Monday, February 15, 2010

Sculpture and Burial Practices

image from neatorama

"Now that the living outnumber the dead...........Speak my language." (From her 1994 album Bright Red. Thank you, Laurie Anderson.)

It's happening already. In Singapore the dead are being dug up and cemeteries closed to make room for the living. "Essentially, it is a spatial competition between the living and the dead." said Lily Kong, Director of the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, who has studied funeral practices. And that means a shift throughout the region to crematoria and columbaria.

Columbaria comes from Latin meaning a dovecote? Like the many nesting sites for pigeons but now human resting sites. That's means many changes for a culture where ancestors are revered and graves are a place of worship.

How does this relate to sculpture?

When the Singapore exhumation is completed, the headstone is smashed and trucked away as rubble and used in landfill or new construction. No more existing record of the person or of funerary art. Keep in mind that much of what we know about any ancient culture comes from intact burial sites.

New traditions are emerging- all digital, include web sites designed from mourning rituals that sell virtual candles, flowers, and offerings. But nothing tangible. NO SCULPTURE!yikes!.

Writing this, Dot's song from Sunday in the Park With George by Sondheim comes to mind.

If you want instead when you're dead
Some more public and more permanent expression
Of affection
You want a painter, poet, sculptor preferably
Marble, granite, bronze
Something nice with swans,
That's durable forever sentiments exactly.

1 comment:

Titania said...

Hi Patrick, how are you; this is an interesting post. In Switzerland it is practice to dig the graves after 20 Years. My mother and father. both had a beautiful stone sculpted by Bobby Ralston from Chur. My mother's stone a granite had a carved oak, because he said, that our mother was like an oak. Unfortunately this beautiful sculpture was smashed. There are no graves left from my parents, to visit. I always visited the graves when I returned to SWL. They were kept beautifully, always with flowers on them. Now it is just a memory.