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"Mark Taylor: Grave Matters"
2002-10-30 until 2003-05-15
MASS MoCA
North Adams, MA, USA United States of America

The 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 2303.

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.


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