Last night we opened the Ars Moriendi installation and ushered a few dozen people through our experiment about death and dying. It took us a few tries to get into the groove, but once we did, it was amazing to hear all of the death experiences people were willing to share with us. Some seemed a little confused and weirded out, and others appeared truly moved. I even got a few hugs. Some people had recently lost someone close to them, and a newly engaged couple decided to memorialize their happiness by posing for a death photo together.
There’s a lot going on in Ars Moriendi and you can engage in several ways. Audiences can sit for a consultation and participate in a conversation about their own experiences and feelings. We punch your “time card”, symbolizing you leaving this plane. You may sit alone in the Death Chamber and leave any last words, which you can pin to the wall and share with others. There’s even a “CANfessional” where you can get any sins or secrets off your chest. Once you’ve died and cross over into the Purgatory Chamber, we’ll take a series of post-mortem photos of your body. Feel free to continue the conversation and share your thoughts with the Photographer. As you exit, take a moment to reflect on the process of mourning through an ephemeral video, including clips of the strange and wonderful ways that people grieve.
Ars Moriendi can be morbid and heavy, but it’s also light and lively – it truly depends on how you choose to experience the piece. The overarching theme is that by remaining conscious of our own mortality, perhaps we can live fuller, healthier, more vibrant lives. Speaking and thinking about death does not conjure our own dying. We’ve been trained to be superstitious about death and deny it, when in reality, it is an equal and beautiful partner in the cycle of life AND death.
Above are some of my post-mortem photos. Come and pose for your own through May 7 at Barnstorm.