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Sam Taylor-Wood

The soundtrack is silent - there is no sound.
Cinematography (camera work) - one medium long shot + static for whole 2 minutes.
Editing - at beginning fades in from black-out and fades out to black.
Mise-en-scene: props + setting ->
lighting + colour ->
body language + facial expression ->
costume + makeup ->
Setting - on stairs/steps - don’t know where as the framing does not allow us to see.
Costume - him - black trousers, no top.
her - white vest + shorts.
Light contrast - between light + dark. - “chiaroscuro”
Colour - monotone, lot of black + white but strong skin tones.
Low key lighting.
Man lying down on a woman’s lap.
She holds/cradles him.
Looks like she’s nurturing.
Her legs support him.
Also supports his hands/legs by her left hand.
Head back, eyes closed.
Heavy arm is outstretched - “playing dead”.
Exhibited at the White Cube gallery in Hoxton.
Was done in the year 2000.
Solo exhibition by Sam Taylor-Wood called “Mute”.
Married to the man who owned the White Cube gallery.
Movement: there is not much movement as they are trying to stay still. Most obvious movement
is the guy being held breathing. At :55 seconds or so, his arms move perhaps in an attempt to
get more comfortable. At 1:30, the man moves his hands towards the woman’s ankle. At the
very end of the art piece, the man raises his body up.
This is video art; a “moving image” even though it tries to be still.
The woman in the video is the artist Sam Taylor-Wood, and the man being cradled is the actor
Robert Downey Jr.
Taylor-Wood based her video artwork on Michelangelo's “Pieta”.
Not a full copy as the costume and makeup is off.
The setting is on the stairs of some building. The framing does not allow us to see what the
place is.
There is not a lot of colour within the video installation work. It is very monotone, although the
colour of their skin stands out.
The man in the video is only wearing black trousers. He is not wearing a top.
The woman is wearing a tank top and shorts.
The ending and the beginning of the clip is marked by the fade-in and fade-out to darkness.

A man is lying down on the woman’s lap.
The lighting is centered on the actors in order to show the main focus.
At parts, the man is stretched out, perhaps to show that he is uncomfortable.
Narrative, implied.
Jesus + Mary
Son + Mother
Sam Taylor-Wood + Robert Downey Jr
Compare the artwork to TV + film usually tell stories - characters talking, dialogue.
Non - diegetic sound i.e. music to create nothing.
No ‘real’ acting, i.e. not moving.
Based on a religious art work. It could be providing a self portrait for the artist (Sam TaylorWood). Also could be to show a portrait of Robert Downey Jr, who is playing the role of
someone akin to Jesus. He was a celebrity, although alcoholism and drug addiction lead to his
downfall. Celebrity and fame replacing religion in most western societies; society is looking up
more to celebrities as role models rather than religion. Society has become more secular. Film
stars taking the role of ‘icons’ and ‘idols’. The roots of these words are religion. Robert Downey
Jr has built himself up as a world famous icon as of present. The woman can be seen as
mothering for the man. To mother is to nurture + look after children. She is serene - self portrait,
religious. Downey Jr suffering physically/mentally because of what he had been through. Was a
drug addict and in rehab, used to be top film star. Sam Taylor-Wood gave birth and had been
diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997, got breast cancer in 2000 and received a Turner Prize in
2001. Jesus is one of the most iconic figures of all time.
Matthew “Spirituality in art is often connected to the artist's awareness of his or her own mortality” - self
portrait, explaining a near death experience.
“Taylor-Wood, having survived serious illness, supports the still vulnerable Downey both physically
and emotionally.” - she is nurturing Robert Downey Jr.
“in a still photograph, we would not have seen her struggling to hold on to her burden, nor would we
have seen that after a certain amount of time, her strength fails.” - shows a self portrait of what she
has felt like.
“In the cases of Taylor-Wood and Downey, our knowledge of their personal histories is an integral
part of the work's meaning.”
“they want us to recognise them as living human beings, not the biblical figures whose poses they
have assumed.”


Death as subject/meaning.
“Still life” inanimate objects are made to move.
“Pieta” animate object are made to be still.
Inspired by ‘old’ artworks.
“Still life replicates ‘old masters’ paintings.
“Pieta replicates Renaissance sculpture Some still work is known as “vanitas”



Mise-en-scene - body language + facial expression
costume + make-up
lighting + colour, settings and props
low key lighting - say where the shadows are + where the highlights are.
Setting is dull and dingy, colour on wall + table
blue biro is a prop on the table in the foreground on the right hand side.
a wicker basket with fruit on it - brown + dull
- Cinematography/camerawork - static MCU or CU whole of the 3 minutes - shot does
not change.
- Editing - timelapse, no visible cuts but 100s or more still images giving the illusion of
movement. - looks like a single 3 minute long duration shot.
- Soundtrack - no soundtrack.

The use of exhibition space to create meaning.
Artwork exhibited at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Lots of religious images and iconography.
The building is very grand.
It was populated with a large number of tourists from all around the world.
All the paintings and sculptures have religious undertones.
It was originally built in 1675, after the Great Fire of London had happened.
Any viewer has to see a lot of other artwork before they reach Bill Viola’s pieces.
Bill Viola is free to all during the weekdays between the times 11:30 to 2:30.
The video artwork sticks out in comparison to everything else within the cathedral because of
how modern and contemporary it is.
Screen is roughly around 1.4m high and 3.4m wide (for all of the screens put together).
The artwork is very small in the area that it is put in, although it still manages to stand out.
Compare to Harun Farocki in the Tate Modern, small dark room where the only came from the
televisions. There were seats and headphones in order for us to get a deeper insight of the

There was an engaging beginning and ending for the artwork, captivating most people to watch
the whole thing.
It was a multi-channel artwork, and there was 4 screens.
Most of the modern generation focus more on one screen at a time when doing things.
The 4 elements being shown in the artwork are earth, wind, fire and water.
Bill Viola is not a follower of the Christian religion, although he is spiritual.
There are 3 men and 1 women, one of the men is black, so there is a lot of diversity between
the people shown. We treat these people as anonymous.
There is not much sound in the artwork, although there are some sound effects to indicate the
The first video art piece by Sam-Taylor Wood that I analysed was “Pieta”, which was created in
the year 2000 and put on display in the White Cube gallery in Hoxton. This piece depicts a
weakened or dying man being cradled by a woman, who we can assume to be his motherly
figure. The role of the man is played by Robert Downey Jr before his career started up again as
an actor, and the woman is played by the artist herself, Sam-Taylor Wood. There is a lot of
meaning behind this particular artwork as what is displayed within the piece can be linked to the
real life issues that the actors were facing at the time of creation. Robert Downey Jr was a
celebrity at the time, although he faced his own downfall as a result of alcoholism and drug
addiction. This struggle is portrayed within the art piece to the audience through the lifelessness
in his body, as well as other signs. At that particular moment in time, it is essentially telling us
that he almost felt dead inside, although not completely as he did still show signs of life in the
piece. Sam-Taylor Wood also had her own struggles as she was diagnosed with two different
types of cancer; colon cancer in 1997 and breast cancer in 2000. Despite this, she is shown as
the motherly figure supporting the man as it shows that she empathises with how he feels.
Despite them having different problems, they were both undergoing extremely scary and life
threatening scenarios.
There are a number of different things to note within the scene. A key fact that has to be noted
is is that there is no soundtrack whatsoever for the audience to listen to whilst viewing it. This is
important as the quiet allows for people watching it to be able to reflect more about the things
that they are viewing. It is still possible to be able to give definition to the artwork with sound,
although the point is that they want the audience to just be enveloped by what they are seeing
and nothing else. People cannot focus on audio as the actors can only express their emotions
clearly only through visuals. Also, the video is fairly static, consisting only of one medium shot
throughout the whole 2 minutes of it. There are a few movements that occur within the scene,
although these are only prevalent to clear up a few misconceptions that the audience may have
about the piece. For example, it would be easy to assume that the man being nurtured for is
actually dead as there is nothing else to suggest that he is still alive apart from the erratic
movements that he does. It may also be because the art was filmed quite naturally, meaning
that there was not much preparation done for when the final shot was recorded. As a result, it
may mean that most of the movements within the shot are more of a reactionary thing as
opposed to something that the artist originally intended to put in, such as the woman’s struggle
to carry the man.

The work is a clear homage to Michelangelo's version of “Pieta”, which is about the Virgin Mary
cradling a dying Jesus within her arms, although there are many different touches added to this
version in order to be able to make it fit in with modern day society. There is a lack of strong
colours in the footage, although the actors are clearly wearing casual attire that is more of what
this generation would wear. The male actor only wears black trousers within the scene, whilst
the female actor wears a white tank top and shorts. This use of attire maintains a close enough
resemblance to the original piece whilst also still retaining its individuality as an artwork; for
example, Jesus is only wearing a towel around his lower body area in the original sculpting, so
Sam-Taylor Wood’s rendition keeps it similar by only making the man wear trousers.
One possible meaning for this video artwork is to show the link between celebrities and religion.
In previous times, England used to be a very religious country, with it mostly consisting of
Catholics. However, that prevalence has gone down as of recent years, and it will only keep
continuing to do so in passing time. There is still some religion in many parts of the UK,
although it can be said that the Gods that many people used to once worship have been
replaced by celebrities; what once used to be Gods that people aspired to be like are now
celebrities. One way that this is shown to us within the work is how Sam Taylor-Wood and
Robert Downey Jr pose for us. It is a clear homage to the religious artwork “Pieta”, which
depicts the Virgin Mary cradling a dying Jesus Christ in her arms. Despite that, it is not as if they
are trying to make themselves look like the religious figures as they put no effort into trying to
look alike, so it can be said that they are not trying to represent Virgin Mary or Jesus. It actually
gives us the implication that they are the modern era Mary and Jesus, even though they have
no direct affiliation with religious texts such as the bible. They describe themselves as such
because of the perception that society has of celebrities; they may just be normal people, but
the world around them makes it to be as if they are deities.
Another possible meaning of the video artwork is to show a self portrait of what both the people
within the shot have been through. Obviously this would require the audience to research about
Sam Taylor-Wood and Robert Downey Jr’s previous experiences in order to acquire some
context, although it does make a lot of sense when we analyse the work in depth. The way in
which they are positioned shows that they are in a very grieving moment within their lives;
Robert Downey Jr was a heavy alcoholic and a drug addict at the time of making, and Sam
Taylor-Wood was diagnosed with 2 different types of cancer, colon and breast cancer. It is made
clear to us that Robert Downey was struggling at that point just from the lifelessness that could
be suggested in the way he positions himself within her lap, and whilst Taylor-Wood was looking
strong in the scene, it was clear that she was fumbling at moments which could have been done
to represent her weakness at the time. She was trying to support Downey Jr, but was clearly
struggling to keep it up as the film got further on towards the end.
The final possible meaning of the video artwork may be to show a nurturing side of Sam TaylorWood. This is a much more general meaning of the artwork as it does not put them into the role
of themselves or specific figures anymore; instead, they are just shown simply as a mother and
her son. When the video is given this definition, what we see is no longer two people who are in

stressful situations within their lives. We are just shown a video about a mother who is cradling
her child in her arms, whom we can assume may just be feeling weak or tired. This is much
more relatable in comparison to the other meanings as it is not exclusively targeting particular
individuals. It can be said that many mothers have felt like what is portrayed in this video at least
once throughout their lifetime. However, because it is the most general meaning, it would also
make it so that this art piece is the least personalised towards the artist’s own life experiences,
which kind of devalues the work for the artist herself.
An important aspect of the installation is the narrative of the artwork. It is debatable whether or
not Sam Taylor Wood’s “Pieta” has a narrative or not, as it is clear that there is not much of a
story, even though a narrative can be implied based on what is already known. Richard Dorment
of the Daily Telegraph states that “A painting or a photograph has no beginning, middle and end.
Film is time-based; it starts and stops, just like human life”. This quote is essentially telling us
that there is a narrative because of the fact that Taylor-Wood had utilised film for portraying
Pieta as opposed to other mediums that were available at the time. It may have been possible
that the intent was there as well as getting a high quality camera at the time of making was a
very large dedication, which shows that she may have wanted to be very specific in the way that
it was displayed. Also, if the audience were to know of the religious piece that this was based of,
there would be a very clear narrative that is shown. In a religious context, what is shown
resembles the last moments of Jesus Christ in Virgin Mary’s arms before he dies. There is no
dialogue or sound between the characters to show a plot progression, but the event itself was
such a prominent point for religious believers everywhere that most would already understand
what exactly is going on within the scene. To add to that, there is not really much acting going
either which would make it fairly difficult to understand if the audience were unable to relate it to
other art pieces.
Still Life is another video artwork made by Sam-Taylor Wood in the year 2001. It can be inferred
that the idea behind the artwork is to portray time in motion; in it we get to see what the effects
are of just leaving something over long periods of time. In the case of Still Life, it is a bowl of
fruits. This object makes for an appropriate subject since fruits do have a life, although it is not
in the same way that humans or animals do. Over time, we see the fruits going from having a
fresh appearance to one that is rotting, which shows that even fruits ‘die’ from a technical
standpoint. They cannot last forever and will start to lose it’s form if left to age, which is
something that can be applied to many living things as well. Humans are a prime example of
this happening; at youth, the body is capable of doing pretty much everything. In passing time,
many of the internal functions within the human body start declining in how well they operate,
until the body reaches the point of death. At this point, the human body ceases to function at all
and has to undergo a process of decay.
There is a narrative in the art piece “Still Life” as it is a sequence of events taking place, even
though there is not much of a story behind what is actually going on. The beginning of the
sequence is indicated by the solid form that the fruits hold. A time lapse then occurs to show us
a sequence of the fruits turning into a rotting mass, eventually becoming the thing that we see in
the ending frame. A story is not clear, but it does not matter as we are seeing a change in state;

the thing that we saw in the first frame is no longer the same thing within the last frame, which
means that a progression has occurred. It is a very basic progression for what it is, although it
may be part of a bigger picture. Trying to derive a story just from the one piece of work may not
be what the artist intended and so it may be expected of the audience to try and understand a
variety of other things so that all the pieces can be put together. On the other hand, it may just
be a progression to give us an understanding on the concept of how every living thing reaches a
stage of death and decay. To understand the full progression, the audience may need to just
take out certain facts about what occurred within the piece so that the same principles can be
applied to other situations.
The space around the art piece itself is used to good effect as well, so focusing just on what is
within the frame does not fully capture the intended impact. The artist puts their work inside a
very wide room, with multiple other pieces that can easily be seen whilst viewing it. This gives
the effect that everything is related to each other and that a narrative cannot be deduced just by
viewing only one of the pieces, as they have to be linked. This may explain why the narrative for
the art piece “Still Life” is very simplistic when taken just by itself. Another thing to note is that
the audience are not expected to be seated whilst viewing the art-piece; everything has been
arranged so that people can just walk around and catch glimpses of different work that artists
have produced. This may be done to give space for the viewers to contemplate about how
perceive the link between the different art pieces.
The video art piece uses various types of technology within it. First off, Still Life was filmed on a
single monitor. Instead of using multiple screens to show segments of the footage, only one
screen is used to show all of it. This can be used to imply that what is going on within the
footage does not need to be analysed in depth; everything within the piece could be displayed
with a low resolution as there was not much detail that needed to be looked at anyway from the
audience’s perspective. The most precise detail that had to be taken in was the biro pen on the
table below the basket, although even that was clear to the audience despite its fairly small size.
It is important that this was noticeable within the shot as it does hold some significance in what
the artpiece tries to convey. It plays the role of being the comparative object, to indicate that
living things will always age forward, whilst still objects will always remain in the same form.
Everything else progresses onwards, whilst this object just remains static.