Om Envisaging Death
Envisaging Death: Visual Culture and Dying enters the expanding field of Death Studies and connects some of its key interpretive frameworks - such as issues of internment practice, trauma, or end of life care - to visual culture, and, more than that, to visual culture's socio-political, geographic and aesthetic specificities. Where the prevailing picture of death within this field is as a Western experience framed by its denial on one side and its sensationalism on the other, this collection confronts the specifics of death's marginalisation: its experience as local rather than universal, and the precise relationship between the context and the cultural mediation of death. Who and where you are - which part of the world you live in, whether you are famous or wealthy, subject to "natural" catastrophe, civil unrest or high-tech healthcare - has enormous influence on how your death is marked, imaged and imagined. As such, this book addresses the socio-cultural factors permeating and styling the visual and inevitably material treatment of death and dying in a broad array of personal and national settings."Advanced" society has been characterised by an increased distancing of death from the everyday, and its distortion or invisibility within the public sphere. The essays collected here return some shape and context, and geo-politics, to the treatment of death and dying within contemporary culture, and specifically within contemporary visual culture which provides an ever more dominating forum for society's depiction of and dealings with death. Charting important new interdisciplinary terrain, scholars and practitioners from a wide range of fields address an assortment of cultural mediations of real, fictional or fictionalised death. They navigate, in different ways, the fraught, policed, but always relative, distance between the living and the dead which characterises these mediations, a distance which works, inevitably, to reassure and re-secure those supposedly untouched by death and dying. Envisaging Death, whether through discussion of the cemetery landscape, the still or moving image, the therapeutic or educational art practice, addresses how such a distance is reinforced. It also, crucially, explores countless cases of, and increasing possibilities for, the disruption of this distance. With the various crises of current times, be they economic, environmental or regional, such possibilities for this disruption, and the altered dynamics of human connection that they represent, can only gain in significance.