- Still Einstellung:Stillmoving Imagenesis
Persons do not mirror themselves in running water—they mirror themselves in still water. Only what is still can still the stillness of other things.—Confucius
[T]he artist was so overwhelmed by the splendor of the Buddha that he could not draw when looking at him directly. When the situation was presented to the Buddha, he said, "Let us go together to the bank of a clear and limpid pool"; whereupon the Buddha sat himself by the bank of the pool, while the artist sketched his drawing based upon the reflection on the water’s surface. . . . This particular style became known as "the image of the Sage taken from (a reflection in) water."—Lama Gega
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.—Henry Francis Lyte, "Abide with Me," 1847
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Reflections and shadows—drawn lightly on the fluid or fixed surfaces of water and rock—dissolve the dichotomy of still versus moving images, provoking a third concept: stillmoving imagenesis, or a simultaneous becoming of still and moving images. From Narcissus to Nosferatu, reflections and shadows have been discussed as significant others of things in myth, religion, philosophy, art, science, and popular culture. Taking the still ethics and aesthetics (or with a German term, the still Einstellung) of Confucius and Buddha as points of departure, attention is drawn to the material and mediating stillmoving imageability—understood simply as the material conditions for an entity’s ability to create an image—of natural water and rock, which conditions the immediate and immaterial stillmoving imagenesis of reflections and shadows. Acknowledging this complex in-betweenness, I describe reflections and shadows as being (im)material (im)media. These terms signify the intangible relation of the material and mediating (water, rock) with the immaterial and immediate (light, reflection, shadow). With the speed of light, immaterial reflections and shadows are drawn immediately on the mediating materialities of water and rock.
Look into a reflective surface—a metal mirror or a pool on a rain-swept sidewalk—or dance your fingers between a source of light and a surface, and you can sense the stillmoving imagenesis of reflections and shadows. Such everyday contemplations open up an exploration of not only how we are moving (with) images but also how we are stilling (with) images, through our abilities to control the movement and stillness of our own reflections and shadows. Reflections on water and shadows on rock move with us and are stilled by us. Every morning, we meet our reflection in the mirror and adjust ourselves according to it; at nightfall, we encounter our shadows. Reflections and shadows, as extensions touching surface tensions, are things to make sense with and make sense of. As complex human/nonhuman entanglements, they come into view as physical yet immaterial "extensions of man."1
To make sense of reflections and shadows, one can gain knowledge by posing the question of how reflections and shadows, viewed as stillmoving imagenesis, dissolve the dichotomy of still versus moving images. At stake in posing this question is not only a dissolution of this dichotomy but also the performing of an archaeological intervention into conceptualizations of moving image (im)media, resulting in methodological and theoretical insights—an (im)media archaeological approach from objects, reflections, and shadows to the concepts of stillmoving imagenesis—of consequence for disciplinary formations, since such stillmoving objects demand interdiciplinary insights. This (im) [End Page 229] media archaeology uncovers, under layers of seemingly composite images—below the still and moving images that appear later, historically—the stillmoving imagenesis of reflections and shadows. This essay first sketches the field to which it intends to contribute and explains its key terms; second, it conducts analyses of shadows on the fixed surface of rock by turning to Werner Herzog’s film Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) and reflections on fluid surfaces, taking as its case study Richard Wilson’s art installation 20:50 (1987); and third, the essay concludes by outlining how these observations fundamentally recast the dichotomy of still versus moving images as a trichotomy of stillmoving/still/moving imagenesis. In this order of things, the stillmoving imagenesis through reflections and shadows—and the...