Here’s an excerpt from Stefania Spano’s essay for Hektoen International: A Journal of Medical Humanities on the theme of dark humor in memento mori art: Ruysch’s artistry was matched by his commitment to the underlying science and to using the materials of the dead to teach the living. “I do this,” he explained, “to take … Read more“Laughing in the Face of Death: Ruysch, Dark Humor & Subversion of the Memento Mori in Anatomical Art”
Activist Danny Gamboa produced this short, intimate documentary on ghost bikes – junk bicycles painted white and locked to street signs as memorials to riders killed by cars in traffic accidents.
This episode of the Artbound documentary series considers the reinvention of the Day of the Dead festival in the USA, particularly via the work of the Self Help Graphics community art center in East Los Angeles during the early 1970s. For much more on this subject, I strongly recommend Regina M. Marchi’s 2009 book Day … Read moreArtbound: “Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead”
Here is Allison Elizabeth Solso’s 2015 dissertation on the theme of “vernacular memorials”; the often-temporary shrines constructed by bereaved families and friends at the sites of often-violent deaths. An excerpt: My relationship to these spaces was always confused, even as I did my best to maintain respect and some modicum of decorum. The need to … Read more“Beyond Memento Mori: Understanding American Religions Through Roadside Shrines”
By Tony Wolf During late January of 2020 I returned to snowy Chicago from a three-week long vacation and family reunion in sunny New Zealand. During the trip we’d celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday with a surprise party and also received the devastating news of a death in the American branch of the family. At … Read moreThe Vanitas Altar: Remembering Death and Seizing the Day
By Tony Wolf Several years after staging The New Danse Macabre in Wellington, New Zealand, I had become part of the regular faculty of the Stamping Ground Festival of Dance and the Action Arts in Bellingen, Australia. Stamping Ground was the brainchild of veteran dancer/ choreographer Peter Stock, who wanted to encourage greater participation in … Read moreThe New Danse Macabre at Stamping Ground (2003)
A selection of videos on the subject of death from philosopher Alain de Botton’s massive School of Life project – “an organisation built to help us find calm, self-understanding, resilience and connection – especially during troubled times.”
In a nutshell … A seminal scene from The Dead Poets Society, in which the extraordinary Robin Williams as the extraordinary John Keating imparts the first of many lessons in unorthodoxy, recalling the finitude of life and seizing the day.
The practice of thanatocentric pilgrimage is too often reduced to tacky “ghost tours” and their “true-crime” equivalent. Fortunately, the Atlas Obscura offers this open-ended list of alternative, off-the-beaten-track memento mori destinations, from Harry Houdini’s grave in Queens, NYC to the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis in Uzbekistan.
In July 2020 Joanna Ebenstein will be offering an 8-hour online course in the history, mystery and art of the memento mori: Death is the great mystery of human life. Each of us – barring some medical miracle – will die. Foreknowledge of our own death is a defining characteristic of humanity; the ancient Greeks … Read moreMake Your Own Memento Mori: Befriending Death with Art, History and the Imagination with Morbid Anatomy Founder Joanna Ebenstein