Artist explores social, political issues

Rosa Fallon
Arts & Features Staff Writer
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Through his dynamic and thought-provoking artwork, senior New Media and German double major Dylan Forest Gamble employs a surrealistic style to communicate messages about political propaganda and related social issues.
“I like to incorporate a lot of social ideas in my work because I feel that it makes it more important, more legitimate,” Gamble said.

Otto von Luft, the Accorditomaton, a 3D animation.

Gamble focuses on ideological principles and the ever-changing perceptions of truth within society and originally took an interest in filmmaking and animation during his last years of high school. During the summer after his junior year, Gamble attended a pre-college intensive animation program at the Rhode Island School of Design where he honed his true passion for filmmaking and animation.  
“I always liked video editing and animation and in my junior and senior year of high school, I really got into art,” Gamble said. “I really like cartoons and I like animated movies. I like film in general.”
Not only is Gamble interested in film, but he also took a strong interest in learning German. For him, learning another language is an additional skill that complements his art.
“Knowing a European language kind of opens yourself up to a broader job market for the animation and film industry because there are a lot of jobs in Europe that people don’t know about but you could get if you knew the language,” Gamble said.  
Gamble’s collective interest in filmmaking, social issues and German led him to develop his own distinct style. An example of his work, a creation called Otto von Luft, the Accorditomaton, is a fictional East German cartoon character who will be featured in his upcoming mockumentary Tal der Ahnungslosen, Valley of the Innocents. Otto von Luft, a three dimensional accordion-like character sports only a mustache and two eyes, characteristics which Gamble describes as deceptively simple.  He says the perceived viewer may be more likely to relate to these particular facial features. While the piece may simply look like an interesting accordion-like character, its creation aims to represent the issue of political influence on young children.  
“In this film, I explore how children’s entertainment can be used to indoctrinate young people to support specific ideologies,” Gamble said.  
When researching for the project, he says he watched several Communist cartoons and learned how political ideas can be simplified and tailored for younger audiences.  He says his aim for the film was not to actually promote a Communist system, but rather to illuminate how governmental and corporate institutions prey on children for their own material and social gain.  
“My film is more of trying to critique institutions, to critique the Communist system and it’s also going to relate to the modern-day issue today with our government and a lot of political ideas that are going on right now,” Gamble said.  
Gamble acknowledged while his characters may seem neutral, their context can make their presence political. He created a dancing animation of Otto Von Luft which at first, may seem like a simple animation but the character actually dances to an accordion version of the North Korean national anthem.  
“The additional North Korean context infers that he is dancing in support of nationalistic ideas,” Gamble said. “A child who hears this song will automatically connect it with a cute cartoon character rather than an oppressive dictatorship and thus, may later associate pleasant thoughts with said dictatorship if they hear the song again.”
Gamble’s interest in propaganda-related issues presented itself in his speech in March for TEDxUNCAsheville titled “Spoon Baby and the Appropriation of Evil.”  
“It’s about creating your own alternative facts in order to dilute the system with so much fake content that everything becomes meaningless,” Gamble said.
In his speech, he examines modern uses of propaganda and how its components can be used to hinder the issue of fake news. In the talk, Gamble explains the goal of the process being to redefine perceptions of truth in a world where facts are not sufficient.  
Professors within the department of new media have taken notice of Gamble’s distinct artistic talent.  Peter Kusek, lecturer of new media at UNC Asheville, met Gamble four years ago and continues to watch him evolve as an individual artist.
“His ambition and his sense of pushing the assignment to do more than was required, to use it as a vehicle to explore interesting ideas and concepts, that was really evident from the first class I had him in,” Kusek said.  
Kusek says he worked with Gamble in independent research courses and noticed propaganda-centered themes emerge from Gamble’s work and continues to watch him develop those themes into larger projects.  
“He’s one of these artists that keeps pushing and keeps pushing and acquiring new skills and he follows his fascination and so his work really has a sense of life to it,” Kusek said.
Christopher Oakley, chair of the new media department, also worked with Gamble in several classes.  
“The thing about Forest is that he’s got a very high intellectual curiosity, like it’s on steroids. He’ll take any project you give him and go five miles extra,” Oakley said.  
Graduation is right around the corner for Gamble and he already has some plans for his next creative endeavor.  
“After school, I would like to do some kind of graduate program in animation. I’m really interested in story development,” Gamble said. “My ultimate dream — I would like to become an animated showrunner, to develop my own television show,” Gamble said.  
More of Gamble’s work can be found at https://dforestgamble