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Indepth Arts News:

"Ways to Die: Jenny Lu, Carol Ho, John Hanson, Lee Maelzer, Richard McRae, Richard Paul"
2003-02-28 until 2003-03-23
Hoxton Distillery
London, , UK United Kingdom

Page 23, Your Guide To Our Funeral Services, Dignity - Caring Funeral Services: "If a now or existing headstone is to be used, the engraving can be done relatively quickly. However, it may take up to six months before the headstone may be placed on the grave, as the ground needs to settle." These are the practical considerations to be taken into account when someone dies. But in terms of becoming dead, can it be dealt with in a similarly pragmatic way?

Ways to Die takes such a direct approach presenting: instructions for suicide; pop-culture suicide; a house on fire; causes of death on generations of an extended family tree; children committing suicide; a memorial to those who die of natural causes.

Jenny Lu's video "7 basic ways to commit suicide" confronts death in the most direct way. In a style reminiscent of an airhostess presenting a safety demonstration, Jenny Lu delineates foolproof methods to take your own life. Lu's video ultimately questions whether the artist should take responsibility for their own work and the influence it may have on others.

Carol Ho's sculptures of children are based on the Columbine High School massacre in 1998, and a series of copycat episodes that happened later in the US. These reminded her of the thin line between reality and fantasy; the gruesome and ambiguous messages behind the killings shook the conventional positive perceptions of children and childhood. Ho's sculptures mix violent imagery with a playful and aesthetic use of material - bright red plooms of polystyrene forming exit wounds from cartoon-like mdf figures shooting themselves.

John Hanson is showing an office ceiling panel with a peg-letter memo for 'all those who die of natural causes.' The panel and letters merge in the mushroom-magnolia spectrum of decaying white plastic and paint. "I've noticed that I often say 'Thank you' twice... but I'm not sure I'm doubly grateful... Tautology. Clarification. Procrastination... I guess I'm after some kind of confirmation - confirmation of what is supposed to be obvious."

Lee Maelzer's painting of a house on fire both dramatises and faithfully records the event, as in a news photograph. The perfect composition and low horizon serve to highten the viewer's helplessness (or voyeurism). We are aware that if someone is in this fire, they are not coming out.

Richard McRae has produced a slide show of text on four Mac Classic computers and a printed family tree. Each slide show uses a different transition time between pages of the text so that what is seen between all four screens is a random collection of statements. The texts are a combination of the names of his ancestors; descriptions of their personalities; and details of how they loved, lived and died. When seen together the four screens never stop generating myths. The family tree charts the death for each ancestor. Many were lucky and died of old age. Others were not. Some died young; some in horrible ways. One or two died in the most ridiculous of ways. One was crushed by bread, some died in a toilet and a few others were killed by an insect of one sort or another.

Richard Paul's sign "Way to go, John Belushi" lists the probable ingredients of Belushi's fatal overdose on a perspex board reminiscent of cinemas and motels. The actor becomes the subject of tabloid prurience - he lives and dies excessively so we don't have to.

'Ways To Die' is curated by John Hanson and Richard Paul


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