17 September 2014

The Rat King

I spent last week working in Toronto at Oasis Skateboard Factory through the Ontario Arts Council's Artist in Education program. OSF is an amazing alternative school where students earn high school credits by creating their own brand and running a skateboard business / professional design studio. If such a magical place had existed when I was a teenager, I may have graduated high school, too!

I've worked with teachers Lauren Hortie and Craig Morrison before, and they are incredible artists in their own right. Lauren came up with the idea of using a "Rat King" as a theme for the video. Do you know what a rat king is? I didn't either... and if you have a rat phobia, you may want to skip reading this next part. Sometimes - and this is a true thing! - a bunch of rats can get their tails inseparably tangled together, forming in essence a creepy super-rat. Do a google image search if you dare!

Lauren introduces the Rat King theme
Our project for the week was to make a shadow puppetry promo video introducing the 2014 OSF crew. So naturally, each of the students started by making a rat with their name on it. Rats often have a negative association (like teenagers, perhaps...?) but they are also intelligent and highly resilient (teens are, too!). The work these students produced was really impressive.

The second item they had to create was a paper-cut portrait of themselves, and lastly, they were to create a puppet image to represent themselves.

We layered these images together using an overhead projector, creating a moving collage for each student. In addition, we interwove a weird little narrative featuring a character we called Gargantua.

Shooting the final scene with a couple of students
I think it turned out pretty great! I've definitely never done a shadow puppetry project with quite this tone before, but if you want to engage students you've got to match the project to their skills and interests, and I think we succeeded in doing that here. Check out the video below!

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