Circadian Rhythms

Artist Statement:

In this work I have explored motion and its relation to the human body by rendering the film to portray circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms can be best described as the biological processes that drive an endogenous 24 hour cycle between drowsiness and alertness at regular intervals. Working primarily with footage of the human body in action, I was interested in the way I could manipulate this rhythm in both a tactile and digital form to portray the changing moods and behaviours associated with this rhythm. Using techniques such as stamping, scratching and painting I have incorporated haptic human elements; for example, the beat of a heart and the stamping of fingerprints. Flowers, similarly, contain entrianable rhythmic oscillations which determine when they bloom and open. As such, I have used digitally manipulated found film to add a further aesthetic dimension to the piece.

Digital and tactile manipulation of the film depicts the changing moods and human states associated with Circadian Rhythms.

Further Research and Experimentation:

Len Lye’s work is one of the primary sources of inspiration for this piece. A pioneer of what is known as “direct film” Lye experimented with the manipulation and physical editing of celluloid in order to create camera less film. Techniques such as painting, scratching and the use of found footage were used by Lye to create incredibly vivid, bright and unique works with a unique rhythm.

I have attempted to reproduce various elements of this aesthetic in my own work. By experimenting with paint, markers and stamping in particular I was able to produce geometric patterns which when composed on celluloid generate rhythm. I also added another dimension through scratching the film which creates much harsher lines and brighter whites. However I was interested in the way this sense of rhythm could be extended beyond the movement of shapes and colour.

Coincidentally, the found footage that I began working on all featured images of the human body in action. I was interested in the way I could manipulate this rhythm in both a tactile and digital form, As Burke and Cann explain, Lye was “fascinated by motion and its relation to the human body, Lye brought movement into the heart of his work” (2014).

With this in mind I strove to render the rhythms associated with the human body; and so the idea of Circadian Rhythms was formed. Circadian Rhythms are essentially the ongoing internal clocks running inside our brains that cycle between drowsiness and alertness at regular intervals. This ongoing rhythm is what is responsible for us feeling attentive during the day and sleepy during the night. Yet in our current straining and  frenetic manner of life, these rhythms are very easily disrupted. It means we feel more tired during the day and often alert at 2am, checking emails behind a bright computer screen.

In the digital manipulation of the film I have attempted to convey these changes in mood and behaviour by contrasting soft sweeping motions with starkly moving geometric patterns. I have emphasised the human element by stamping fingerprints with paint and scratching heart beat patterns to heighten this rhythm.

I have also incorporated footage of flowers blooming into the digital creation of this film. Flowers, similarly to humans, also have internal circadian rhythms which help control the anthesis (opening/flowering period). I have digitally manipulated this footage to create added texture and accentuate the notion of rhythm in the film.


Bourke, G & Cann, C 2014. Len Lye: Motion Sketch. The Drawing Center’s Drawing Papers, Vol. 115, pp. 8-15.

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. 2018. The World of Len Lye. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16 March 2018].

National Sleep Foundation. 2018. What is Circadian Rhythm?. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 22 March 2018].

Note: all added footage used in this project is licensed under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license

Published by susiealdermann

Fifth Year Bachelor of Communications and Media/ Bachelor of International Studies (Dean's Scholar) student

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