Chapter

The Rest of Radioactive Light

Robert Rowland Smith

in Death-Drive

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780748640393
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671601 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748640393.003.0008
The Rest of Radioactive Light

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This chapter looks at how artworks relate to their own entropy and survival as art objects. How are we to understand the fact that they live on after the demise and/or decease of their creators? Are artworks living or dead objects or neither? Does their preservation bear comparison with the minimal metabolic state that Freud envisions in the death-drive? The chapter begins by reprising the Shakespearean theme from the previous chapter to discuss how plays such as Macbeth and Hamlet have survived over time. But to try and get at the real quality of stillness, of minimal change, it shifts to Samuel Beckett — not just his writings (particularly the text Stirrings Still), but also to the famous photographs of Beckett taken by John Minihan. Through an analysis of a picture of Beckett taken in Paris, it explains the notion of deathly stillness and its relation to the artwork, likening it to radioactivity and the preservation of light.

Keywords: artworks; entropy; survival; Macbeth; Hamlet; Samuel Beckett; John Minihan

Chapter.  6331 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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