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Speed, motion and stillness

Updated: Mar 25

“Animation is, characteristically, whatever its form, genre or technique, enlivened, which is not to say that it is lively only because it displays movement. Rather, more specifically, it is made lively by the inherent movement of the dynamic contradictions that inhabit it and which are projected in its small image worlds.”


-Esther Leslie, Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Fluid Form (2016)


A speed—excitement connection is evident from cultural activities such as racing, and then awarding the fastest person, horse, dog, pig, car, driver, rider, climber, rower, boat, or other fastest thing in the race with admiration, shiny solid awards and money. Various ideas, expressions and aesthetic phenomena that we like combine high speed and slowness or stillness with motion, for example "a race against time," "slow march," "run of the mill," "run a tight ship" and "slowly but surely” among popular expressions, and stop motion films and dance in the cultural realm. Aesthetic combinations of dynamism and stasis should show that, while speed and movement are exciting, we ultimately find mixtures of them with their opposites more likable.


Heat and speed are generally related on small scales. The brain should be no exception to this so it's expected that we connect speed with excitement, anger, sex, heat, fluidity, disorder and brightness in language and culture. That we do so seems apparent in the popularity of the following common expressions: "victory lap" (dynamic—excited), "a quick temper" (fast—anger), "hustler" (fast—aggression), "cruising for a bruising" (speed—violence), "mad rush" (anger—fast), "sex drive" (dynamic—sex), "drive me crazy" (dynamic—disorder—anger/desire), "dashing" (fast—attractive), "feverishly," (hot—fast) "like a bat out of hell" (hot—fast), "agitated" (dynamic—anger), "startled" (dynamic—excitement), "fast and furious" (fast—anger), "cut to the quick" (fast—anger), "run you through" (fast—aggression), “zip it” (fast—aggression), “racy” (fast—sexual), "a quicky" (fast—arousal), "blistering pace" (hot—fast), "hot pursuit" (hot—fast), "hot on your heels" (hot—fast), "hot on your trail" (hot—fast), "full blast" (fast—disorder), "shake a leg" (dynamic—long—fast), "haste makes waste" (fast—disorder), "run hot and cold" (fast—hot—cold), "run ragged" (fast—disorder), "as fast as greased lightning" (fast—fluid—bright), "lickety-split" (fluid—many—fast), "running water" (fast—fluid), "run like the wind" (fast—fluid), "full steam ahead" (fast—fluid), "snollygoster" from German for "fast spirit" (fast—fluid), "go with the flow" (dynamic—fluid), "breakneck speed” (disorder—fast), "warp speed" (disorder—fast), "full tilt" (disorder—fast), "in a flash" (in—bright—fast) and "rash" (bright—fast).


Other expressions which reference stillness or speed that isn’t real and may be of interest include "slow as molasses in January" (slow—cold), "my mind is racing" (fast—excitement), "beat the rush," "fools rush in where angels fear to tread," "love the chase” and “revolutionary."


Works cited


Leslie, Esther. Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Fluid Form. Reaktion Books, 2016.


Light and color

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