In the Dark is an exploration of death tropes in art and popular culture as well as my personal relation to and irrational fear of death. Through the combination of sculpture, interactive elements, video projection, sound, and photographs, I have created an immersive, experiential installation that creates pause for contemplation in the viewer regarding their own ideas of “The Great Unknown.”
The inspiration for this body of work came out of a sense of loneliness and isolation felt while living in the rural setting of the Barstow House during my time as the 2011-2012 Stephen L. Barstow Artist in Residence at Central Michigan University. While I enjoyed the sights and sounds of nature during the daylight hours, I found myself contemplating the inevitability of death and the fear of the unknown in the darkness of night.
Since childhood I have experienced anxiety attacks, usually in the middle of the night, in response to the idea of death as nothingness, not existing on any level…darkness. This thought should be comforting. If there is nothing and you are nothing, you wouldn’t know that there is nothing. These attacks seem to increase in frequency during uncomfortable times; this was especially the case after the suicide of my father. In any case, I began to experience similar episodes while at the Barstow house. I decided to take this opportunity to confront my irrational fear of death by analyzing it extensively.
As research, I began to visit local cemeteries. One day, while wandering about, I came upon an impressive mountain of “forever flowers.” I asked some groundskeepers why they were piled in that manner and they explained that the mementos left at grave sites are periodically cleared away as general upkeep, or in preparation for the upcoming winter. I began to think about the irony of the situation. These gestures of remembering the deceased were facing the same fate of being buried or burned as the remains in the graves that they once rested upon. I felt compelled to rescue these tacky, artificial tokens of remembrance.
I have reused the artificial flowers, worn and dirty from exposure to the elements, to create new memorials for the exhibition. Some may see this as sacrilege. This is fitting, considering that with this body of work I am questioning widespread notions of the afterlife through the use of iconography regarding death in popular culture. For inspiration I have consulted movies from my childhood that depict God, heaven, and the afterlife (such as Heaven Can Wait, The Heavenly Kid, the Oh God! series, etc.), art historical references, and several documentaries on the subject of near death experiences.