Cross-artform creative practice as still-life recovery: Chinese-Western materialisms of time, writing and death
West, Patrick and Coad, Cher 2013, Cross-artform creative practice as still-life recovery: Chinese-Western materialisms of time, writing and death, Axon: creative explorations: contemporary creativity, poetry, images and design, no. 5, pp. 1-14.
As argued by Norman Bryson, the still-life genre is sorely neglected by theorists and critics, largely because its concern with ‘low-plane reality’ (everyday items and acts) has obscured its genuine relevance to material thinking. By reappraising rather than abandoning the genre’s traditional themes of death and time—using a cross-cultural, Chinese-Western approach—it is possible to re-energise materialisms of time, writing and death within still life. Such a move depends above all on a re-evaluation of still life as ‘Vanitas’—the term which to date has unified, and more to the point limited, traditional still-life understandings of death and time. This article tracks a more explosive and creative materialism of still life simultaneously through the specifically Chinese approach to death (which includes the ‘Yin Yang’ 阴阳 as a sort of author of time) and via Gilles Deleuze’s cinematic philosophy of the time-image; what connects these is the very Deleuzean notion of time that subtends Chinese engagements with death. In this way, the still-life genre may be recovered from its current critical and theoretical malaise. Reconnecting with practice is a crucial aspect of this recovery, and so in its early stages this article analyses an example of still-life, creative non-fiction (authored by Cher Coad), and it concludes by establishing the value of this potentially ‘new chapter of the “still life” genre’ (in Matilde Marcolli’s terms) for the cross-artform analysis of the short story ‘Nhill’ (authored by Patrick West). Analysis, though, is only half the picture: a fully recovered still-life genre would see theory and practice endlessly circulating through each other, spurring on practice and impelling theory. Coad’s and West’s literary examples are introduced in the hope that they might trigger fresh theoretical and practice-based, still-life discoveries in prose and also in poetry.
Field of Research
190104 Visual Cultures
Socio Economic Objective
970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing
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