Exercise 2 Interpreting video art
As soon as the video began, I had a feeling about what would happen but I was still mesmerised by the decomposition when it began and all the way through its progression. Despite the fact that what we’re looking at is death, I feel it was shown in a beautiful way, especially because of the movement of the fruits as they shrink and wither. Due to the presence of the growing mould spores and the flies, we are also shown that with death comes life.
The piece is a time-lapse video showing a bowl of fruit. The colors, composition and choice of subject make one relate it to a vanitas painting, which deal with death, decay and the transience of life. Unlike a painting, however, we are able to see time unfolding and death taking hold of life. Though I can understand that the artist might have wanted to compare nature vs. human-made objects, I feel that the pen was not necessary to the piece. It dampens the visual impact for me because the rest of the piece has a mood so different from the pen that it becomes an anomaly. In addition, the surface in which the fruits lie, both the bowl and the table, speak to me about this without the pen; they are affected by the decay but they are not part of it because they are lifeless.
Taylor-Johnson did explore this same theme with another piece. Also a time-lapse video, A Little Death (2002) shows a hare hanging from a wall next to a peach. The decay in this example is not beautiful as with the fruits, but very unpleasant and upsetting. I think this might be because we are much more similar to a hare than to fruit, and so this type of death is too close and painful to us. Still Life reminds me of Danielle, a time-lapse video created by director Anthony Cerniello and photographer Keith Sirchio that shows us the human ageing process in just a few minutes.
Still Life is comparable to an inhalation and a deep exhalation. The fruits begin fresh and glowing but eventually exhale their life and start shrinking and rotting. I am able to ponder about our perception to time, life and death. The piece shows me a life cycle in a matter of minutes and with a sense of awe and detachment rather than the emotions of loss or grief that are so natural to our response towards death. The word lifetime is usually perceived as something consisting of a long period of time, but I can now see that this might be subjective as well. I can see the fruits alive and well but suddenly they begin perishing in no time at all and are replaced with new life-forms. If we could observe the span of a human lifetime with this kind of outsider point of view, the result would be the same; the natural cycle of life and death as time goes by.
Taylor-Johnson, S. (2001). Still Life. At: http://samtaylorjohnson.com/moving-image/art/still-life-2001 (Accessed on 14 December 2016)
Demos, T.J. (2007) ‘A matter of time’ In: Tate.org.uk. Issue 9: Spring 2007 [online] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/matter-time (Accessed on 14 December 2016)
Cerniello, A. and Sirchio, K. (2013). Danielle. At: http://anthonycerniello.com/#/id/182/name/danielle (Accessed on 14 December 2016)