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A Coffin only and a Burial Gown


Death: A subject that seems distant and only relevant for others. From the media we get to know of the death of thousands of people in wars, through natural disasters or plane crashes. In the newspapers we read about murder, car accidents or other tragic events. At the weekend we get comfortable on the couch, because it is time for the crime series on public television. We go to the cinema, watch American Blockbusters in which the number of dead people can hardly be counted. Everywhere people die. Everywhere death is present, and yet it does not seem to affect us. The media serves almost as a distorting mirror of social reality for the conscious use of death itself. Rarely, the depictim of death in the media goes beyond this fact. The path after death is obscured by the collective consciousness of our society, a blind spot in the minds of our time.(Faerber 1995:10)

We tend to deal more with the death of strangers rather than our own death, but the anxiety associated with this confrontation is actually a protective layer. The modern use of death and death awareness in our everyday thinking and behavior almost seems to be morbid. Most people try to suppress thoughts about their own mortality and overestimate the chance that they will become old and have a long life ahead of them. They face life with self-delusion and arrogance. But what happens if one is confronted with death, with one’s own death? If one thing is certain in life, it is the fact that we will all die one day. If one thing is assured in life, it is death. Beside this everyday (un-)consciousness towards death, the funereal and mourning rituals of the western hemisphere have also strongly changed in the 20th century (Feldmann 2004:16). In addition to the increasing number of cremations, a shortening of time between death and burial reflects a lack of interest - a refusal of a public viewing ceremony. Similarly, the willingness decreased to wear mourning clothes or show grief in any other way to the public. Even dealing with funeral expenses challenges the living persons, financially and emotionally. How can we deal with it? How can we change the paradoxical absence of death in our social focus and overcome the lack of awareness for one of the main certainties of humanity? How can we face our own death and envision what will happen to us after we die? After our death processes begin which involve people, who accompany our death. It is an event that shocks us at any time, despite the fact that death is omnipresent in our lives. It occurs quietly and widely unnoticed by others in institutions and in small circles of directly affected persons. We must overcome the speechlessness in dealing with death. The work aims at developing an understanding for the manifestation of death in our lives and wants to make parts of the process after we die visible. The photographic works confront us with issues that we like to block out of our everyday live. They show that death is a part of our lives.

Text: Carolin Genz