Unravel
Jan 17, 2017

Participants work on strips of film with Maria Anastassiou

Participants work on strips of film with Maria Anastassiou from Unravel, December 2016. Photograph by Filip Wolak

In December, Education invited the artist collective Unravel to participate in a week-long residency in conjunction with the exhibition Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art 1905-2016. Unravel is a film project led by UK-based artists Maria Anastassiou, Chris Paul Daniels, Jo Byrne, and Kelvin Brown. Since 2010, the Unravel team has worked in different communities throughout the UK (and now in New York!) to lead art-making workshops that explore the tactile and experimental qualities of 16mm film. 

Participants in an Unravel workshop

Participants in an Unravel workshop, December 2016. Photograph by Filip Wolak

Over the course of their residency, Unravel worked with families, teens, schools, and community groups to create a collaborative film inspired by the colors, patterns, shapes, and animated movements in the Dreamlands exhibition. Exploring the work of Jenny Perlin, Oskar Fischinger, and Stan VanDerBeek among others, Unravel and participants made connections between the exhibition and the process of drawing on 16mm film frame-by-frame.

Heather Maxson, Director of School, Youth & Family Programs, remarked: “The Unravel workshops were amazing because they really helped audiences experience the tactile qualities of film. So many different people—community members at The Door and SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), eighth graders from LAB middle school, New York City teens, and neighborhood families—were able to see their own work projected at the Museum. The projects really helped generate new understandings and insights into the Dreamlands exhibition.”

A participant fills in a section of 16mm film

A participant fills in a section of 16mm film, December 2016. Photograph by Filip Wolak

During the workshops, people filled their film strips with vivid abstractions by using stickers, sharpies, etching tools, leaves, and pens. The completed lengths of film were then spliced together and projected on a big screen by the Unravel team. 

Splicing film with Maria Anastassi from Unravel on Teen Night

Participants splice film with Maria Anastassi from Unravel on Teen Night, December 2016. Photograph by Filip Wolak

In addition to drawing and scratching on the film strips, teens and families were able to try their hand at splicing and feeding the film through the old-fashioned Eiki RT-0 projector.

Unravel workshop from above

During the week, the Unravel team conducted interviews with program participants who were invited to share their stories and respond to questions about belonging, change, and hopes for the future. Unravel recorded the various responses and wove them together, creating a soundtrack that reflects this moment in New York City. The soundtrack was paired with the footage to create a dynamic document of the project. 

Family works on a strip of film during Family Day

Madison Zalopany, Coordinator of Community & Access Programs commented: “The project encouraged individual creativity and collective experimentation. Participants were uninhibited with their exploration of materials, shapes, lines, and colors, and ended up with a collective film that was beautiful and gratifying. Three community groups participated in the filmmaking workshops, and even though they were different ages and from diverse backgrounds, there was a shared excitement for the process and the finished work.”

Participants watch their work on the big screen

On Saturday, December 10 during Family Day, Unravel screened the compiled film with all the marks and voices of the Whitney community.

By Anna Kay, Assistant to Family Programs