The Night Visitors (work-in-progress)

The Night Visitors is an experimental documentary, with an anticipated duration of 60 minutes, that explores some aesthetic, theoretical and social questions about moths and the activity of looking at moths, called mothing.

An important framework for the film is provided by Jakob Von Uexküll’s concept of the umwelt (literally “surrounding world”), which can be understood as an organism’s relationship to the world through its sensoria. The first principle of umwelt theory is that “all animals, from the simplest to the most complex, are fitted into their unique worlds with equal completeness.” This idea gives us an important tool to grapple with the interiority of other animals, one that does not rely on an anthropomorphic analysis in psychological terms. The film proposes a kind of radical interspecies empathy that asks us to find a way into the inner life of these other creatures, whose way of being is so incommensurably different from our own.

            While I am interested in moths as organisms, with fascinating life histories, staggering biodiversity, and a functional importance as indicators of climate change and habitat degradation, my engagement with them is not primarily entomological. Rather, I am interested in moths as aesthetic beings and as literary device.

            The small hours of the night are visited by intimations of mortality and loss. Moths, with their trembling and exquisite impermanence, provide both a kind of solace and, in their diversity and difference, a focal point around which the desire to know can be organized.