Visual Studies 1: Creative Arts Today: Part one: Contemporary Art: Page 37 – Interpreting video art

Page 37 – Exercise 2

Initial response

The piece shows fruit, like a memento mori. Linked to the idea of a still life, as per the title of the piece.

The work shows time sped up. The death and decay of something living. Experiencing a life over quickly.


A film/recording. Made from several images stitched together?

Camera is positioned in a single place, facing the side of a stack of fruit which is on a woven plate. It is filmed against a dark, blank wall.

The film begins colourful and bright and the end is darker with the switch to blacks and whites with flies flying across the screen.

Contextual Information

Sam Taylor-Wood has a number of pieces which capture life, and elements of life. Her suspended self portraits capture a moment in time and create a sense of freedom in the poses which make her look like she is levitating. However her Bram Stoker’s Chair works create the impression that she is falling and captures  a moment of unease. She has created other still live films, such as A Little Death, although this one starts with a dead subject (a rabbit) and shows its decay with maggots.  This makes you contemplate if the fruit was really considered living at the start of Still Life, or had it already begun the path to decay as soon as it was taken from the tree.  Has the fruit died without realising its potential (not eaten or made into a new tree?) Much like a human, are we slowly dying as soon as we are born?


Time Moves quickly, much like in Long Player. It is demonstrating life and death through to decay. It also shows brightness into darkness. It makes you appreciate how quick life can pass by, you start of looking at a cheery bowl of fruit and end looking at a pile of decay.

Describe the piece in 250 words.

This piece demonstrates to the viewer how quickly life can pass you by. One minute it is bright, colourful and cheery and minutes later there is death, darkness and decay. This transition happens quite quickly with the whole piece being a few minutes long and results in a swift change in emotions when viewing the piece from happiness to sadness. The film appears to be a number of images stitched together to capture the whole decay process in around four minutes.

The viewer sees the fruit from a single viewpoint; the camera appears to sway as the position is amended slightly between each shot. It is pictured against a plain, dark background. At the start this helps the colours of the bright fruit stand out, and towards the end helps to create a rather dark scene with the muted greys and blacks of the decayed fruit.

Like a Memento Mori, the appropriately named “Still Life” makes the viewer contemplate their own mortality, and realise the cycle of life and the natural order of things. It is a brief reminder that every living thing will eventually die. Sam Taylor-Wood often shows snapshots of moments in time in her work. For example, her suspended self-portraits show a moment in time, and capture a sense of freedom as she is impossibly levitating in her studio. Like Still Life, there is also a similar piece called A Little Death which shows the decay of a dead rabbit

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