Alt-Death?

Alt-Death.com is a curated compendium of the ways in which an emerging counterculture of artists, designers, therapists, academics, ritualists and activists are changing the mortality narrative.

My name is Tony Wolf and I was born and raised in New Zealand. My background is in what governments and corporations think of as the “cultural sector” and most of my career has been spent as a tutor/choreographer in the performing arts industry (theater, TV, movies and video games) and as a writer. Now based in Chicago, USA, my personal passions include museum studies, fringe history and similar esoterica, and I’ve written several books and produced two independent documentaries along those lines.

My abiding interest in mortality dates back to my early 20s, when I lost two close friends; one to suicide and the other to a motorcycle accident. Building on a long-term affinity for “creative, secular spirituality”, I devised my own rituals to mark their deaths.

In 1998 and again in 2003 I produced several large-scale ritual performances challenging entrenched mainstream cultural perspectives on death, inspired by the themes of the European Danse Macabre and the Mexican Dia de Muertos. Thereafter I continued to develop my own practice privately, but after my father died in 2016 I became increasingly immersed in the contemporary death-positive movement.

In January of 2020 I traveled back to New Zealand for a vacation and family reunion marking my mother’s 80th birthday. While there, we received the devastating news of a death in the American branch of the family. Weeks after we returned to the USA, the COVID-19 lockdowns began. With time on my hands and mortality on my mind, I set about organizing, augmenting and refining the worldview I’d been cultivating for many years.

My Way of Life and Death essays and video presentations have been featured via Morbid Anatomy, the Atlas Obscura, the Spiritual Naturalist Society and Reimagine. In October of 2021 I convened and participated in the inaugural Memoria Symposium and I’m currently teaching the popular Art of Ritual course.

I have a particular interest in new forms of thanatopositive ritual art and in the potentials of re-enchanting the secular world through the exercise of Poetic Faith, all towards answering the questions; how can we, as mortal humans, best lead meaningful and fulfilling lives? What is the Way of Life and Death, for ourselves and for our world?

In that spirit – memento mori ergo carpe diem.