As part of The waiting room exhibition at Newcastle Arts Centre, 7th September- 15th October 2012
For the medical students in the 16th-18th century, bodily decomposition was a regular encounter. As observers from the tiers of traditional anatomy theatres, they would witness and sensually experience unpreserved bodies in various states of decomposition, and thus, where closer to death than those in modern anatomy labs.
The workshop invited participants to examine the vital process without which life would not be possible. The organic material that surrounds you in the space decays by intervention of fungi and bacteria. Besides the occasional abandoned rotten apple in the bottom of the fruit bowl, we aren’t accustomed to handling or consuming decaying material, by means of conserving health.
The death plaque precedes the vibrant, sumptuous still life paintings of plump, ripe fruit and vegetables that typically adorn modern kitchen interiors. Colourless and odourless, the plaques have a clean, sterile appearance, which offer an aesthetic of beauty and purity. Although often, the products of decay adhere to the plaster during the casting process, leaving a trace of the rotting matter behind. These plaques embody a contaminated, diseased appearance, and echo the death of decaying material more profoundly.