In the second half of the twentieth century, it was noticed that our approach to death, seniors and sick people have changed. Natural death, death of a loved ones as a social event disappeared from our consciousness. It has ceased to be a part of life and has become its contradiction. It is an enemy with which we should fight with the help of medicine. These changes have been taking place over many years. I am thinking here of changing the place of dying – from home to hospital, changing the status of the deceased in the context of social life, for example the location and significance of the cemetery within the city space. The life expectancy of an average person has increased dramatically, and thus the causes of death has changed. In most cases, we are now dying in hospitals, among medical personnel, treated as a “medical unit”. Death very often, is accompanied by loneliness, both in the case of a dying person and its relatives. Mourning is treated more as a disorder than a natural, ordinary feeling. Death does not belong to us, it is taken away from us, in order to maximize life. We are suffering while dying. We dream about unconscious death.
At the same time, we are submitting to the ubiquitous process of commercialization, politicization and unreflective shocking by corpses in public space. Looking at the statistics of the most-watched films of the last dozen or so years, we notice that we are dealing with a cinema flood of corpses. We have been attacked with hundreds of images of death, both real ones coming from reportages, everyday news, and the fake ones that spill out of the cinema screens. Slowly, the boundary between one and the other becomes difficult to capture by a besotted viewer.
Somewhere on the borderline of fear of dying in the physical world, and life beyond the passing time in the new virtual ecosystem, appears a phenomenon that I call non-mortality. Ultra-modern, virtual images that we create and share daily in social media, do not get old. We also have full control over time, as we can edit events from the past at any given moment. Our history can be constantly improved and updated. Traveling in time on Facebook is something simple and obvious. We also have power over space, because being in several places at the same time is not a problem. From the moment of registration each day, at any moment we can (or maybe we are obliged to) build our alternative life, which sooner or later becomes our monument. Nowadays, the border between private and public, real and false is lost. We become prisoners under constant observation and control, in full readiness to show ourselves and to be noticed by others.
Execution in effigie means destroying, disgracing, mutilating, hanging or burning images of convicts. Executions on paintings were performed when people for various reasons were absent (they escaped or died before the punishment was imposed). Public deprivation of social status and dignity was extremely severe and shameful. In the sixteenth century we had to deal with a full-fledged making judgments on the images called in effigy. The network is one ecosystem to which we are moving, using mostly images (words are of secondary importance). It is thanks to them that we move there and it is up to them that everything depends.
In the ineffigie.playdead.info database is available a whole arsenal of weapons-pranks, which we can annihilate the image, using fire, plagues, pimples, pins and many more.
Draw with dead
The five charts that were created on the basis of data from the last 118 years (from the beginning of the 20th century to 2018) are drawing tools, brushes. The data includes: birth and death in the physical world; birth and death (permanent removal of accounts) on the Internet on social media. These are online ghosts – profiles on social networks whose users have died but the accounts are still active. As you can see, the last graph is characterized by the fastest growth in relation to others, which means nothing more that the Internet quickly fills with ghosts. Probably in 2098 there will be more accounts of dead users than those who live.
After choosing a brush and color, we can proceed to create a painting, a new reality, where death mixes with immortality, no boundaries exist, and representations of the dead and existing create a cacophony of colors and shapes. During the whole time of activity on the website, screens are saved every 15 seconds. Each gesture creates a story.
The only salvation is the apocalypse tool.
My funeral party
Parallel to the process of concealing images and emotions related to dying in private space, we can observe a completely opposite situation in public space, where the rituals accompanying the deaths of celebrities are becoming more and more pompous, more impressive, even deafening. Funeral of an idol is a spectacle created by media, official commentators, music and film stars, as well as average observers. It turns out that participation (direct or screen-based) in such a ceremony results from the desire to warm up in the light of fame, as well as the need to participate in a common cause, sharing and absorbing similar feelings. Public manifestation of presence (sharing photos, comments, songs of the idol, or even using the symbol of a burning candle [*]) directly translates into building the social position of both the deceased and the participants.
The user, by clicking the link myfuneralparty.playdead.info, is invited to play, where he can plan and view his own funeral. The project’s database is filled with photographs of various places (stillframes from movies, funeral ceremonies of the stars), funeral music and animated giffs of sobbing celebrities, historical figures that he can invite to a fun party.
On the Internet you can do everything, it’s here dreams become a reality, it is also here you can create hundreds of alternative stories, paths, possibilities by uploading your picture and surrounding yourself with stars. Do not we all want the great ones to weep for us?
Director’s cut is the director’s version of the film. The project database contains more than 500 scenes of death cut from Hollywood movies, in such a way as to deprive the dying of the whole context, the whole background, all accompanying events. We do not know anything about heroes, their stories, about their relationships. All scenes depict a few seconds’ act of transforming into a corpse.
Each click on the site is saved and remembered, each becomes the basis for creating statistics: how much time the user has spent on the site; at what time; where it comes from; how many death scenes he saw; which tags he choose; whether he shared his post; whether he gave the title. Based on the data collected from individual users, a general image of the preferences of the entire group of people visiting the website is created.
It turns out that the most-favored tag is #woman
“PlayDead.info” is a cyber conceptual participatory project. It sounds recondite, but it does quite well reflect the work characteristics. “PlayDead.info” is an Internet project that can be found at www.playdead.info. It consists four independent parts, which are fun tools: “Draw with Dead”, “Director’s Cut”, “In Effigie” and “My Funeral Party”. All of them, in a more or less literal way, illustrate a phenomenon that I call non-mortality. It appears somewhere on the border of fear of dying in the physical world, and life beyond the passing time in a new virtual ecosystem. I chose the Internet space as the most natural one for this subject. The recipient and at the same time the person actively co-creating it is the average user, that is used to a specific way of using the literary texts, not necessarily aware of how to receive art. It is he who plays, draws, fools, becomes the creator. The Internet and modern media are perfect space for artistic reflection and attempts to diagnose problems related to the issue of death and mourning in the context of cyber-life. The purpose of my work is to create tools for (co-)creating a work (paintings, film narratives) with the user. It is him who, with the help of programs, will have the opportunity to create his own work of art. I assume that only the creative process can help us fully understand the problem of making death taboo in our contemporary world. I am convinced that this can happen when the recipient is involved in co-creation, even if at the first moment it will be treated as fun.