When did the beginning suddenly appear?
From residency diaryA2 in Paris, May 2005
Extract by Alit Kreiz & Anton Mirto
In June 2003 we began looking at death in order to look at life and how we are experiencing it more closely. This was to become our chosen artistic theme for the next 2 years and probably longer until the fear goes. We were 35 and still had questions.
When did the beginning suddenly appear in Paris?
October-November 2004. A month’s research in Paris led us to Psychiatrists, Psychoanalysts, Consultants & Spiritual practitioners accompanying the terminally ill, the bereaved & those who have experienced near death. A neuron-pathologist, documentary filmmakers on the subject, a director of funeral services, Palliative care hospice workers & volunteers, The president of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, The FXB Death Resource centre, cemeteries & ‘death’ websites, (American…but that’s another story). We met people that had lost someone, people that were loosing someone & a medicinal clown that would do anything to preserve a smile.
It was a process of
letting go of any thing we knew before.
Of any thing we expected to hear. Of familiarity and predictability. Of our growing perplexity to the overwhelming and contradictory ways of seeing, vis à vis our stubborn question; what is death, and why are we so afraid of it?
We had to let go of our own fear of our own death. We were looking at death and began discovering what life could be… fearless
We discovered there
is an illusion of a good death as opposed to a bad death; the illusion exists
in the question of individual acceptance.
We discovered that when heaven was still part of our general western belief system, we accepted death more willingly, as we hoped to be fulfilled in heaven.
We discovered not all angels have wings.
We discovered the painful and confusing practicality and common place routine of the dying and their families. We discovered that a person might choose a very particular moment, to die.
We discovered the importance and meaning of palliative care and how it aims to translate across cultures and faiths.
We discovered the fear of not leaving a trace. The suffering of change. We discovered that our western preoccupation to control disease, to increase life expectancy, has created an obsession with this life. We discovered that for some, life ends with the stopping of breath, for others with the stopping of mind, for others still... it never stops, at all.
We discovered that
at death, we might become the very people we have hurt and the very people
we have helped to feel good. We
discovered death is deletion, denial, a joke and a bitch.
That it may end life, not a relationship.
We led workshops exploring, the emotions which arise in the face of one’s own death. We imagined ridiculous ways of dying, the best positions to die in, the things we were doing whilst other people died, and all the things we still want to do before we leave. We contemplated creating head stones, with our epitaphs “all rights reserved” engraved; Secretly placing them in Parc de la Villette. We collaborated with video artists in Pere Lachaise cemetery, crawling between historic tombs, to create and film fragments of life. In our attempt to get even closer to death, we proposed video workshops for the terminally ill in palliative care units; Hospitalier de Puteaux, Maison sur Seine à Paris, Hôpital Paul Brousse accepted.
Another beginning; meeting the patients
February 2005. We were advised not to mention the word - death. For the
first two visits we used the word life instead. By the third, the words
death and dying slipped in and we no longer had conversations about the
weather, the war and hospital food.
It was snowing heavily in Paris and with each encounter we began to understand: the link between emotional suppression and physical pain, the way in which we live our lives may shape the way we approach our death, that dying can prompt change - that change is never too late.
And why does the end suddenly appear?
March - April 2005. With conflicting emotions, unforgettable moments and newfound wisdoms we were left to craft a work in progress for Parc de la Villette’s 100 DESSUS DESSOUS festival. We were now 37 and our list of questions grew longer.
...Does the person behind you have someone to love? Does the person next to this person care? Should we be more honest or not so much? And why do birds suddenly appear? Who do we listen to? What do we expect? Where does it hurt? Are we allowed to cry?...loudly, we mean? Does god still exist? Justice...mmm And why does guilt suddenly appear?...
Books recommended which we still have not read