29 May – 21 July 2013
Deadness is an exhibition of three parts: multiple 35mm slide projections with sound, the film The Last Walk (2011) and February 09 2013, a series of new photographic works.
Deadness is derived from Baseman’s creative non-fiction and interview-based practice, exploring the historical, cultural and sociological relationship between photographic portraiture and embalming, a theme investigated by Dr John Troyer, sociologist and Deputy Director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath.
Dr Troyer grew up around funeral homes prior to his academic engagement with the subject of embalming, witnessing first-hand from a young age through his father’s work as a Funeral Director. Deadness presents his professional and personal connection to embalming combined with orphaned images collected through online auctions: casual snap shots and more formal portraits of individuals in their coffins from the early Victorian era to the present day.
The embalmer’s attention focuses on preparation for the moment relatives and loved ones view the deceased; this moment defines the core function of contemporary embalming: to leave the bereaved with a peaceful image and memory of the deceased. No matter how debilitating the trauma or the circumstances of a person’s death, this viewing is when the embalmer’s art is most clearly expressed.
Deadness acts as an experimental portrait of contemporary embalming, processes of reconstruction, preparation for burial (on land and sea) and cremation; providing insight into these private practices and the debates surrounding them. The exhibition partially focuses on the embalmer’s attempts to make the deceased appear to be at peace - as if asleep - thus prolonging the image of being alive and promoting positive final memories. The hope is that these memories will replace images of seen (as well as unseen or perceived) trauma, lingering death and/or prolonged disease. The processes of physical restoration and cosmeticising the deceased are perhaps the most crucial elements of embalming, making the main focus of this series of processes the return of the cadaver to its ‘natural’ appearance for viewing. Deadness explores the philosophical thrust of these processes as ideas and their meanings within our culture today.
February 09 2013 is a series of images captured at the base of wildfires in Tasmania, Australia on the 9th of February 2013. Although there were no deaths recorded on this date, the constant threat was ever-present.
The Last Walk features British artist Stuart Brisley. What starts as an ordinary walk in the park for Brisley and his dog soon ends in a dark discovery. The film, recorded on the final day of a Christmas fair in central London depicts fragments of reflected fairy lights suspended in winter trees.
In The Last Walk, the colour negative was hand-processed using the most rudimentary techniques possible: chemicals were housed in buckets in a simple, totally blacked out space to encourage visual breakdown, fragmentation and distortion- pushing the unpredictable nature of the materiality of film itself at its most fundamental level. The combination of filmed information and hand - processing create a mixture of abstraction and representation.
Deadness is supported by Matt’s Gallery, Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England, and The CCW Graduate School, University of the Arts London
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests. www.wellcome.ac.uk
Further exhibitions at Matt’s Gallery
Do Faster Win More
24 September – 30 October 2022
A Different Kind of Different
14 – 28 January 2021
1 November 2018 – 31 October 2019
Green Lady and 1973 Premiere
29 November 2011
4 – 25 July 2009
don’t stop ‘til you get enough
13 April – 12 June 2005