The Space Between

15 October – 20 December 2015 Post Mortem.

Rommelaere Building, University of Ghent, Belgium.

Fabrica Vitae is a series of exhibitions highlighting and exploring the perception of the human body by scientists and artists. ‘Post Mortem’ is the culmination of this four year project conceived by Pascale Pollier and curated by her, her sister Chantal Pollier and Marjan Doom from the Univeristy of Ghent.  The exhibition explores death and how we understand what that means through examination of artefacts from the forensic laboratories and artistic responses.

 A Space Between by  Jac Scott

The lack of knowledge of both the mental and physical dimensions of death provides a plethora of unanswerable questions. Those who are left behind meditate upon the concept of the divergence of the corporeal existence and spirit – the human condition reflects an emotive response that leads to yet more uncertainties. Yes we come from nature and are all homeward bound, but where do our minds go or are they buried/burned too? What happens – is there a departure?

Death seen and unseen.

“A thing is not seen because it is visible, but conversely visible because it is seen.” Socrates

How do we comprehend the inevitable end in our conscious being whilst spiked with the knowledge that our unconscious self has a part to play? This duality of being nurtures a quest for expansion to the physical and metaphysical worlds that we inhabit, but how to move forward?

John Berger, in his dispatch on survival and resistance, Hold Everything Dear, (2007) writes,   “Man is the only creature who lives within at least two time scales: the biological one of his body and the one of his consciousness.”   The paradox of coexistence purported by Berger, against a more holistic way of being, reflects our propensity to dissect life and extricate our corporeal from our spiritual selves.  The notion of gaps as an essential part of life is a common thread in philosophical doctrine;

“…as the thought process slows you will be able to see gaps. Between two thoughts there is an interval – in that interval is consciousness.” Hsin, Hsin, Ming; The Book of Nothing: Discourses on Sosan’s Verses on the Faith-Mind,  Osho (1996)

Imagining the visual quality of a gap is appealing.   Can a gap between two voids be emptiness? Does this eulogised space, possibly a refuge, where we reside when the mind and body release their hold on each other, have passage or is it suspended animation of our sense of being? What kind of definition can we assign this space, this gap – is it nothingness or something more profound? Believing, as in science that nothingness does not exist, that there is always something, then is it another room for dwelling?   The familiarity of a notion of a room, instead of space, provides valuable comfort, as there is little insight into this transition station. Is a room projected by the mind defined by walls – a mausoleum as departure lounge – or does it possess a diaphanous dominion?

“The chiasm of the body and of the world exposes exposure to itself—and with it, the impossibility to finally bring the world to the spirit, and bring meaning to significance. The body is a strangeness which is not preceded by familiarity.” Jean Luc Nancy, “Strange Foreign Bodies.” 2008 (translated by Liz Wendelbo)

Inevitably, this leads to the concept of death being a journey – mode of transportation and destination unknown – but always movement. A transition period evokes enquiry into altered states and metamorphosis. The dust may settle in the wake, but the decaying of the flesh does not reveal the ticket for the spirit.  Neither does the contemplation of a life lived and mourned – the anthropocentric compass is devoid of direction. The gulf in our understanding presents a conundrum – could the unknown process of departure counterbalance the known fear of death? And what of deliverance? So, refuge is sought in wrestling with the inevitable, it will happen, but cradled by the ignorance of when.   The enigma of our existence and hence our death is an opportunity for adventure. There are no absolutes, except death, and whilst theorists and theologians present their speculations, there is also space for the individual to dance in the gap.  This solace, invites a celebration of the space and its shadows and hence an acceptance of the uncertainty of what happens next, means that we are liberated in life.

“Death is no more than passing from one room into another”. Helen Keller