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Pieta - Sam Taylor - Wood

Sam Taylor - Wood is an artist who has done a number of still art images, the
ones ill be looking at are Pieta and Still life. Firstly, Pieta this is a piece of
artwork and it is placed in the White cube gallery in Hoxton, solo exhibition
( Year 2000 ) called Mute. The cinematography which is the camera work is
just ONE whole medium shot and the camera is static for the whole 2
minutes, to link with this the editing at the beginning it fades in from black
and at the end it fades out to black along with a soundtrack but in this still
art work there is no music at all for the whole two minutes that that piece
lasts. In terms of the mise-en-scene ( props + setting lighting + colour
Body language + face expression Costume + makeup ) we see the man
laying down on the woman's lap as she holds him / cradling him it's like shes
nurturing him, her legs are supporting him, one supporting his back the other
supporting his knees, also supports his knees / legs by her left hand, she also
looks down at him (caring / nurturing look ). The man has his head back,
eye closed with a heavy arm which is outstretched trying to play dead.
The movement is like:
0:08 - onwards Breathing Heavily
0:46 Women head movement
0:57 Man moves his arm
1:00 man moves his whole body upwards
1:30 The man's hand goes towards her ankle
2:00 Lifts himself up then it fades out.
Their trying to stay still, and there is minimal movement throughout the video what you
notice throughout the video is the man breathing also around 0:55 - 1:02 Sam taylor wood rearranges the man and she pulls the man up a little and he stays higher
throughout the rest of the video, you could say its a Moving photo. The women who is
cradling the man is the artist Sam Taylor - Wood and the man who is lying down is the
actor Robert Downey Jr, the pieta is artwork based around the christian image of Mary
cradling her dead son Jesus after he falls off the cross, and so these are the characters
in whom the actors are playing. T - Wood based her video artwork on michelangelo's
Pieta, so now we know it's based on this idea on Mary holding jesus however it's not a
literal copied vision on michelangelos Pieta as they have no costume and didnt go
overboard the layout of this whole piece would go beginning Fades in, Middle - She holds him and the end - Fades out she
struggles to hold him + they move the most at the end.
The people who star in this fit the role because they can relate
to the artwork they're doing, this is because they have gone

through hard times in the past or maybe even while theyre making this piece. Sam T Wood in 1997 had colon cancer than three years later (2000) she gains breast cancer,
so shes been through a lot of pain and sadness of these periods of time where shes
gained as we can see multiple cancers and with Robert Downey Jr acting as if he is
Suffering / in pain, maybe hes been a victim as he was a drug addict and was in rehab
after he had been a top film star.

Meaning / Quotes

One Point of that we can make from Sam Taylor Woods artwork is that it's about religion
/ celebrities because it stars celebrities however they are playing as themselves, not as
the people who are in the original artwork that pieta was inspired by which is
Michelangelos piece Pieta. We can tell it has a religious sense to it because
michelangelos piece was basically Mary holding Jesus just after he falls off the cross as
she nurtures him before he dies, and the artwork itself is evidence that its based off a
religion and that it's based on celebrities as well because the characters of jesus and
mary are played by celebrities. A quote like Celebrities have become the image
receptacles for our projected aspirations and need for affirmation. 1 backups up the
point for celebrities becoming religious figures towards everyone who adores them and
how we look up to them as if they were religious figures.
Another quote could be It is ironic that this art has emerged in Britain - a country of
rapidly diminishing church attendance.2 This maybe because young people are starting
to lose faith in these old beliefs of god and they are starting to look towards role models
who are more realistic like musicians looking up to other older musicians who preach
about real world problems large and small and so they take these people on their role
models and people to look up, this could also think to new generation as with the old
generation they are more into their religious beliefs and it by their religion. Whereas
young people are seeing something more meaningful in the people they see on TV and
with these artwork there are no specific styles / editings it's just all one shot which is
inspired by michelangelo's Pieta which she also named who piece which is
commemorated to it, I believe Sam Taylor Wood maybe trying to show a more modern
version of the piece and usings role models like actors ( Robert Downey Jr ) as the
inspiration for people rather than a person who has died centuries ago and youth are
losing faith in that person's / religion.
1 http://www.tba21.org/augarten_activities/9/artworks/380
2 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3570984/Spirit-of-the-age.html

The narrative for Pieta is there, as it is narrating the death of Jesus in Marys arms feel
the meaning would be life and death as and how we as people live and die, however the
narrative isnt really shown in the piece of work you would have to know the story to
really know what its portraying. I feel Sam Taylor - Wood may of done this to take
michelangelo's concept of Jesus dying to bring it to life as a more modern concept with
more modern role models ( Robert Downey Jr ), however comparing this moving image
to other moving images on TV they usually have characters that include dialogue, acting
even sound. However, Sam T - Woods Pieta has no dialogue, no music ( non-diegetic ),
no real acting i.e moving, even no sound however we find that sometimes no sound
creates an active audience and they try to understand or relate to the artwork it has a
simple narrative you could call it a non-narrative. There is a beginning, middle and end
to the artwork in the beginning it fades in at the middle shes still holding him but at the
end you can see she struggles to hold him and they move the most at the end it also
fades out of the piece. There is a quote that could go with this which would be That is
another reason why Taylor - Wood used film. A painting or a photograph has no
beginning, middle and end. Film is time - based: it starts and stops, just like a human
life ( Richard Dorment - Telegraph ), unlike a painting / photo film that has a beginning,
middle and end it Uses time as a medium, things change, things end.
Sam Taylor - Wood - Still Life
Still Life is another piece of Sam Taylor - Woods work, it is an inanimate piece of
artwork which shows a bowl of fruit being recording over a long period of time which is
approx 6 weeks into about 3 mins, showing the fruit decaying over this time. Still Life
replicated Old Masters paintings, a basic meaning of this artwork would be nature / life
to death and you could say from nature through death comes life comparing this to pieta
Still life inanimate objects are made to more, whereas in pieta animate objects
( people ) are made to be still. Onto Mise-en-Scene there is no facial expressions or
body language as it is fruit and not human same with costume and makeup again there
isnt any humans however there is low key lighting the shadows of the plate and the fruit
on top starting being circular and smooth then the shadows becomes more messy
throughout the piece plus the theres the Dull and dingy colour of wall plus the table is
grey / brown. This links with the setting with it being not just dull and dingy but also the
colours of the whole artwork are quite monotone / neutral, Sam T - Wood may of did this
to make the fruit stand out at the beginning of the artwork there are also the props of the
Blue Biro on the table in the foreground on right hand side also the Wicker tray / basket
with fruit in it brown which is also quite a dull colour itself but the most brightest colours

in the artwork would be the fruit which contains Pears, apples, grape + peaches, red,
yellows, oranges.
The cinematography / camerawork of this static of a ECU ( Extreme close up ) Or CU
( Close up ) of the Whole 3 minutes and the shot
does not change but with the editing the artwork is a
timelapse with no visible cuts but 100s or more still
images giving illusion of movement and looks like one
3 minute long durational shot, but the artwork has no
soundtrack throughout the whole running of the
artwork. You could say there is movement which is the
change of the fruit over the 3 mins with it decaying
away, we can conclude a basic meaning of the
artwork being about vibrant life to a dull death with the
fruit showing that this could link with Sam Taylor Woods 2 cancers that shes had through her life.
The meaning of the artwork could relate to a quote In
the celebrated film Still Life, an impossibly beautiful
bowl of fruit decays at an accelerated pace, creating a
visceral memento mori3. The quote describes Sam
Taylor - Woods piece for what is which is a bowl of
fruit that decays at an accelerated pace, however theyve described it as a memento
mori which is Latin for "remember that you can die" this is the medieval Latin theory and
practice of reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of
earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits4. With the piece
being a long duration shot it may have something to do with Time as it lasts for 3 mins it
maybe to make the audience feel like they're staring at death itself and maybe making
them think about their own death, it can also portray the meaning of death and peoples
mortality and could link to the quote Were only human as we are just human meaning
were just mortal and everyone has their beginning and end. Also, it being still life and
so it links with the genre of still life paintings plus some still life works are known as
Vanitas paintings, but another main meaning we could look into is it being a self
portrait of Sam Taylor - Wood herself i.e her person illnesses that shes had in the past
and through those times she may of felt like she was decaying away like the fruit and
3 http://whitecube.com/artists/sam_taylor-johnson/
4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memento_mori

how it's effectively a time lapse of her life and everyone else's, also because its silent
and one durational close up it makes the audience focus and stare at the artworking
thinking about the meaning it has behind it.
Still life has less narrative than Pieta as Pieta has characters, where as still life doesnt
and characters are vital to a narrative it being a change of events however visibly more
happens to the fruit in still life than the characters in Pieta. It does have a beginning and
an end, this could be to portray real life as were are have a beginning and the end as
human beings, it also has no soundtrack shows the lack of narrative however it not
having sound makes the audience less distracted and kind of forces the audience to
focus on the actual screen and makes them more aware of the passage of time.
At the beginning theres highly saturated colors with the fruits there, whereas the ending
where the fruit has fully rottened there is much more less saturated colours even
monotone, gives the whole image on screen ( 6 weeks of life in 3 mins ). The narrative
is created through this timelapse of it taking the fruit around 6 weeks to rot however
S.T.W has sped it up and made a timelapse of the fruit, this could reflect on her life at
that time.
Martyrs - Bill Viola
What makes the work stand out is that its
technology based ( Video ), unexpect as its
exhibited in a place full of very old artwork.
Artwork is on legs, has its own separate space on
the cathedral quite small and enclosed compared
to whole cathedral however it's still visible due to
the colours of the artwork, no seats to sit down
and look at the artwork, so you would have to
stand for the whole duration of the piece more
engaged to as it has a narrative start and end
you would chose to watch the whole thing this
one is multi channel ( 4 Screens ) so you may
watch it differently and focus on each individual
screen. We regularly focus on more than two
screen at once, quite a regular thing to do in a
persons life. Martyr - dying for a cause, Jesus,
sacrifice, Saints - Other versions of Jesus, Bill
Viola isnt religious doesnt follow a religion. The people in paintings are anonymous, 3

men, 1 women - represent humanity to reflect what it is to be a person, where it's placed
created a different meaning, no editing or cuts like a performance, they are performing
in it going through pain, editing of sand in reverse, quiet sound subtly hear it, sounds in
sync - water / air. Depending on the person youre looking at theres different lighting, for
example the wind element has lighting coming from above the women whereas the fire
element doesnt have any lighting due to the natural light of the fire that being made
around the man, the setting of the piece was just each person a plain black room /
background then costume wise again depending on the element earth wearing a plain
white top and brown trousers, women in the wind wearing just a white dress, fire was
just a man wearing white top and brown jeans then the water element were the man is
just wearing blue jeans.
In Martyrs the actors / actresses are anonymous ( unlike
in Pieta ) so it is not ( again like pieta ) a portrait but they
may represent us, the world, all of humanity.
Depersonalising them - i.e. no name or it even makes
them somewhat just bodies ( flesh + blood not people
no personalities ), transformation maybe another
meaning of it and transformation of the body is key to violas work, transfiguration metamorphosis and religious meanings plus viola isnt religious at all however he is
somewhat spiritual which he reflects upon his work. A quote that may link to this would
be Viola's art deals largely with the central themes of human consciousness and
experience - birth, death, love, emotion and a kind of humanist spirituality. Throughout
his career he has drawn meaning and inspiration from his deep interest in mystical
traditions, especially Zen Buddhism, Christian mysticism and Islamic Sufism, often
evident in the transcendental quality of some of his works. Equally, the subject matter
and manner of western medieval and renaissance devotional art have informed his
aesthetic.5 This shows that even though Viola isnt religious at all he still takes his
inspiration from religion and spiritual things, with Martyrs who are people that have
suffered/died for a cause or somebody else's mistakes and so linking with the artwork
the people in are being suffered and being put through that pain for something maybe it
has something to do with people destroying the earth so they are being put through this
pain from the elements which the world is made of ( Earth + Wind + Fire + Water ) for
payback in some sense.

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Viola#Art_work

Static at the beginning, colour co-ordination, definitely has a religious / spiritual aspect
related to it as martyrs can be known as saints in some religions, it shows how through
pain and suffering people still keep their faith and belief it also shows at the end of the
whole piece each character look up as if they were ascending and the water one gets
pulled up off screen into ascension. Clear beginning, middle and end - Birth, Life, Death.
Out of all the artworks martyr has the most eventful and clear narrative, as you can see
from the picture its clear whats happening to the man as he starts in a kneeled position
to slowly rising and finally standing up it can be easily portrayed as when hes kneeling
hes being born and as he slowly rises he grows then to the end where hes fully
standing which can be shown as him ascending. There is an obvious beginning which
can be an equilibrium ( everything is normal ) where the person is born and are still /
static, then a middle which can be an disequilibrium ( disruption, confrontation ) where
the person is now at a lively state ( moving ) except the fire character and lastly the end
which can be called a new equilibrium ( resolution ) where the person is now dead or in
this artwork ascending as well however like the beginning they are static / still. All these
paintings have something in common which is them being all metaphorical narratives
where there is a metaphor behind the artwork.
David Hall Tap Piece
The David Hall piece aired for the first time on public TV in 1971 on STV ( Scottish
ITV ), it was unannounced and was therefore unexpected but was on mainstream prime
time this was between 7:30 - 9:30 am with Only 3 Channels, however not all households
owned TVs nor remotes and there was no video recording until the 1980s. However,
Hall is a video art pioneer very few people owned video cameras as they were
expensive, it terms of the piece itself the only sound was the water running and it was
just One whole extreme close up of the tap and it was just static throughout the whole 4
mins until about halfway through the piece where the tap disappeared and was just
water on the screen being drained. I think the only editing there is was the part where
the water draining was put diagonally but that might be just a different camera angle
and not editing, on to the mise en scene it was just a plain white screen / wall in the
back no real body language + facial expressions or costume / make up as there are no
human beings in the piece there are props which is the tap plus i dont feel there is any
set lighting maybe natural lighting. There are no characters, but there is some sort of
beginning middle and end i feel, where the tap starts to fill up and the start, slowly filling
up to point where the tap is taken away in the middle and the frame tilts with the water
draining out at the ending.

The meaning between this piece is unknown to me however, we can find quotes written about
the piece to see if there is a real meaning behind the piece of artwork, for example The idea
of inserting them as interruptions to regular programmes was crucial and a major
influence on their content. That they appeared unannounced, with no titles, was
essential..6 This maybe saying that the piece was intentionally put in the middle of
programmes to catch the audience off guard, and to make them think why its on
their screen and to really think whats it's trying to portray plus the fact that there
was no explanation towards this interruption. Another quote could be This third piece
'..with water, is.. the most memorable, , this shows that this piece might be a part of a
series of work that Hall has been working on and that the tap piece was the most
memorable however I feel there is no evidence or explanation about the meaning
behind this piece of work I believe that this piece was made and intentionally put in
between people's programmes to make them think about the piece. In my opinion
its metaphoric, you can think of the tap as maybe life and it's slowly filling up until
mid age where it starts to go down hill in this case the water drains to the points it's
gone where life has ended but that is just my opinion as i cant find any quotes that
have actually found out the meaning behind this piece of work that Hall has made.
Overall, in this piece i feel there is a narrative you just have to look really deep into it to find
what the meaning is I feel there is a beginning, middle and end this being the beginning where
the water is slowly rising, the middle where the tap is taken out of the shot and it's just the water
left in a diagonal shot, then the end where the water drains away and the piece finishes. The
start is different to the end because at the start there is a prop which is the tap and the water is
rising whereas the end the tap has gone and the water is draining plus there is no real
soundtrack it's just the sound of water slowly filling up and then being drained this makes an
impact on the narrative as it filling up and the start sounds quite heavy then it gets quieter as the
water covers the tap and you cant hear it being filled up anymore. Finally, as i have said even
though i cannot find a narrative I feel there is that narrative of life and death where the water
starts to grow and fill up ( Ages 0 - 50 ), then at the middle where the tap is gone it's kind of like
the middle of life then as the water starts the drain your life starts to become slower and
depletes ( Ages 50 - 100 ), but this is my own opinion of what could be a narrative.

6 http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/film/david-hall-video-art-pioneer
7 http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/film/david-hall-video-art-pioneer