VANITAS: catch it while you can

explore the differences between live and recorded performance

through music and art from the 17th century and today

photographs by Irene Shih


Vanitas – the fleetingness of life and pleasure – is a theme commonly expressed in visual art and poetry from the 17th century. Musical instruments are a common symbolic element in the vanitas genre of still life painting, representing the fact that sound happens in a moment, is here and gone. While live audiences have the opportunity to hear something which will never be experienced again, they also influence the creative process during that moment in time. Although a recording can give the illusion of reliving a moment, it's more like a snapshot and not the actual thing.  Vanitas: Catch It While You Can explores this theme through music, literature, and visual arts of the past, present, and future.