Sam Kaufman

Research project: Entangling Umwelten: Towards a New Ecology of Moving Images and Nonhuman Worlds


My practice-based PhD looks to reappraise the biologist Jakob von Uexküll's concept of Umwelt against the theory and practice of contemporary film and artists' moving image. I will follow Inga Pollmann's previously under-theorised argument in Cinematic Vitalism (2018) that Umwelt theory grew out of Uexküll's experiments with early cinematography, and that it can stand as a way of complicating conventional discourses of cinema. That is to say, cinema, just as Umwelt, works as a milieu which acts with rather than simply upon being. I will explore the politically and intellectually radical potential of Umwelt theory in the light of how thinkers and artists after Uexküll have used the concept to create openings for re-fusing the anthropocentric gaze and being with nonhumans in their environments. My work will proliferate out from a written thesis alongside a body of work consisting of a long cycle of films, sound pieces, as well as a collection of photographs and fiction.


Sam is a visual artist and filmmaker currently focussing on the intersections between vision, speculative imaginaries and nonhuman lifeworlds. His work centres on how images – still, moving, and in-between – might form the basis on which new kinds of thought can develop. His interests include ecology, animals, post-humanism, biosemiotics and emerging materialisms. He works with lens-based technology, remote sensing, coding, textiles, printmaking, the written word, 3D models and machine learning to consider the range, reality and exigencies of images in the construction of the contemporary moment.

Areas of research interest

  • Experimental Film
  • Artists' Moving Image
  • Animal Studies
  • Ecology


  • BA in English and Related Literature, University of York
  • MA in Film and Literature, University of York

Funding or awards received

  • AHRC Techne Doctoral Training Partnership