Protest, power and mental health explored through film by young artist Ciara

Ciara took part in our City as Studio online film-making residency in February 2021. In this post she shares her experience of the collaborative workshops, how her ideas developed across the week as she explored new skills, and what it means to be a ‘Citizen of the Universe’.

Words, images and film by Ciara

The Universe: home to hundreds of trillions of galaxies, stars and planets; all millions of light years apart. Yet somehow, somewhere, we all fit into this together, as Citizens of the Universe. We share this Universe with each other, so with that comes the responsibility to accept, love and respect everybody within it. Ruth Asawa explores this with her art, reflecting on her own life and experience, promoting the idea that social change is important and that art is a tool to help achieve this.

Throughout the week long residency that I took part in this February, we explored what it means to be a Citizen of the Universe and how art can be created in response to this, in particular through film.

A collage of newspaper headlines and articles cut out and arranged next to each other on a black surface. The words 'normal?' 'agenda' 'action' 'crisis' 'sign petitions, support protests and attend action meetings' are highlighted in green pink and yellow.

The residency began with a workshop exploring ‘The Language of Film’ in which we looked through newspaper articles, highlighting key words and phrases that represented themes that were important to us as individuals. I looked at mental health and lockdown as it is a relevant issue, concerning many.

Photo of a newspaper article which has been covered in drawings of protest billboards drawn in black marker pen.

In response to this I created a short film aiming to highlight the stress and anxiety that plagues people and how it affects daily life. I used my pistol grip, that I created using clay, to film the shots and experimented with many different camera angles. This workshop helped to explore my ideas and emotions and create a response that was personal.

On Tuesday, I developed my film making skills further, experimenting with stop go animation. I continued to look at media and newspaper articles, this time focusing on protest and the silencing of voices. I thought that this workshop paired with our collaborative discussion, was especially important as it helped me to look at things from other people’s perspectives, which is a crucial stage of ensuring that we are accepting, loving and respectful Citizens of the Universe. I also made another short film in response this, drawing upon the skills I had learnt in my previous films.

We were also given the opportunity to discover more about Modern Art Oxford and the amazing artists that they showcase in their exhibitions. I looked at a virtual tour of Mariana Castillo Deball’s exhibition: Between making and knowing something. This exhibition related to the key discussion points of the residency so far, such as the media, representation and the use of art as a form of expression.

Screenshot of the online virtual tour of Mariana Castillo Deball's exhibition at Modern Art Oxford called Between making and knowing something. Large swathes of woven fabric hang from the ceiling in the Upper Gallery of Modern Art Oxford. There are small coloured tags across the virtual space. One of them is open and reads 'Curator's Notes: Mariana Castillo Deball’s exhibition acknowledges how stories are performed and retained in museums, and makes visible lesser known practitioners and makers, whose histories have remained too long obscured."

The virtual tour of the exhibition space provided online, gave me the opportunity to read all the curator’s notes and additional videos attached. Then, we were given the opportunity to learn more about what the creative industry has to offer by meeting some of the Modern Art Oxford team. This was very insightful and I was an experience that helped me to think about my future within the arts community.

On Thursday we were given the chance to learn more about sound collage with the sound artist Poppy Tibbets. We learnt about the history of sound collage and ultimately created our own collaborative response. This was something completely new to me but I loved how expressive and free it was.

As the week drew to an end we reflected on our progress and created one final collaborative response as to what it means to be a Citizen of the Universe. We each developed our own unique concept based off of  our own individual experience and then performed these on our zoom call simultaneously. Everybody’s ideas were incredibly creative and abstract and in my opinion this represents how despite our different art styles and experiences we can all come together to produce something beautiful. Our differences make us unique and that in itself is art.

This week has helped me to not only learn film making skills but also develop leadership skills. I have gained the confidence to share and receive feedback on my work and developed the importance of understanding other people’s ideas and perspectives. I met so many creative, kind and talented people from across the country.

A hand holds up a placard which reads 'we are as strong as we are united; weak as we are divided'

Find out more about City as Studio, here.

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