Carry an object with you (Detail), 2012–
Christian Nicolay and Ya-chu Kang
Video Installation
Variable dimensions

Carry an object with you, 2012–
Video Installation
Variable dimensions

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Carry an object with you (Detail), 2012–
Christian Nicolay and Ya-chu Kang
Video Installation
Variable dimensions

Carry an object with you, 2012–
Video Installation
Variable dimensions

Carry an Object with You

The separation between life and death, known and unknown, is valued and dealt with in many ways from Western and Eastern cultures through human imagination and complex practices of burial ceremonies, rituals, and superstition.

The words “Life brings, refuses stubbornly to take away” in Buddhism mean the soul should let everything go. The saying also relates to being born with nothing and when you die you cannot take any material objects with you. However, funerary practices abroad are sacred and we will dress up a dead body or even put things in a coffin like letters or pictures, coins on the eyes in past times, or burn a paper object to greet the departed in the next world. People try to send wishes, thoughts, memories, and love using daily objects from the real world to send to another world (the perceived afterlife) with the deceased after death.

In the Carry an Object with You project, we keep developing our research with traditional funerary practices abroad and invite people to participate. If you could take only one thing with you when you die, what would it be? All the participants are photographed in the nude holding the object they would take with them after death in front of their face. The identity is eliminated from the participant and makes the object become more important. The relationship of the object to the various bodies brings a wide interpretation of our cultural landscapes and associations with death and the humans indivisible relationship with the material world activating such relationships as viewers/viewed, consumer/consumed, and ephemeral/permanent.

The installation consists of a pile of handmade paper lily flowers planted in a pile of salt presented like a tomb-womb reflecting death and birth simultaneously. The participants’ photographs project on the tomb-womb in rotation where flashes of light and dark weave the narrative together. The paper lily flowers are light and translucent without colour, relating to the covering of the skin and a communication with the naked body. The lily has traditionally been associated with death and often found in coffins or on graves in certain cultures.

What does this sound like? An original sound composition accompanies the installation played on speakers buried under the salt tomb-womb. The use of consonance and dissonance, melody and chaos unifies the concept to reflect the known and unknown qualities of life and death. Ultimately the score reflects the changing of the seasons in a year echoing the idea of cycles and something that can be observed by us but not changed.

There is a recurrent insistence to document the present in remembering the past, to keep a connection to tradition and a conservation of our social and cultural relationships to the landscape around us. Through this exploration the artists ask the participants and viewers to examine the relationships between the objects and the subjects and how they relate to their ideas of the afterlife and the traditions and practices associated with it.

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