Attraction by Emily Scaife imagines pleasure in insects

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Emily Scaife is an experienced producer, who completed her MA in Animation at The Royal College of Art in 2017. There, she developed an analogue and very textural approach to animation, which culminated in her graduate project, Attraction. In the Scaife’s own words, Attraction is about “imagining sensation of attraction and pleasure in insects, and the seduction methods of the plants and fungi that beckon.” Trying to imagine the vision, feelings, and thought processes of another species is both an impossible and endlessly creative undertaking. On one hand, one can never quite experience a flower like a butterfly can, on the other hand, this lack of visceral knowledge creates a space for limitless speculation. Emily Scaife tries to get close to the experience by engaging in traditional analogue methods, such as creating photograms of plant debris, taking macro-shots of flowers and insects, and then manipulating these images by manually layering colour gels over the film. You can find out more about her process is this interview.

Attraction begins with the slow flutterings of a butterfly, and emerging abstract organic textures and forms that burst in from the black backdrop. It feels like the germination of something which evolves into star bursts, and grows into a shimmering blooms. The imagery moves on to erupting fungi, petri dish-like light spots, and visual noise. Bugs scamper onto the screen, shape-shifting with an unsettling speed. The photographs of leaves come as a slight relief — finally something more solid and recognisable, yet even these familiar shapes bear flickering shadows. The experience of watching this short film is, indeed, seductive. Its soundtrack has been created in collaboration with Ben Bell of Horus Records, and includes samples that the animator recorded from objects in her environment. The soundtrack feels inseparable from the visuals. It enhances the scraggly, prickly feel of the animation, and envelopes the viewer in an immersive alien or primordial world of chirps, rustles, echoes, and bleeps.

Attraction is a welcome respite from CGI. If you enjoyed it, you can find more of Emily Scaife’s work here, with some nice process insights on Instagram.