Memento Mori

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Still Life with Severed Pig Head

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Years ago, in another life, I wrote extensively on the subject of instability.  I understood the word in terms that, at the time, seemed essential but now, in retrospect, feel baroque.  I traveled and moved constantly; I was all the time in airport bars scribbling mathematical proofs in a little notepad.  I owned next to nothing and functionally lived out of a suitcase in a seemingly endless series of rundown apartments, my memories of which have blurred together at this point.  I published my ideas on the subject of instability in myriad academic journals, and it would never have occurred to me to consider any application of the term in relation to my own life.

This image is about balance and instability, an attempt to unify the various meanings associated to those words.  These words have a literal meaning, of course, in relation to the arrangement of items on the table, the placement of the pig’s head, the way the cup threatens to roll from its perch on the cake stand, the way the platter full of intestines dangles over the ledge.  These words also have a meaning in terms of photographic composition, in reference to how the eye is guided across the image by successive points of interest. And, finally, these words carry metaphorical meaning. The tipped cup and precariously balanced dish are well-known motifs in still life, commonly understood as reminders of the fragility of life.  Dead animals and rotting foodstuffs carry a similar meaning in memento mori art and these usually serve as reminders of mortality and the transience of all things.

These days I spend less time in airport bars.