In the first few frames of the trailer for Yinuo Shao’s animation short 1x1x1, plants and three figures seem to appear out of an abyss. But at a closer look, a connection as subtle as our subconscious can be found. The London-based artist created the film for her MA graduation project at the Royal College of Art after realising that she had never made any work based on her thoughts or feelings. “I read Robert de Board’s Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure and was intrigued by the three ego states within us – parent, adult and child – and decided to use them as my main characters [for the project],” she tells us. “It eventually turned into a piece about the process from knowing yourself to accepting yourself.”
The parent, adult and child figures in 1x1x1 are as uncanny as they are familiar; they morph in and out of each other, houses and plants, and poke at a cactus until they bleed. The film portrays our childlike awe and curiosity, and communicates the journey from familial influence to personal autonomy. “I wanted to create a story of a protagonist gradually getting to know themself,” Yinuo says. And with a desire to make the process as immersive as possible, she employs the lauded House-Tree-Person Personality test – which measures different aspects of personality – both as a method for creating the film and a theme within it. By doing so, she toys with the psychological theory that, when we draw, we reflect ourselves onto everything – a house, other people and even a tree. “That’s why I initially drew all of my characters in my ‘intuitive sketchbook.’ As well as the characters, the sketches include the entire visual style and objects that I came up with subconsciously,” she adds.
Although working intuitively, Yinuo is still very aware of how the audience will receive the film’s concept. One aspect of the film that she was immediately sure about, was that the characters should have no gender. “I wanted to deter the audience from either identifying with or neglecting similarities between themselves and the characters, based on gender,” Yinuo says. The rough, monochrome, pencil-and-paint-on-paper-style of the animation has a similar effect of drawing us in. It speaks volumes to the process of getting to know yourself, the ripping up and starting again, the unfolding, emerging and submerging. “I created the visuals digitally, but I deliberately imitated the changing texture of paint on paper to emulate the theory of revealing yourself through drawing.”
On the whole, Yinuo has crafted her own world and is inviting us in. At the end of the film, the three characters merge in what she calls an “interdependent state of coexistence”. Having submitted the film to festivals throughout the past year, she reflects on her creation as one that’s brought her “great healing”. She adds, “And as it says in Counselling for Toads, ‘all three ego states are essential for a successful life.’”
GalleryYinuo Shao: 1x1x1 (Copyright © Yinuo Shao, 2022)
Yinuo Shao: 1x1x1 (Copyright © Yinuo Shao, 2022)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.