The Necessites of Life - Gerald Guthrie
The Necessites of Life - Gerald Guthrie
The Necessites of Life - Gerald Guthrie
The Necessites of Life - Gerald Guthrie

Gerald Guthrie
Director and Animator

Professor of Art
The School of Art and Design
The University of Illinois
(217) 333-0855
Vimeo Link



Scott Borland
Music composer



Missouri Botanical Garden Library
Illustrations from the Rare Book Library

© 1995-2005 Missouri Botanical Garden





"The Cycle of Life" is a digital animation that employs a metaphor of botanical growth to represent human stages of life. A solitary figure walks forward through a line of inexplicable machines; approaching, absorbing and moving on. Through a clever twist, the final stage of life precedes the beginning.


The opening scene shows a man ascending the stairs of neo-classical museum promoting an exhibit entitled “The Cycle of Life,” as indicated by a large hanging banner. The viewer enters a hall containing display cases filled with old books and exhibits presenting botanical growth stages. The camera zooms in closely to an old botanical print illustrating the pollination process. Juxtaposed to this image is an inexplicable animated machine. This type of association is then repeated with additional exhibits and machines. The stages of life - Pollination, Germination, Growth, Seed Production, Maturity, Longevity, Disease and Death, and Decomposition - are presented first as a botanical print or exhibit, then as an unlikely machine. Eventually it becomes apparent that the machines comprise a slowly moving linear arrangement within a huge undefined space. A suited man with a large square hole in his midsection walks along and, in turn,“absorbs”  and "ejects" each machine along the line.

After reaching the last machine (Decomposition), the man turns to a pole and presses a red button. All the machines stop moving and the lights dim. He turns around and runs back to the beginning of the line and “re-absorbs” the first machine (Pollination/Inception). After returning to the beginning and pressing the button, the line of machines resets in a way that all the machines are in front of him once again. He returns to his trek, after briefly waiting for the Pollination/Inception machine to restart. The last scene revisits the museum to show a similiar man looking at all the machines in a large cabinet now labeled with human stages – Inception, Birth, Infancy, Adolescence, Maturity, Old Age, Infirmity, Death and Decomposition.

The Necessites of Life - Gerald Guthrie