Compassion and The Living Dead

 

Death of an Inner City Seagull

Death of an Inner City Seagull

 

I’ve been aware for some time now, of a surge of focus on taxidermy art and art made from road kill.

When I was exhibiting in London at the end of last year I heard that there were starter taxidermy courses running, using hamster bodies.

My personal interest in this ‘new’ trend,was no doubt partially coloured by a hope that my work would be more warmly and openly received than it has been over the years, rather than with the usual reactions of ‘creepy’ ‘freaky’ and such like.

However I was also intrigued as to whether this rise in mainstream acceptance makes a difference in how the public view animals and the dead.

Would there also be an increase in compassion as people, such as those who undertook the hamster stuffing course, held the dead body of a small animal?

Would this new found popularity of death presented as art, create an opening of the senses to the reality of what death brings, to a generation who perceive meat as something that arrives faceless and pre-packaged in a supermarket?

Sad to say, I’m not sure that it will.

As someone who cried when I lifted a dead animal that weighed as much as a small child onto a surface to work with, and has seen pain rigour into the face of a creature that had been hit by a car, I hoped that this trend would create an awareness that behind the packaging,behind the object, once lived something beautiful.

My hopes seem to be ill founded.

During a depressive time, I stopped most forms of social media except Instagram, as I was too emotionally vulnerable to cope with words, structured language and all the games that can lie within them.

Communication through images at that point seemed safer and ‘cleaner’.

I noted that the many who ‘liked’ images of my sculptures from bone and road kill, didn’t ‘like’ an image of the original dead creature.

Personally I have trouble with disturbing, though valid images of suffering to promote awareness, but I am talking here about photographs of transition, images that capture last emotional and physical feelings at the moment of death.

Working with the dead in art is a way of recognising what was, and its potentiality. Potentiality not as an ingredient for consumption like aforementioned pre-packaged meat, but as a component to something new…and that creation cannot exist in entirety with acknowledgement of its original form.

When you look at the above image, go beyond the shock of seeing an irritating inner city dweller, go beyond seeing a nasty dead thing, and feel compassion for what it once was…then you can really start to appreciate and create art from the once living.

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About charlottejane2002

Author of 'P is for Prostitution', 'The Bloody Sacrifice' and co-editor of 'A Contemporary Western Book of the Dead' which are all published by Mandrake of Oxford. Italian publisher Roberto Migliussi has recently released 'The Sky is a Gateway, Not a Ceiling', a book of Charlotte's collected essays printed alongside images of his own art work. Charlotte is also an artist who creates spiritually directed art works from road kill and found objects. She has had her written work printed in anthologies and various magazines and on line publications and has given presentations at many events and institutions including Edinburgh University and Brooklyn's 'Museum of Morbid Anatomy'. Her art work has been exhibited widely including at London's Chelsea Gallery and The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, and is soon to be shown in New York.
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2 Responses to Compassion and The Living Dead

  1. Sara Star says:

    My thoughts are that you are reading too much into the meaning of a heart or not a heart on a photograph through instagram. Does the lack of number of people hearting a photo of a dead creature compared to a final work of art mean that they don’t have compassion? No it means that they love the art and they don’t heart the death of the poor creature. That is compassion right there. I have noticed that artists who set up a beautiful ritual around the dead bird or animal and photograph that before gathering it up get lots of likes, because the viewer is hearting the memorial of that creature and its spirit.

    • Valid point and both humbling and thought provoking that social media ‘likes’ have such an influence on my thoughts and reactions, especially around meaningful subjects.As stated I have backed off from many social networking forums due to a period of over reactive, over analytical sensitivity…sad to think ‘hearts’and ‘likes’have such great power.
      My point really is, that in death shouldn’t need dressing or embellishment, the banner of art, right cause or sanctioned spirituality to evoke compassion. If the above image had been of a swan, a dove or a badger it would have created a very different reaction, I’m sure. It’s all subjective of course, and the limited ‘like’ or ‘heart’ buttons on social media make that subjectivity need to walk between very narrow lines.
      I’m an idealist simply enough and idealism doesn’t leave many allowances for human nature (including my own).

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