This year’s Mad World film programming will include a curated selection of experimental films highlighting artwork relating to the natural environment.

Mad World '24 Open Call Selection

Films by Amina Gingold, Dakota Gearhard, Julia Chien, Yangqi Deng, Emilie Slater, Kristen Williams, Sophia Wolfe, Pedro Morales, Ellie Borzilleri, Riley Teahan and Natalita


Our curated film program consists of a wide selection of experimental short films, ranging from animated works to phytograms, to 16mm and AI works. Each film was selected from an open call for video art shared online.

Life Touching Life by Dakota Gearhart

40 min

Life Touching Life is an animated video podcast that takes place in a future universe where all beings are treated equally—humans, animals, and even bodies of water. Using surreal moving image sequences in combination with contributions from scholars, scientists, caretakers, artists, and musicians, this experimental podcast philosophically explores what it means to be human, how to harmoniously coexist with non-human life, and how to embrace the future as our planet moves into imperiled environmental and digital eras.

The podcast host—an animated holographic algae-bloom femme creature with bright green skin— flies through time zones, landscapes, and the internet to bring viewers vignettes from scientists and caretakers who are redefining relationships with non-human life, as well as fictional stories from yet-to-exist lifeforms. As the podcast progresses, a web of cathartic ideas is woven and reflected visually using collaged arthouse-inspired animation techniques.

At its core, “Life Touching Life” is an exercise in collaborative utopian thinking, one that posits a world where human supremacist violence has been eradicated, ecosystems are preserved, and non-hierarchical relationships with Earth’s living beings are the new norm. Yet the project is not merely projective world-building; through screenings and online sharing, I hope to amplify the voices that are actively reimagining intersectional environmentalism today. This includes queer, feminist, non-western, and anti-racist perspectives.

Episode 1 includes contributions from Erika Kielsgard, Rena Anakwe, and Casey Wang
Episode 2 includes contributions from Anisha Uppugonduri, Silvia Kastel, and Rosalyn Shen
Episode 3 includes contributions from Nat Mengist, Matthewdavid, Ioan Butiu, Xinran Shen
Episode 4 includes contributions from Phillip Thurtle, M Lamar, Sylvia Ke

Costume Design by Iggy Soliven
Intro Music by Biz Miller

Phytograms by Amina Gingold

1:11 min

Phytogram Study is an excerpt from an ongoing project working with the Phytogram technique created by Karel Doing. This process uses the chemistry within plants that, if soaked in a non-toxic developer and placed on the surface of photographic emulsion, will leave unique imprints onto the film. As each plant has a different chemical composition, the images left on the film are unique and unlike one another. The plants' colors, shapes, and vascular tissue are shown as close-ups and will flicker as the film is projected.

Icolette by Sophia Wolfe & Chris Powers

8:55 min

Icolette is a transcendental multimedia experimental film that mirrors natural systems and cycles. The film follows a young girl determined to collect the skin of a fish. In response, the fish fights for its life. Their interaction is curious, intimate, sexual, painful, and ultimately lethal. It is informed by the cycles and functions of the body, creating for a unique coalition of fantasy, geometry, and science. The use of many media acts like a video collage, pointing to the idea of repeating patterns throughout seemingly separate entities, no matter parted by space, time, scale, or realm. Icolette was directly inspired by a dream of mine, thus surreality seeps through every frame.

Director, Animator, PD by Sophia Wolfe
Director, Animator, DP by Christopher Powers
Music by Evan Rash
Sound Design by Ethan Brown

WO RM by Julia Chien

7:43 min

A split worm searches for his bottom half.

Sound Design by Julia Chien, Femi Shonuga Fleming, Mochi Lin, Min-wei Ang
Camera (puppet sequence) by Jaehee Cheong

TURTLE? by Yangqi Deng

4:17 min

TURTLE? is a nonlinear fictional narrative piece that unfolds around questioning the turtle through imagery drawn from multiple sources. The turtle is both the subject and the medium, connecting the past and the future, carrying the earth across the universe.

The Museum of Prophecy by Emilie Slater

4:28 min

It was filmed in Skagästron, Northern Iceland over the course of several months. The title is the same as the town's only museum where our narrator, Dagný Marín, has faithfully operated for the last decade. MOP explores the mythical lore of the small town's struggle with industrial expansion expansion at the expense of environmental degradation. But who sounds the alarm of imminent turmoil might not be who you would expect. The history of this place and its past residence still inform the lived experiences of the few inhabitants it has left, and brings to light the power of collective memory through storytelling. Museum of Prophecy urges the viewer to know Skagästron as Icelanders do, even if that means trusting what you cant see in front of you.

Score by Chris Norcross


8:20 min

7-DAY FUNGI PRESCRIBED THERAPY (NEURAL COEVOLUTION) is a video art project that invites the audience to immerse themselves in a world of organic forms and natural patterns, in a visionary world of fungi and fractals. The project explores current events through art, using mushrooms as a symbol of adaptation, diversity and wonder. The video clips describe a speculative aesthetic of nature, using tessellations, symmetry and patterns within patterns. The project aims to evoke a sense of curiosity and connection with the natural world, as well as a reflection on the role of mushrooms in our society and culture
Mushroom AI-animation provide captivating visual stimulation that can engage and captivate viewers. The immersive nature of AI animation can transport individuals to imaginative and calming environments, promoting relaxation and reducing stress.
The combination of visually appealing AI animation and storytelling in mushroom videos can create an emotional connection with viewers. This emotional connection can foster a sense of empathy, understanding, and hope, which are crucial elements in the healing process.
Fungi animation can incorporate mindfulness and meditation techniques, guiding viewers through calming and introspective experiences. These techniques have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve emotional well-being, and promote overall mental health.
Mushrooms are not only delicious and nutritious, but they also have the potential to heal the planet. Some fungi can break down pollutants, restore soil health, and even combat climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide. Mushrooms also offer many benefits for human health, such as boosting immunity, fighting infections, reducing inflammation, enhancing brain function, and supporting mental well-being. Mushrooms are truly a gift from nature that can help us create a more sustainable and harmonious world.

Blooming Fire, Burning Flowers, Bright as Sun by Kristen Williams

4 min

Blooming Fire, Burning Flowers, Bright as Sun is a short film about the birth of the universe. It was made by creating photograms of flowers on 16mm motion picture film, producing images that are reminiscent of galaxies, nebulas, supernovas. The film seeks to reflect the idea that the earth and all its matter, from plants, to animals to people, are made up of the same materials that gave birth to the universe. That the very fabric of our being is connected to the Earth and everything in it. And feeling small is not always a bad thing, when you remember that you are a part of something bigger, communities, ecosystems, the universe itself.

This film was made possible with the help of the University of Colorado Boulder's Department of Cinema Studies and Moving Image Arts.

words of water by Ellie Borzilleri

2:12 min

A short 16mm exploration on the ephemeral ways movement and direction interact, contrast, and fight one another within the frame. words of water uses water as a physical tool of representation for the structures that bind our existence and the transient motions of life. Shot on Bolex using a matte box.

6 by Mortal Self

14:38 min

The number 6 spirals into itself like a womb or a cocoon. This darkness is nourishing, a space for healing and revelation. 6 is a multimedia project conceived by Natalita and Riley, and created through a collaborative journey with the women and terrain of Louisiana. Each moving image in this series is a meditation, and together they are a creation story: woman's odyssey to mend the broken bonds between human and nature, Goddess and self.

Conceived and created by Riley Teahan and Natalita (Mortal Self)

Featuring Ayjshane, cat dorvilus, DJ Ruby, Ebony, Ellenie Marie Cruz, Kaisas Nairobis, Keslie Box, Mariama Sojourner Eversley, Natalita, NONDI, Rosemary Minasian, Sienna Kuykendall, Sultana, Vale, and Victoria S.

Captured by Riley Teahan and Liana Cockfield

Soundscape created by Natalita