Thinking outside the panel: ‘Pandora in the Box’
The Kick & Push Festival opens on a hopeful note with Pandora in the Box at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning. Transforming the Tett’s Rehearsal Hall into a maze of giant comic panels, this immersive work by cartoonist Lorena Torres Loaiza revisits the story of Pandora from Greek mythology to explore the nature of hope. Through a blend of real-world and virtual spaces, Pandora in the Box follows a curious sequence of events as a young woman navigates an apocalyptic world.
In the installation’s introductory text, Loaiza is credited as “cartoonist” and “neon colour enthusiast”. Loaiza draws a broken world into existence with bright, rich colours and sleek, whimsical lines. Walking through the gallery, I was struck by how the use of colour felt simultaneously exuberant and minimalist. I counted about four to six colours in each panel, with details conveyed through black line art. This creates a strong sense of objects’ relationships to one another, and it helps to avoid cluttering the panels, moving readers’ eyes quickly to the sites of action.
Pandora, our perturbed protagonist, is always drawn in a single colour, but it changes frequently throughout the comic, reflecting her dynamic shifts in mood. At times, the one- or two-colour backgrounds make the panels’ settings feel like theatre backdrops. These large chunks of colour in wide landscapes emphasize the vastness of the world and the immensity of Pandora’s loneliness.
Pandora isn’t alone for long, though: Hope (Beatriz Pizano) soon shows up, breaking the aesthetic rules of the comic’s universe by appearing in human form to ask Pandora for help. Beatriz’s performance through photographs matches the expressiveness of her cartoon co-star. This blending of realities is reminiscent of sequences in old children’s movies like Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomsticks where live actors are transported into animated worlds. Here, the effect is almost opposite—rather than escaping from the dreary real world into a fantasy one, Hope appears in a devastated cartoon world to bring the force of the human spirit to reckon with Pandora’s defeatism.
To read the beginning of the story, visitors must navigate a 3D-mapped digital rendering of the maze. The Kick & Push provides a laptop connected to a projector at the front of the room, allowing multiple people to go on the virtual journey together. Participants can also use the link provided on the Tett website to explore on their own devices The in-person segments are accompanied by arrows on the floor, gently guiding visitors through the story. Without similar guides in the virtual section, I ended up going on a non-linear journey as I struggled to get my bearings. The disorientation I felt, while frustrating at times, didn’t detract from the experience—instead, it sparked curiosity and determination as I tried to piece the story together.
In Pandora in the Box, the evils of the world manifest as surreal monsters. Comic editor Allison O’Toole is credited as “monster consultant”—which, I would like to believe, means she consulted with real monsters for the project. My favourites included a spider-like creature with human fingers for legs and a pair of “famingoes”, flamingoes with forks for feet. While they were fun to look at on the projector, I would have liked to experience the giant monster panels in person to fully admire these eccentric creatures.