Unimaginable Imagery in Alice Dunseath’s Micro Worlds

You Could Sunbathe in this Storm


On an artist residency spent stargazing in the town of Atina in Italy last year, animator and filmmaker Alice Dunseath took advantage of the local produce to create images of the moon using goats cheese and planets using balsamic vinegar from the region. Her edible creations are characteristic of both her propensity for using unconventional materials in her work, and the importance she places on seeking out new experiences as a catalyst for producing new kinds of imagery.

Dunseath’s work deals with what it is to be human; life, death and the journeys we take in between.¬†Her films are set in worlds constructed from her imagination with the help of bleeding inks, swirling liquids, and multiplying crystals on peaks and in petri dishes that bring their own movement to the scenes. It’s nice to think of these figmental landscapes as the home town of her ideas.

Satisfying her fascination with people, a recent commission by Ideal Standard saw Dunseath visually interpreting raw EEG data demonstrating the human brain’s responses to beauty versus functionality. Beta and Theta brain waves provided inspiration for the organic movement in the film. She says, “The imagery takes the viewer back inside the brain whilst simultaneously reminding them of the beautiful and functional elements so often seen in nature.”

In all of Dunseath’s work is a poetic prompt to contemplate the bigger picture.


You Could Sunbathe In This Storm


Where does your interest in science come from? And how do you bring it into your art/filmmaking? 

I suppose it stems from the fact I am pretty curious and like to try to understand the world around me. I also started a degree in Psychology so was initially going down the science route. Science often asks us to trust in things that we can’t see or touch and I try to bring that into my filmmaking – I try to explain and communicate aspects of life (feelings, connections, thoughts and emotions) that are beyond words.


Both art and science deal with experiments. What’s important about doing things that you won’t know the outcome of before you try them?

It allows for unpredictable and unimaginable imagery to be created and keeps the making process playful and exciting.


What kinds of methods or processes go into work like ‘You Could Sunbathe in this Storm’ and the¬†Chris Morphitis Where to go music video?

I create a rough boundary for myself (it could be a narrative structure to work to, or a selection of materials I will use) and then set to work. For both of those films I grew a lot of crystals and captured them using timelapse photography. I also added inks to ice and thickened water and captured the way the liquids moved and captured some scenes using a microscope.


“Science often asks us to trust in things that we can‚Äôt see or touch and I try to bring that into my filmmaking”


For these pieces you created tiny worlds captured through microscopes or macro lenses that ask people to contemplate the bigger picture. How does the perception of space and time factor into your work, thinking, life philosophy?

I find it reassuring to see patterns in things. I am fascinated by the way looking up at the stars through a telescope can create imagery that is visually very similar to looking down a microscope at some cells from the body. Actually, it blows my mind. It reminds me how much we are all connected.


Creating any animation involves a lot of consideration about space and time. The process itself plays with time – you can spend weeks making something that lasts a second and you are constantly considering the space that goes between each frame.


You Could Sunbathe In This Storm

You Could Sunbathe In This Storm

Making ‘You Could Sunbathe in this Storm’


Please tell us about using real world objects in your animations and what affect this has?

Real world objects allow the audience to connect with the film on a haptic level – which means they know when something is from the ‘real world’ as they can tell how it would feel and this increases their connection with the piece. There is a distance if they can’t imagine what it feels like.


What do you enjoy about the unpredictable nature of working with things that move and grow Рcrystals and liquids? 

Traditional animation allows you to have complete control over every single frame but I enjoy the lack of control that comes with using materials that move by themselves. it allows for unexpected, unpredictable and often surprising results. I like to work with what they give me and then alter the footage in post production – manipulating the speed and movement, choreographing them around the screen to music or sound. For the same reason, I love working crystals – the way they grow and form and suggest life but aren’t technically alive. They are beautiful and unpredictable to work with and they grow well in plaster and colour nicely with inks. Perhaps it is a metaphor for life and our futile attempts at control.


Please could you let us know about your experience in Sierra Leone? Does travel or the environment you work from affect what you produce?

I was in Sierra Leone for 3 months in 2012, helping to set up the first Sierra Leone International Film Festival and running animation workshops. It was a wonderfully eye opening and inspiring experience and I hope to go back there very soon. It was great to share ideas and work with people who had such different life experiences and views on the world. The facilities and materials we could work with were limited and so it created some interesting results.


Travel and the environment I am in hugely inspires the work I make. On an artist’s residency in Italy last year, I made some work using local food produce Рcreating images of the moon using a holey goats cheese and planets using local balsamic vinegar.


I also try to only use re-usable or recyclable materials in my work to ensure the waste from the filmmaking process is minimal.


A Taste of Space Lumen Residency, Atine, Italy 2015
A Taste of Space Lumen Residency, Atine, Italy 2015


What do you think is the secret to thinking differently?

Be selective about what you watch on TV and which blogs you follow as both can dictate a generalised way of being, thinking, feeling and seeing the world. Travel! Ask a lot of questions and converse with people from other walks of life; other ages, other professions or other countries.


Chris Morphitis ‘Where to go’¬†Official Music Video

An Interpretation of Perception South Kiosk (2015)
An Interpretation of Perception South Kiosk (2015)

I worked with raw EEG data collected by Ideal Standard that demonstrates how the brain reacts to beauty vs functionality. The topographical data graphs were used as a starting point to bring the results to life using real world imagery. The movement is organic, familiar and representative of the brain waves they are associated with: sharp and erratic for the Beta waves and slow and milky for the Theta waves. The imagery takes the viewer back inside the brain whilst simultaneously reminding them of the beautiful and functional elements so often seen in nature.

Alice Dunseath Behind the Scenes

Jane Bowler Still Alice Dunseath




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