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Time, and the static image

By R. Le Poidevin


Photographs, paintings, rigid sculptures: all these provide examples of static images. It is true that they change-photographs fade,paintings darken and sculptures crumble-but what change they undergo (unless very damaging) is irrelevant to their representational\ud content. A static image is one that represents by virtue of\ud properties which remain largely unchanged throughout its existence. Because of this defining feature, according to a long tradition in aesthetics, a static image can only represent an instantaneous moment, or to be more exact the state of affairs obtaining at that moment'. It cannot represent movement and the passage of time.\ud This traditional vieu- mirrors a much older one in metaphysics: that change is to be conceived of as a series of instantaneous states and hence that an interval of time is composed of extensionless moments. The metaphysical view has been involved in more controversy than its aesthetic counterpart. Aristotle identified it as one\ud of the premises of Zeno's arrow paradoxZ and Augustine employed it in his proof of the unreality of time. The aesthetic view, for its part, was subjected to a blistering attack in Ernst Gombrich's brilliant\ud essay 'Moment and movement in Art'", uhich persuasively\ud argues, not only against the doctrine that the changeless cannot represent change, but also against the very idea of an instant of time.\ud \ud Still, Gombrich overstates his case. Is the idea of an instant simply a philosophers' fiction? And if we allow such an idea into our conception of the world, are we thereby committed to a mistaken view of pictorial representation? Implicit in Gombrich's argument\ud is a link between depiction and perception. But what is this link, and what role does it play in the argument? I propose in this essay to take another look at the question of what time-span is represented by the static image, and consider whether answering this question presupposes a view of time and change. I shall begin with a brief resume of Gombrich's discussion

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 1997
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