Postgraduate

IN BLACK: Performative & Transactional Objects in Death

IN BLACK: Performative & Transactional Objects in Death

Susanna Strati

MFA, 2007

Supervised by Wendy Parker

Abstract

This research investigates ways that memorialising and mourning can be made manifest through commemorative objects such as memorials and smaller scale personal mementos. It also examines ways that these physical reminders can act as repository and markers of memory, and as allegories for identity. In particular the work is focused on Traditional Southern Italian customs, reflecting on the ways keepsakes and cenotaphs can act as metaphor for declining cultural practices of Southern Italian migrants in Australia. The data collected for this thesis is based partly on participant observation, and on informal conversations with migrants from Southern Italy regarding their funerary practices, as well as stories told about the rural areas left behind in Southern Italy.

Research of published material in the area of memorialising and memorial object are examined in order to gain an understanding of the visual language of death, as well as the historical and academic framework of the genre. The thesis also examines the use of Catholic religious objects in what anthropologist Per Binde has coined ‘transactional acts’, as well as acts of supplication and remembrance during times of mourning. An exploration of memorial and memento objects, by contemporary practitioners including Christian Boltanski, Lindy Lee, Julie Blyfield and Maya Lin has also be included. Inclusion of contemporary artists reflects on how memorials continue to play an important role in today’s society as well as being integral in reflecting identity and maintaining connections with the past.

Investigation of this genre is expressed through the research document and a body of studio-based research connected to the traditions of Memorialising. The studio research is expressed in the exhibition ‘In Black’ which holds explorations in wax and metal fragments using the language of Catholic religious objects, memory boxes, personal mementos and cultural signifiers. These time capsules are filled with significant representations of individuals and events that evoke memories through depictions of life, significant places and words descriptive of time and place.

Overall the project reflects on the visual language of mourning, and the importance of Memorialising and Remembrance in historical and contemporary culture, and why we find it necessary to mark death through referencing places and spaces and through using images and metaphors of self.

More
Susanna Strati
Susanna Strati

Susanna Strati, Mourning Rosary (2007). Copper, lead, pigment, hair, ribbon, votive objects, wax, pigment; 130 x 165 x 13 cm. Photograph courtesy of the artist

Susanna Strati, <i>Mourning Rosary</i> (2007). Copper, lead, pigment, hair, ribbon, votive objects, wax, pigment; 130 x 165 x 13 cm. Photograph courtesy of the artist