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Unboxed (ATOM Study Guide)

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In this powerful documentary series, filmmaker and trans rights advocate Sam Matthews sets out across Australia on a journey to meet other gender-diverse artists and share their stories, while challenging each of them to create a new piece of art based on the theme 'Unboxed'. Through their stories and their art, each artist shares the personal challenges they have encountered which have shaped them as individuals and as artists. While each story is as unique as any painting, poem or a song, along the way there are themes that recur: the love and support of friends and family, the challenging journey of self-discovery and self-expression, and, through it all, the sheer joy of art.

There is Bailee-Rose, who transforms the human body into expressions of beauty and individuality through dance and choreography. With her classical ballet and contemporary training, she challenges the traditional binaries and notions of beauty that exist not just in the world of dance, but society as a whole.

For physical theatre circus performer Beau, comedy has always been a way of sharing the many ups and downs of a gender diverse life with an audience. But witnessing a tragedy while working in a women's prison threw Beau's life out of balance. Now, Beau will create a different kind of artwork, one that links the past and the future in more ways than one.

Portrait artist Jacquie shares her love of art with the school students she teaches, but some of their parents struggle to see past her gender identity. Back in her studio she takes out her frustration on the canvas, but when she is done all that is left is beauty and art.

Graphic artist Bleck uses video, light and sound to challenge the subject of identity, not as defined by any one moment or label, but as the interplay of moments and identities that make up a whole life and a whole person.

Through the beauty of song, musician Teddy shares with friends and family the courage and heartache of what it means to live honestly. Unboxed is a touching series of portraits that explores the power of art to express the idea of the self: not captured in a box as the world tries to place it, but beautiful, unique and free.

Curriculum Links:

NB: Episode 2: Beau, Episode 3: Jacquie and Episode 4: Bleck of Unboxed are most suitable for students undertaking studies in Year 12 and in university or TAFE settings. Teachers in secondary schools should be aware that these episodes contain coarse language, nudity and mature themes.

Episode 1: Bailee-rose, Episode 5: Teddy and Episode 6: Stephanie are suitable for students in Years 10–12 and for students in university or TAFE settings.

It is strongly advised that teachers view the series and the related Unboxed artworks before sharing with students.

General understandings addressed in the film

  • Gender diversity
  • The space where gender diversity meets art
  • Challenges faced by gender diverse artists
  • Identity
  • Self-discovery and self-expression

Summary of links to the Australian Curriculum Learning areas: Episodes 2, 3 and 4

  • Year 12 Media
  • Year 12 Drama
  • Year 12 Dance
  • Year 12 Art/Studio Art
  • Year 12 Health and Physical Education Episodes 1, 5 and 6
  • Years 10–12 Media
  • Years 10–12 Dance
  • Years 10–12 Music
  • Years 10–12 Art/ Studio Art
  • Years 10-12 English
  • Years 10–12 Health and Physical Education

Learning outcomes and content descriptors have not yet been developed for Arts subjects in the Australian curriculum; however, the ideas explored in the series could be linked to the key knowledge and skills in Senior Art, Drama, Dance, Health and Physical Education, and Media studies throughout Australia. Students could use the films as stimulus for the creation of artwork, for the purpose of analysis and to reflect on the issues presented. There is a website component to the Unboxed series at http://www.unboxedgallery, which enables anyone to submit artworks meeting the themes of 'Unboxed' or 'identity'. Students could be encouraged to upload their artwork to this website, to engage in the community aspect of the Unboxed project.

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