Indepth Arts News: |
"Mark Taylor: Grave Matters"
2002-10-30 until 2003-05-15
North Adams, MA,
USA United States of America
exhibition, which explores the lives and deaths of famous thinkers through
photographic investigations of their gravesites, poses many questions: What
place do modern greats have in the postmodern age? Who decided where and
how these important individuals should be buried? What do the deaths and
graves of these influential people tell us about their lives and suggest
about our own?
In Grave Matters, Williams College Professor Mark Taylor and photographer
Deitrich Christian Lammerts present beautiful and disturbing black and white
photographs of the gravesites of 150 artists, architects, writers,
philosophers, and musicians who have helped shape Western culture. The
photographs are displayed alongside text revealing each thinkers outlook on
his or her own demise and are accompanied by an audio installation of
selected texts as well as an interactive video which combines text and
images. Also presented in the exhibition is a remarkable display of soil
taken from each of the graves and arrayed in a dramatic inverted pyramid
The graves featured in the exhibition vary widely and are sometimes
surprising. Herman Melville, who wrote extensively about the terror of
whiteness and the empty page, has a blank scroll on his headstone while
Jackson Pollocks tombstone bears a reproduction of his own signature.
There are few epitaphs in the collection, and frequently the size and
quality of the monument depends on the living mourners overriding the
humility of the deceased. There are statues of James Joyce and Virginia
Woolf near their graves, though neither writer desired such commemoration.
Graves matter. It is not just the matter of matter - dust, dirt, stones,
grass, leaves, moss, even mold - but the matter of place or its lack, says
Taylor, Death forces us to consider our final place in the world - physical
as well as social. In his poignant and personal essay in the accompanying
book, Taylor writes, In a world dominated by new technologies, we are
constantly reading about the ways of extending life. As we struggle to come
to terms with loss and ones final destiny, the great writers and authors of
the past have important lessons to teach us. Grave Matters is a memento
mori to help see life anew.
A catalog published by Reaktion Books of London is available for $25. The
exhibition is made possible by the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute,
through the Clark @ MASS MoCA collaborative initiative.
Grave Matters is accompanied by an interdisciplinary conference on November
8 and 9 with panelists Taylor, artist Ann Hamilton, architect and theorist
Peter Eisenman, novelist Joanna Scott, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Jack Miles. The conference, entitled Grave Matters: Memory, Memorial,
Mourning, is presented by the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute in
conjunction with MASS MoCA and Williams College Museum of Art. Additional
information about the symposium is available by calling the Clark at 413 458
Mark Taylor is the Cluett Professor of Humanities at Williams College. He
is the recipient of many awards, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial
Fellowship and a Carnegie Foundation award for the Advancement of Teaching.
Taylors entrepreneurial venture with Herbert Allen, chairman and CEO of
Allen & Co., is Global Education Network, a company that provides
high-quality online education in the liberal arts, sciences, and humanities
for people of all ages. Dietrich Christian Lammerts is a former student of
Taylors and a professional photographer. He is a recent graduate student
in Southeast Asian history at the School of Oriental and African Studies,
University of London, and is pursuing a doctorate at Cornell University in
Ithaca, New York.