Tuesday, August 18, 2009

San Jose History in Animation Workshop

Ever since I read about an archeological excavation of the walled Chinatown of Heinlenville in Japantown, San Jose, I have been brewing ideas on how to explore the amazing rich history of this area in art. At first I conceptualized a dance piece in which I would create the sets from fragments simulation excavation artifacts, but then over the past month or so I have been thinking more along the lines of animation. I teach simple stop motion animation in elementary schools and conducted a few workshops this summer. I now visualize creating a lesson plan that invites the student to look at archeological artifacts and bring them to life through the stories of people who lived in and have memories of Heinlenville and Nihonmachi.

I envision the children creating their animated stories with clay and drawings. Above: I created a rough animated sketch of a bowl fragment becoming a bowl from which strawberry emerge from the porcelain pattern and Chinese workers grow out of the double happiness symbol. Many of the Chinese who came to San Jose worked in the Strawberry fields.

Above: sample shoe box with frame and pottery inside. I envision groups of children creating a shoebox diorama in which the archeological artifacts emerge from the fragments and transform to tell an intimate personal story of past lives in Heinlenville and early Japantown.

It would be fantastic to use actual fragments from the dig as reference images for such transformation sequences. And, of course, there would be music as well as narration which would give more information on the history. I can see a half dozen artifact come to life somehow and offer a small intimate detail of life in Heinlenville or Japantown, little stories that give a taste of life in these communities.

Above is a super rough storyboard I created inspired by a quote I read on a bench in Nihonmachi, San Jose. Narration is by my nine year old son. There are benches throughout San Jose's Japantown etched with quotes from individuals relating stories of the old communities. This quote caught my eye as it talked about children watching a man making noodles by jumping up and down on a pole. I just couldn't visualize this process so I researched it. How do you jump up and down on a bamboo pole? I found this amazing video on bamboo noodle making. It shows how it is done, it takes hours to do and it is both a beautiful and brutal process.

Below: bench in front of the Ken Ying Low building in San Jose's Japantown.

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