Art of Dying Art of Dying_Volume III_joomag | Page 84
We don't have a lot of healthy
bereavement or healthy grieving
in contemporary Western
society. That's why the need for
ritual is reappearing.
I dressed my grandfather, my Nonno, in a traditional
suit that he'd worn to the last family wedding. I was
very naïve. I didn't know what to expect. You cannot
dress a dead body as you would a living person.
You're rolling the body side to side, so physically
it is quite strenuous. You need several people.
Our clothes are designed for vertical wearing, so
nothing drapes as intended.
I realized that his clothes were going to outlast his
body’s decomposition. The leather shoes really hit
home for me. They were difficult to put on. They
were pointless in terms of their function. Where
was he going to walk? But the most transformative
part of my experience was the fact that I hadn't
experienced a dead body before. Seeing a dead
stranger is quite different from seeing someone
you love. I was struck by the surreal stillness of his
body. Your eyes play tricks on you. You expect to see
movement. But I was aware that he was no longer in
there and he no longer needed this body.
That my Nonno’s essence was gone didn't reduce the
need to address his body. There are so many levels
to what happens when you're dressing someone. Yes,
you're putting them in clothes, but what you actually
experience is far more nuanced and intangible.
After almost a decade, I’m still affected by it—but in a
positive way. Dressing him in his clothes transformed
him from an old dead man in a hospital gown into
84 | ART OF DYING
my Nonno. And through this dressing I was also
Dressing someone who has died places you in a
state of healthy bereavement. We don't have a
lot of healthy bereavement or healthy grieving
in contemporary Western society. That's why the
need for ritual is reappearing. People have been
paying huge amounts of money for funerals that
don’t touch what's going on emotionally. It's been,
"Yes, we need the ornate coffin. Yes, we need the
flowers. Yes, we need music. Yes, we need to give
an eulogy in a lavish venue.” But none of those
things are actually soothing the fact that someone
you love has died.
The body’s transience inspires the way I work.
Biodegradability is a primary facet of my designs.
Wrapping the body in natural fiber is harmonious
with death and decomposition. When you consider
life as a composition of notes, everyone’s essence
is a song. Decomposition is our notes’ return to the
bio-system to be reworked into new compositions.
I use fabrication that won't hinder that process and
is palatable to the soil. I think of the body as a gift
that you give back to the earth. You present the
gift of your body in a beautiful wrapping that life
delicately opens and receives.
My prototype is basically a very long piece of