Death and its rites in contemporary art & culture_Abstract delivery: 15th April 2010 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Other Modernities, Issue #4
Death and its rites in contemporary art & culture
A critical reflection on the contemporary forms of artistic, literary and cultural expressions reveals an ever-growing difficulty in coming to terms with death: death understood as the end of the body, as absence, as total loss, as a break that cannot be mended within any spiritual framework. From a sociological point of view, this seems to have produced an array of highly diversified attempts to 'fill in' this ideal blank outside the reach of traditional symbolic forms.
Our approach in this issue is only in part sociological: it is sociological to the extent to which it enables us to explore a wide range of artistic and cultural expressions that are in some way related to the need to come to terms with death – whether our own or the death of a loved one. Special attention will be given to the ritual component involved in the process, that is, the constilation of social and individual rituals that signal the act of separation from, or the testament left by, the departed.
Also of special interest will be the ways in which death – especially when it is diagnosed or perceived as imminent – re-writes our relationship to our own body, turning it into something precious or to be sacrificed, something familiar or foreign, something to hide or expose. The main object of interest is the way in which the body acquires absolute centrality in the aesthetic perspective of each of the artists considered. The guiding concern is to explore in what way this centrality is itself conditioned by two uncontrollable events: the perception of a body – the artist's – parting from life, and the mourning ritual that allows the subject to come to terms with this.
Possible issues to be considered:
• death and the body of the artist
• art as funeral rite
• the rituals of memory (individual and collective)
• disease as a code written on the body
• art to exorcise an imminent death
• new funeral rites for new symbolic worlds
• tradition and new funeral rites