Merging the two disparate worlds of human and machine in a slightly gross but strangely hypnotic way is Finger Machines, a new animated film by Morgan Powell at Seed. Softness and tactility are “the direct opposite of what you’d expect from machines,” he explains of the animation’s conflicted visuals, which show dismembered digits on a mass scale, engaged in various mechanical processes. And it is the film’s materiality that makes it so unnerving – an apt application of Morgan’s plasticine-like, super-smooth and hyperreal animation style. You can see more of this on his hilariously naughty ident for MTV involving lewd balloons.
As the machines manoeuvre, the fingers slowly brush or tap or rub other skin-like surfaces, or prod multiple belly buttons, all to an atmospheric electronic soundtrack by Ana Roman that adds to the film’s cheeky feel.
The project began as a series of experiments, the animator explains, in response to a sensation of satisfaction from watching videos of industrial machinery. He began making animated clips and uploading them to Instagram, and “for some reason I couldn’t stop,” he says. He realised it was down to synaesthesia, “a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway,” he says.
“It was this mysterious connection to the visuals that was driving my interest, and I really like the thought of being able to hijack someone’s senses.” Whether it’s awkward discomfort or bizarre pleasure, the film doesn’t fail to provoke a physical response.