What would people want to say from beyond the grave given the opportunity?
An artistic performance piece titled “i’mmortal” for the arts festival “Festival of Ian Smith: A Celebration of Death” aiming to get the most authentic response to what people want to say after their death.
An effective way to get that was in a catholic “confession” style set up. Leaving a person alone to record something they ended up not knowing how to start, doing it face to face a person would look to authority for reassurances and responses to see if this is what was desirable, but the conversation prompts worked well. With i’mmortal a ‘confession’ set up where an authority figure would be present but participants would not be able to see them, only hear them.
I leaned into the cultural references around confessions and I dressed similarly to a priest, a person of spiritual authority and erected a 4 meter fabric screen with a chair either side. I recorded the conversations so anyone who participated could have a copy but with the knowledge that these conversations would on a later date be part of an installation with personal details removed.
The format worked wonderfully and many people commented afterwards how much the conversation affected them.
The installation of the conversations took visual inspiration from the symbolic draped urn. Small individual speakers were draped with a cloth and hung so they appeared to float. A light was integrated with the speaker so when the person spoke a light would shine in response. It was installed in a dimly lit basement corridor within Summerhall, Edinburgh. When someone visited the installation from the end of the corridor all the voices seemed to be merged together until they got close enough to focus on one conversation.
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