“The Changing Face of Death: A Countercultural Perspective”

My new essay is now available via the Morbid Anatomy Online Journal. The essay explores how and why the personification of Death has been re-imagined in recent decades, and how that reflects deep cultural shifts regarding the concept of mortality: At a cultural moment when the traditional imagery of the Grim Reaper had largely given … Read more“The Changing Face of Death: A Countercultural Perspective”

The Flowerskull Mask: A Thanatopositive Art Project

By Tony Wolf I recently took part in the month-long online course Make Your Own Memento Mori: Befriending Death with Art, History and the Imagination, which was organized and taught by Morbid Anatomy founder Joanna Ebenstein. This course combines extensive and fascinating weekly readings and viewings, lectures, discussions, art and writing prompts and so-on, towards a “final project” of each … Read moreThe Flowerskull Mask: A Thanatopositive Art Project

“What will your verse be?”

Here’s the full text of Whitman’s O Me! O Life!: Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects … Read more“What will your verse be?”

Flower Skull Marottes

By Tony Wolf Since the late 1990s I’ve been sporadically developing a philosophically rational, ecologically sound and communally festive approach to mortality, inspired by the motto memento mori ergo carpe diem – “remember death and therefore seize the day”. My interpretation of carpe diem encompasses Epicureanism as well as the perspective that a meaningful life … Read moreFlower Skull Marottes

“Have a child, plant a tree, write a book.”

I’ve recently been attempting to trace the provenance of this proverb and its many variants. So far, I’ve found it (them) attributed to the Cuban poet José Martí, to the Talmud and to “Arabia”, to Ernest Hemingway, Jonathan Swift, Jeremy Belknap, to Taoism, to Laurence Sterne and to “the religion of the Magi” (Zoroastrianism); I’m … Read more“Have a child, plant a tree, write a book.”

King Billy’s Funeral (“Knightriders”, 1981)

George Romero’s Knightriders is a messy, eccentric and often quite beautiful celebration of/elegy for the idealistic, bohemian spirit of the 1960s. In this, one of the final scenes, the titular troupe of motorcycle-jousting knights and their friends gather to pay tribute to their fallen “king”, Billy (memorably portrayed by Ed Harris in one of his … Read moreKing Billy’s Funeral (“Knightriders”, 1981)

The Vanitas Shrine: Remembering Death and Seizing the Day

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 Shrine: Remembering Death and Seizing the Day

The New Danse Macabre at Stamping Ground (2003)

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 New Danse Macabre: How and Why I Created a Death-Positive Performance for a 1998 Arts Festival

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