Even The Dead Die.
I'm plotting an exhibition called Even The Dead Die (working title) that will be shown at Photomonth during October - November, 2014. This will be my first systematic effort at editing 3000 plus photos taken at Kensal Green Cemetery from 1989-2009.
The exhibition will focus on an area of the cemetery that represents the final resting place for material culture. This is a general dumping ground for the ongoing maintenance of the cemetery: stone broken down in preparation for recycling; discarded plastic packaging from flowers; clay, lots of clay; otherworldly microwave, cathode ray tube, burnt-out lorry. They are all temporarily stored here, before making their way into the mother of all land tips.
This project is purely analogue. I have never really taken up the instant fix of digital (wonderful as it is!). Thankfully, I'm quite an organised person. But it does means sifting through dozens of boxes and identifying negatives in both 35 and 120 film formats. The editing process will take several months and I will need to clear a space in the studio for the display of working prints. These will need to be constantly revisited: comparing negative with positive; looking for images that can cluster or alternatively offer points of thematic and iconographic difference.
I obviously want to focus on the dead-end zone, this wasteland within the cemetery. This fits into our cultural attraction for ruined objects and I note that Tate Britain is about to open an exhibition called Ruin Lust.
There is an irony in the way we house our loved ones in a memorial that symbolises the eternity of memory and love. The reality is that marble will weather and decay. There are also those "acts of God"; one of these caused the extensive perimeter wall on the Harrow Road to collapse in 2005 (damaging many burial sites and still being rebuilt as we speak).
Out of the ruins, there is a challenge to create a unique exhibition. One that perhaps reveals the hidden workings of the corporate side of the burial industry. It also will have an ecological subtext. The issue of sustainability is important in death as well as in life. As green burials are becoming more popular, future generations might forsake the trimmings of a traditional burial. Is not dust to dust, the cosmic scheme of things?
I've previously exhibited facets of this project.
At my first solo exhibition, Between Heaven and Earth, in 2002 at the Artists Gallery, I showed an installation piece that represented a newly constructed road in the cemetery. 15 x A1 photos were placed on the floor in the gallery under perspex sheets and visitors were invited to walk across its surface. The programme note read: "Weird and wonderful artefacts from demolished houses were used to form the foundation of the road: a comb, y-front underwear, battery, plughole, etc."
I have also used the cemetery as a source of inspiration for experimental prints in a butterfly series.
In 2005 I took part in a group show called Around a Mile. This was at the Dissenters Chapel which is sited in Kensal Green Cemetery. I exhibited Chasing Butterflies:
"It's not easy to chase a butterfly in the cemetery with an SLR camera and freeze frame that zigzag of a flight pattern. However shooting off a roll of film and finding that not one photo contained a butterfly was a surprise. Butterfingers. This collage of images is an attempt to render that noble futility into an abstract landscape."
For the new exhibition, I hope to commission soundscapes from musicians. This will add a sonic layer to the visuals and enhance the narrative play of slideshows. I first employed this collaborative approach in 2012 for Glasgow and Edinburgh: Built Environment From Gulf War to Harry Potter.
Leave a Reply.