visual artist

Still, Moving – text by Nicholas Smith

Still, Moving – text by Nicholas Smith (PDF)

The title reflects a fundamental tension in the film that is at work on several different levels; to be more precise: the title performs a tension or opposition in language that is also worked out in the film. Stillness versus movement – who is still and who is moving, or what is still and what is moving? We can’t tell really. Yet there is movement, near constant movement before the repeated repose towards the end. Eppur si muove.
But there is another kind of movement going on I think, one that is more related to that heightened stillness one can experience in the eye of the storm. There, everything around you is whirling about chaotically while at the centre there is tranquility and freedom from strife and tumult.

This face in still, in moving manifests not only the effects of gravitation on the flesh (and what looks like a curious timetravel to a younger version in the end) but also, and perhaps more challenging, a process of becoming, of coming into being. It has to do with individuation, with becoming a subject or at least with the work that is always involved. It tells of subjectivation. The figure (if we refer to the face as still moving with that word) discloses a Beckett-like mood: it is a human face that we cannot focus, that cannot focus itself and that looks and looks, with a gaze that simply insists. What does it want? What does it say? Suddenly the flow of shaky movement interrupts: the image freezes for a microsecond – oh, progress, we feel. Sometimes the mouth opens a bit, and in one of the eyes there is suddenly a revelation of sorts: it ceases to be part of the face (as we recognize faces) and we find ourselves staring at this prehuman or posthuman or nearhuman, who herself, is looking back at us, but also staring into the abyss of herself: she is looking at me, at you and we register this. This is near horror, she makes me see myself as this violently shaking figure – this we share.

And precisely this is subjectivation. Never finished, never totally stable: movement away from that which, then, becomes not a full I but a self. At least that much.

What is still and what is moving? After Galileo we know that it is the sun that is still and the earth that is moving, but as more recent research has shown, the sun actually moves too, star amongst stars in endless universe. Centrifugal force. The glitches as condition for sociality. Aristotle’s definition of time as the measure of movement seems to rest on the visible movement of the sun across the earth, which has ever since been our primary access to time.
If one sits totally inert on a chair time still passes, we are completely powerless against the inexorable ageing and movement towards death. This movement in stillness has a frightening aspect to it: it is uncanny. We are, at times at least, at home in our world and in the stillness of our earth yet we still often don’t know where we are, and this is also frightening.

The day that the film was made there was a solar eclipse (but you can’t see that).
Nicholas Smith (ph. d.), Södertörn University, Stockholm

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