Aftermath. 2012. Cut Paper Animation.
After a sobering trip to Pripyat, Ukraine and a semester spent researching the dangerously rapid growth of nuclear powers in the world, I created Aftermath, a piece addressing the erasure of human existence with a seemingly innocuous panning papercut animation. When I visited Pripyat, the site of the Chernobyl accident that irradiated swaths of the world as wide as western Europe and even Canada, I was stunned by the sight of a land completely reclaimed by nature. The wide boulevard which had once spanned through the city center had become a web of ferns and moss and barely-visible blacktop, while the sidewalk was lost in the shadow of the decorative trees that had once been interspersed along it. It was in one sense devastated, but in another sense beautiful.
With layers moving at different rates, the steady progression through a landscape represents the onward march of time. From city to countryside, the animation reveals a familiar and bustling world; stop motion cars pass in the foreground as tall buildings and bus stops give way to colorful houses and manicured lawns. Amidst this vibrant setting, occasional cutaways reveal a building tension in this outwardly benign universe. As the animation rolls forth, it passes from the familiar to a mirror image world wracked by the aftermath of abuses on the environment. Houses sit collapsed and decayed, while forests reclaim suburbia and plantlife fills the city skyline.
Aftermath contrasts the growing problems of our consumptive world with colorful cut paper illustrations that are at once childlike in their simplicity and mature as a cautionary tale. Laid out like a rolling storybook, as the timeline continues, cars grow bulkier and streets more congested. A soundtrack begins with soft acoustics and grows more frantic and synthesized as the infrastructure explodes beyond capacity. The unseen society portrayed in this project shields its eyes to the growing environmental concerns, as they speed towards their own destruction. An intentionally vague but disastrous Event ends this reign of anti-environmental tyranny; though at first the world lies in waste, flora begins to reclaim the earth as it begins anew.