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“Still Life A still is a state of calm, a lull in the action. But it is also a machine hidden in the woods that distills spirits into potency through a process of slow condensation. In painting, a still life is a genre that captures the liveness of inanimate objects (fruit, flowers, bowls) by suspending their sensory beauty in an intimate scene charged with the textures of paint and desire. Hitchcock was a master of the still in film production. A simple pause of the moving camera to focus on a door or a telephone could produce a powerful suspense. Ordinary life, too, draws its charge from rhythms of flow and arrest. Still life punctuates its significance: the living room strewn with ribbons and wine glasses after a party, the kids or dogs asleep in the back seat of the car after a great (or not so great) day at the lake, the collection of sticks and rocks resting on the dashboard after a hike in the mountains, the old love letters stuffed in a box in the closet, the moments of humiliation or shock that suddenly lurch into view without warning, the odd moments of spacing out when a strange malaise comes over you, the fragments of experience that pull at ordinary awareness but rarely come into full frame. A still life is a static state filled with vibratory motion, or resonance. A quivering in the stability of a category or a trajectory, it gives the ordinary the charge of an unfolding. It is the intensity born of a momentary suspension of narrative, or a glitch in the projects we call things like the self, agency, home, a life. Or a simple stopping. When a still life pops up out of the ordinary, it can come as a shock or as some kind of wake-up call. Or it can be a scene of sheer pleasure--an unnamed condensation of thought and feeling. Or an alibi for all of the violence, inequality and social insanity folded into the open disguise of ordinary things. Or it can be a flight from numbing routine and all the self-destructive strategies of carrying on. It can turn the self into a dreaming scene, if only for a minute. ”—
Kathleen Stewart, Ordinary Affects (18-19).
I am struck by the relation between the visual and the affective, the latter meaning not emotions, but the capacity to affect and be affected, to evince the aliveness of things
. What mediates the two are things. Yet, tTo see things as such—not inert but alive, having the capacity to “pop out” and coalesce (I suppose the Deleuze-heads would say “assemble” or even “assemblage”) as a scene—requires the example of the visual aesthetic objects. Still life as a genre of painting followed by still life on the motion picture are examples the reader apprehends before she come to the still life that “punctuate[s]” ordinary life. To repeat, the visual aesthetic object is required as an example so that the reader can see the concept of still life applied to the abstraction that is ordinary life. So, perhaps iIt is the visual that mediates the understanding of things as being alive, potent, of things becoming scenes, still lifes, that disrupt the ordinary, yet is constituted by it.