Hanging Together: Memento Mori Project

Memento Mori was a visual arts installation by artists' group Hanging Together that explores historic and contemporary attitudes to Death.

Each of the five artists based works on personal, local and universal responses to the theme, which in many ways has become the taboo of the late 20th century.


In "Wish" a number of plaster "pages" marked with text and images and bound together in the form of a book, Paul Eames reflects on the tradition of grief and mourning, requiring as it does an etiquette that outlaws the full expression of loss.

"Second Law" (shown here), Peter Russell's billboard size enlargement of eroded sandstone gravestones, explores the inevitability of decay. That a law, suggesting lasting truth, should hold that disintegration is the natural order of the universe is parallelled in the decay of that image.

Death is a time of review in life. In "No Stain Upon The Silence", Val Shatwell reconciles the desire to leave a mark and be remembered with the inevitability of being forgotten. Images based around the word life are placed in five boxes of paper and wax.

As a graveyard memorialises in stone the names of people once as ourselves, so we realise that "Passing" is our lot too. Carolyn Mason explores the fearful theme through boat-like constructions, destined to become ruins and footprints in clay, as an attempt to leave a lasting imprint on life.

Karen Strang describes the herstory of the "unremarkable lives" of ordinary Alloa women in "The Forgotten", a piece grounded in local history and personal reactions to Everywoman and her life journey. Twelve panels each contain an image evocative of Death which, although specific to past time, has a modern equivalent.

Push up the daisies to see what lies underneath...


Where and When?

The exhibition was in Greenside Cemetary, Alloa in May-June 1996.


To install artworks in an uninvigilated non-gallery location is to accept a certain risk, a risk that the works will be damaged, possibly destroyed. In a site of the type chosen for "Memento Mori", that risk is all the greater, as graveyards have passed from being focal points for the community (as can be seen in the status-symbol gravestones at Greenside and elsewhere) to being places on the edge of social control, where under-age drinkers congregate.

"Memento Mori" places the artworks under the same vulnerability as the gravestones themselves, a greater risk if the fragility of the artworks is taken into account. In fact, one of the works, "The Forgotten", was attacked on the night before the exhibition opened, and was largely re-assembled. Subsequently, it and most of the other works were damaged again. The only work which was left unscathed was "Passing", which can only be assumed to be due to its resemblance to two skeletons in open graves!


Acknowledgements

Memento Mori was organised in conjunction with Clackmannanshire Council Education and Community Services Dept. Hanging Together gratefully acknowledge Central Regional Council for project development support in 1995.