A multi-arts examination of a topic still largely tabu in Western culture opens at The Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at The University of Western Australia tomorrow.
The exhibition Memento Mori - Latin for "remember you must die" or "remember your mortality" - exhorts viewers to contemplate their own mortality, prompting them to ponder the emptiness and transience of earthly pleasures and reassess their moral progress as they move towards the certainty of death.
The exhibition features the extraordinary video work Allegoria Sacra, by the Russian collective AES+F, on loan from the Art Gallery of South Australia. The piece, an evocation of Purgatory as an international airport, features life-size or larger figures projected on a gallery wall. It joins selected still-works from UWA's Art Collection, the Cruthers Collection of Women's Art, and commissioned works by contemporary Western Australian artists.
Cultural Precinct Director, Winthrop Professor Ted Snell, said the exhibition was about how Western culture avoided death by seeking eternal youth and persistently celebrating beauty and the new.
"Illness and death are no longer a part of family life, and fewer people in the community have direct experience of caring for the seriously ill, or of encountering dying," Professor Snell said. "As a result, death is veiled; people ‘pass away' or ‘pass over' or are ‘no longer with us.'
"This exhibition faces that full on and looks at the history of how artists, philosophers and theologians have used an understanding of our inevitable end as a way of positively shaping our lives."
The exhibition, which runs from 18 October to 13 December, will be introduced by a Manning Clark House Day of Ideas, to run tomorrow from 10am-4.30pm at the University Club. The Day of Ideas takes the phrase Memento Mori as its theme, with speakers discussing the ephemeral nature of life. The symposium will finish with a private viewing of Allegoria Sacra and the official opening of the Memento Mori exhibition at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.
As part of the multi-arts focus, four students from the UWA School of Music have composed new works to play in the gallery, and TROVE, the online student journal, has run a competition for poems on the theme of Memento Mori, to be included in the exhibition.
* Interviews and images available.
Winthrop Professor Ted Snell (Director, Cultural Precinct) (+61 8) 6488 3627
Clare McFarlane (Marketing assistant, Cultural Precinct) (+61 8) 6488 7806
David Stacey (UWA Media Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716