Can we say that death is trending?


I had this conversation the other day with a colleague from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. We both agreed that lately there seems to be a lot of dialogue, events, art installations, etc…based on the themes of death and mortality, art and anatomy, and the cultural connotations of death.  So far, for 2016  there are multiple conferences coming up on death, death collections, and even biological fluids and their alternative uses. I have to say, I am excited about this for many reasons. First, as someone who has worked with human remains collections for several years, it is good to see more transparency about collections, their importance, their accessibility, and the concerns of visibility, ethics, and indigenous rights related to them. Second, I have also been excavating human remains for a very long time, in various countries, and the discourse about best practice has also increased with more viewpoints being heard about public access and reburial. In general though, I think we are becoming less disconnected with death and more aware of our mortality. There are new and innovative ways in which we are looking at treating our dead out of concerns for the environment, lack of cemetery space, changing belief systems and plain ole’ creativity. For now, these are just musings as I am preparing for my ‘Rethinking the Dead’ day course I am teaching here in Cambridge. I will be posting further on this next week with some good references for anyone interested. Below is a list of some events coming up (and I will certainly be attending many of these)!

Curating Human Remains in the UK. Bristol. Natural Science Collections Association (NatSCA)
Ethics of Display: exhibiting vulnerable bodies. Warwick.
Encountering Corpses II. Manchester..
Corpses, Cadavers and Catalogues: The Mobilities of Dead Bodies and Body Parts, Past and Present. London.
Death, Art & Anatomy. Winchester.!call-for-papers/c1456
Death and Culture. University of York.
Bodily Matters Conference. UCL.

One thought on “Can we say that death is trending?

  1. I’ve just finished my photography dissertation, coming to the same conclusion. After years of denial, death is definitely “coming back” as a topic, starting with Hirst’s dead shark, and now full colour art photos of dead people and the body farm are being displayed – images that would never have been shown 20 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

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