), that I saw how pivotal trucks were in the lives of the residents. Fruit and vegetables, maize, construction materials, rocks, minerals, and even people are loaded onto trucks in these towns for transport. In addition, trucks in various states of disrepair are scattered about SAT, waiting for repair, mirroring many of the unfinished houses – half built, the owners of these houses wait for additional remittances from the US to complete work.   

7While in SAT, I met Moises Fuentes, who owns a thriving business selling carved pieces of decorative onyx from the local mine. Moises is also a paquetero, regularly journeying to and from Mexico to bring back goods and remittances to the families of migrants in the US, providing a unique and vital cultural link that otherwise would not exist. Every month he travels to the South Bronx from SAT to bring letters, gifts, and goods from residents of SAT to their relatives in the US.  

Upon returning, Moises will often transport items back to Mexico that are too difficult or expensive to purchase in country, such as televisions, bicycles, and microwaves. He and his wife will often drive back an additional truck, as these are also expensive to buy in Mexico.  Moises has had to learn how to circulate on some of the riskiest highways in North America, even while many fellow paqueteros have experienced violence.

 

Luchadores Fantasmales (2018)

 

To celebrate this multi-location, cultural support system, 21 Trucks depicts the trucks, towns, and people, exploring the roles of trucks and the paqueteros in these rural communities.  

This is the pitch video for the ¡Salud! Myths and Reality of Mexican Immigrant Health documentary that I am currently researching and developing with my students. This film is the product of my honors seminar course at Lehman College CUNY exploring the so-called 'Latino Health Paradox' – the better than expected health outcomes of recent Latino immigrants to the US. We want to create a broadcast two-hour documentary to explain this paradox through the lens of recent Mexican immigrants in NYC.

This pitch video will be used to help crowdfund the documentary.

Directed by: David Schwittek and Alyshia Galvez

Cast: 
Cesar Andrade
Bright Assan
Victor Borja Armas
Shabel Castro
Dhensel Dorji
Jason Laguna
Percy Lujan
Vladimir Merkulyev-Arias
Christina Santiago
Guilherme Silva
Emily Szlachta
Cindy Vargas

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