short in spotlight
The Last Chimera
The Last Chimera is an experimental animation that chronicles how my engagement with fantasy-based media coloured my perception of my surroundings during the pandemic, and my eventual realization of the need to reengage more directly with reality. When the sudden impact of the pandemic left me unmotivated to make art, I sought comfort through nostalgia. This eventually led me back to Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPG), a preferred genre of videogames from my childhood. I was immediately enthralled by many of the common themes and tropes from JRPG’s. I could see how they shaped my worldview as a teenager, and how much of their ethics I still believe in today. As restrictions relaxed and I began to feel more comfortable with expanding my surroundings. The one thing that was immediately apparent was the growing divide between economic classes. Countless homes were undergoing luxury expansions, as the neighbouring parks began to fill with tents. I immediately began to draw parallels back to the JRPG’s fantasy worlds. It was easy to start building a narrative. There were altruistic heroes banding together for the greater good, and villains set at stopping them without reason. I would spend my mornings doomscrolling through news stories and social media posts to continue developing the narrative. I eventually found myself reengaged with my art practice. I began constructing my own virtual environments and populating them with fictionalized characters that reflected my interpretations. It wasn’t till I was very deep in this process that an event awakened me. The level of violence used to evict the encampments was deeply unsettling and shocked me back to reality. The ineffectiveness of armchair activism was clear, and I was left to confront the limitations of my introverted nature.
This realization eventually forced me to re-evaluate my use of fiction to create positive change. While there are many examples of media effectively breaking down complex ethics into more digestible narratives, I had to question whether this same approach remained effective for adults who are more inherently immutable. While I believe it is human nature to help one another, I had to consider if creating or engaging with fictional narratives helps satiate this need and helps prevent us from creating real change. With these questions in mind, I decided to take a new approach with the ending. While I wanted the initial intention of the work to show through the first four acts, I chose to abandon the original final act that would have mirrored the fantasy narratives it drew inspiration from. In its place, I animated a more confrontational finale that asks the viewer to look inward, and step forward with me after its conclusion.
Due to transformation of The Last Chimera’s concept during its production, I initially struggled to capture the dichotomy between fantasy and reality needed for the final work. I eventually found inspiration in how JRPG’s conveyed complex ideas through limited text and graphics. While replaying through the games, I came to respect how interpretable the final works remained. The graphics were often composed of low-resolution sprites or very simple polygons. These graphics forced the player to use their imagination as well as their experiences to paint a more vivid picture of the game world. While I imagined that the use of text wouldn’t have been as constrained, I came to understand many of the obstacles the translators had to overcome. As the games were developed in Japan, they used Kanji which allowed them to convey their messages in far fewer characters. In many of these games, the character count could not be increased due to limited memory space. This limitation led to the English translations to be less rigid and intentional as their Japanese counterparts. While many fans look at these original translations as inferior, I really enjoyed how abstract they remain in comparison. With this mindset, I wrote the work’s existential narration. The result is a patchwork of voices that better captures the conflict in my process while remaining more open to interpretation. The final element I wanted to capture in the visuals and text was the contrast in messaging in reference to housing insecurity I frequently encountered. While it was easy to satirize the condo development's billboards, I also wanted to capture the frequent cries for change present on social media. I used hundreds of these messages to create the graffiti that lines the lower walls throughout the animation. While they are numerous, they obscure each other as a result and remain overshadowed by the slogans above. Both messages remain omnipresent throughout the animation, reminding the viewer of the disconnect between those with power and those without.