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Ways to think about death!

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

There are many different ways in which artists communicate the topic and theme of death within their artwork.

“What good is thinking about death?” -Julie Beck, 2015

In my eyes, there two very different ways to do this, some artist such as Damien Hirst provide their audience with a sense of discomfort and fear when presented with the topic of death. Hirst confronts his audience with this uncomfortable topic, almost like he's trying to rip the plaster (bandaid) off.

This piece titled "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" by Damien Hirst consists of a dead tiger shark submerged in a tank of formaldehyde. The title itself is very confrontational, and the large dead shark, which if it were alive, could kill you defiantly generated thoughts of death. Every aspect of this piece of art makes Hirst's viewers ponder death, but that doesn’t exactly make it the right way to process and think about death.

On the other hand, there are artists such as Xiaojing Yan who use the theme of death, the afterlife, and transformation within their art in a positive manner, they use their art as a way to show their viewers that death doesn't have to be feared, it may be unsettling, but its also a beautiful part of nature, we need death, so that we can thrive, and to appreciate everything that happens to us throughout our lives.

This piece by titled "Song of the Cicada", Yan has used thousands of cicada exoskeletons all coloured gold. The cicadas used aren’t dead, as Yan has just used their exoskeletons, but this piece still portrays many important messages. The exoskeletons are still part of the insects past, and it has now grown, transformed and moved on to live a different life from its previous life underground. This work shows that death and change may be difficult and challenging, but it can also be beautiful, there can be so many amazing opportunities knowing and accepting that death will eventually come.

“We're all going to die, and we all know it. This can be both a burden and a blessing.” - Julie Beck, 2015

Death may be scary, but overall, it can be a beautiful thing. We as humans are now programmed to fear death because that’s how we have evolved; we’ve grown and taught ourselves that death is something to be dreaded and feared when in reality, it should be normalised, its been happening for eternity so why do we still fear it?

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