Hereafter (35mm Film and Slide Installation)
2010, colour, English
Hereafter is a 35mm looping film installation that confronts the viewer with what happens to the physical body after death… yet the body remains conspicuously absent from the image.
Hereafter is about the absence of a contemporary vocabulary or ritual around death. Working with Michelle Clarke, a funeral services instructor and Funeral Director, Brenda Goldstein used 35mm film to document the preparation of a body for burial.
The 35mm film image is projected onto a 4’2” x 6’11” plane of sandblasted plexiglass. The image concentrates on Michelle’s actions and movements as she washes and prepares a body, a process she completes almost daily. We never see what her hands are working on—the image is cut off, leaving the rest of the information for the viewer to project.
On the opposite gallery wall, slides are projected. These slides are plain text of interviews with people who encounter death regularly: a 911 operator, a police officer, and a palliative care nurse (all women), describing incidents in which people have died in their presence. The transcripts of these interviews are projected using a now-arcane Kodak slide projector.
Hereafter exercises an aesthetic restraint, gracefully exploring the line between the living and the dead while avoiding the dramatics of biblical and mythological cosmology. By presenting and cloaking elemental detail, Hereafter creates an experience both intimate and detached. The image presented belongs to a subset of the process most often left out of cinematic conceptions of death. On a constant loop, the film — cycling around the room, up to rollers, and back through the projector — eventually will obliterate itself.
Hereafter is also a trenchant statement about media art. There is constant pressure to be on the technological “cutting edge;” this project is a deliberate step “backwards.” The future of Cinema and cinematic arts does not have to belong only to digital technology. This is an act of preservation of a medium, as well as a comment on its fate. As an artist, Goldstein is more interested in detritus—the leftovers of the banquet that was the 20th century. In Hereafter, she questions the inevitable forward march of “progress”, and what we are supposed to be leaving at the curb and at the margins.
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