In 1985, Italian artist Alberto Burri commenced work on the massive Grande Cretto, a poured concrete sculpture memorializing the central Sicilian mountain town of Gibellina, which had been destroyed by a massive earthquake during the 1960s. The project was finally completed in 2015. The layout of the Grande Cretto mimics (and is built directly over) … Read moreMemorial Land Art: Alberto Burri’s “Grande Cretto”
Here’s a short CBS presentation on the revival of gardening in “cradle graves” at The Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia. Established during the mid-19th century, The Woodlands was part of the rural cemetery trend, in which landscaped, tree-lined graveyards established on the edges of cities provided welcome respite from urban noise and pollution. Rural cemeteries became … Read moreGrave Gardening at the Woodlands Cemetery
Leslie Ann Epperson’s 2015 documentary (trailer above) examines the history, personalities, logistics and guiding ethos of Tucson’s acclaimed All Souls Procession. This secular and notably artistic remembrance of death and celebration of life dates back to the year 1990 and has grown from strength to strength – a recent count estimated well over 150,000 participants … Read more“Many Bones, One Heart” – a Documentary on Tucson’s All Souls Procession
VICE reporter Yuka Uchida investigates the practice of “Well Dying” or “Near Death” simulations in South Korea, wherein participants experience a ritual “death” – including the writing of final letters to loved ones and a symbolic burial – in order to gain perspective on their lives.
Audio as the Realm of the Dead was a 2007 site-specific memento mori sound art project by Victoria Estok: Created as a gift to those who recognize Roosevelt, NJ as their home, this one day sound installation allowed the dead to be heard again and the listener to enter into a realm of shared memory deep … Read more“Audio as the Realm 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 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)
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.
A short 2014 documentary on the history of (and modern practice of creative memorial at) London’s once-forgotten Cross Bones Graveyard. Since the time this video was produced, there have been considerable developments in connection with Cross Bones. Check out the Friends of Cross Bones website for much, much more on this poignant and inspiring story.
By Tony Wolf My background is in the entertainment industry as a choreographer and sometime-director, with an extracurricular “minor” in ritual. I’ve always been interested in the intersection of creativity, history and psychology, and in the ways those disciplines play out in public celebrations. I was also deeply dissatisfied with the mainstream modern, Western approaches … Read moreThe New Danse Macabre: How and Why I Created a Death-Positive Performance for a 1998 Arts Festival