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Today we started the two day project with Umberto. 


At first I was slightly hesitant about creating a leporello book with four scenes as I felt the content of my subject couldn't be represented in that small a time frame. I thought for a while about what I could make the story, and settled on a representation of a Kazimir's retelling of the massacres in Paneraia. This was a massive struggle as I found it really difficult to illustrate such a difficult subject matter. At first, I started with the motif of crows, as in his story he recounts how the ravens would disperse at the sound of gunshots. I thought about whether there was a way that i could take the motifs of a forest, the massacre, and the ravens, and distill them down into something that was concise and had a clear narrative.


When I got home, I experimented with many different ways of telling the story. Much of my project is about the hidden history of spaces and places throughout the world, and my first idea was to try and illustrate the spaces between the trees in the forest morphing into the shapes of people - the murdered Poles. I found this really hard, as I couldn't find a way to illustrate it without it being too gruesome, even though that was literally what it was about. Also, I thought that my work would never represent the amount of human suffering that had taken place in that forest, and that there was almost no point in me trying, it almost felt offensive. So, I decided to go with the more abstract idea, of the trees in the forest actually being made of crows themselves, and the final storyboard showing them dispersing due to a gunshot. In this way, the notion that something awful had happened was implicit instead of obvious. I also thought about making this into an actual publication, or an animation. If it were the former, I could put the actual words from Kazmir's story on the final page, to show tribute firstly to the lives of the massacred people, and secondly to Kazmir himself. 


Sadly I was unable to attend the actual printing in Umberto's class the next day, but I plan to further develop these thoughts and create something complete in the next few days. 


One thing that I pondered during the formation of the storyboard, was the difference between my subject matter, and everyone else's. Hardly anyone in my class has tried to tackle something as horrendous as what I'm trying to. This has positives and negatives. In a way, I'm jealous of the lighthearted nature other students are ensuring in their work. However, there's nothing to say I can't create something comic further down the line.


I think the fact I went to Berlin for the commune meant that it was nearly impossible for me to get away from the history of the place. As I've said before, it's as if you can feel the past in the air - it's unavoidable - and in this way I knew it was going to clearly affect my work. I knew the stories I read were going to form the basis of my research, and it's hard to create something lighthearted from a place rooted in such devastation.


However, I do think sometimes the reason why I'm so stumped is because of the subject matter, it's hard to be prolific, when the topic is so sensitive. You really have to plan what you can say and do in a project like this. I think I'm really challenging myself, pushing myself to finally create work about things I've previously been too scared to even consider. For me, and probably other young designers too, this can be said for a lot of topics.


For example, I know I want to make a project about mental health, in particular the battle against depression that myself and so many others have, and continue to go through. But, like the massacres in Paneraia and Hitler's bunker, these subjects are still unavoidably taboo. This is no excuse though, which again is why I'm pushing hard in this final project to create work that I'm proud of, and means something to me.


In the past, it's been easy for me to create something that has little substance, but a polished outcome. For unit 7, as it's so self directed, I want to turn the table completely. Especially because it's so much longer, I want to focus more on making mistakes, forming ideas and exploring materials. I want to delve into my subject matter, so I'm halfway through a book on the Cold War, I'm watching documentaries and finding diary entries. This, for me, is so important and I'm so happy I'm finally doing it, instead of half arsing a meaning after polishing a final product. 


I also think working like this is helping me discover who I actually am as a designer, and what I want to achieve in my work.

© Molly Wilhelmina Johnson, all rights reserved