October 1, 2013

What We Leave Behind

I came across two stories about art and death, but with different perspectives. 
"While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die." - Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Man
The first story is a massive installation called The Fallen, by British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss. The Fallen is 9,000 human silhouettes drawn into the sand on the D-Day landing beach of Arromanches, Normandy, to commemorate the lives lost during D-Day

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A quick primer on D-Day: The date, 6 June 1944. The context: World War II. D-Day marks the first day of the Allied invasion of Normandy, also known as the Normandy landings. This invasion is significant for being the largest amphibious assault in history and for the deception involved (Adolf Hitler believed that the landings would occur to the north at the Pas-de-Calais). The Normandy landings were also a game changer in the timeline in WWII.


According to the artists, The Fallen is an illustration of the absence of peace. It is also a sobering visual reminder of how many lives were lost (the true number is not known; 9,000 is likely a rounded number including Allied forces, Germans, and civilians). Too often when we look at the casualties of history's many bloody conflicts or the quasi-wars being fought out today, we merely process numbers, sometimes neglecting the fact that the dead were husbands, mothers, sons, sisters. (This brings to mind Stalin's chilling quote: "One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.")

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Yi Wei Lim, yiweilim, the fallen, the fallen normandy, d-day, normandy invasion, world war ii,wwii, normandy landings, normandy, the fallen 9000, jamie wardley the fallen, andy moss the fallen, d-day memorial

After their creation, The Fallen were left to the mercy of the tide, which washed them away after four hours, as a moving representation of lives lost to war.

The second story seems a bit macabre on the surface. Thai artist Nino Sarabutra's exhibition, What Will You Leave Behind?, features 100,000 miniature porcelain skulls on which visitors must step on. Each step represents a step closer to the grave.

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"Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking toward me, without hurrying." - Jean Cocteau, artist

However, Sarabutra says that the underlying message is more uplifting. The skulls, made by Sarabutra and her family, friends, and others, are only as fearful as much as we fear death ourselves. Here, they invite us to explore what our legacies might be. The exhibition also includes the answers to the question posed by the exhibition's name given by those who helped make the skulls, with encouragements like "Act today".

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"Do not fear death so much but rather the inadequate life." - Bertolt Brecht, Marxist and playwright

What Will You Leave Behind? exhibits at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery in Singapore as part of the Anthropos exhibition till 13 October 2013. (Why not Hong Kong's Sundaram Tagore... is the space too small I wonder?)

Questions for thought:
What will you leave behind?
Do you believe in eugenics? In God? In the afterlife? 
Have you experienced your darkest fantasies and conquered your deepest fears?
Is death truly the end? 
Would you dare declare that you could die for something?
How do you want to live today?

Images: here, here.

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