The last Image - The Sight of Death in Contemporary Art
In recent years, there has been much discussion about the new visibility of death. From mass-media images of catastrophic wholesale slaughter in the world’s crisis regions, to sensational cases of fatal accidents in roadside ditches, we are presented with pictures of death which satisfy our thirst for horror and therefore have a high entertainment value, aggrandized by murder victims of the cinema and crime fiction. They are images that cause a shudder to run down our spines, yet, at the same time, leave us feeling indifferent, because ultimately they do not concern us and in doubt serve to confirm the illusion of our own immortality.
In contemporary art, a dialogue of a different, nearly antipodal nature can be observed. Many contemporary artists are directing their attention not to the voyeuristic aspects of dying, but rather to the everyday, quiet, yet relentless scenes of death, even if – or perhaps precisely because – it does not befall us violently. It is the inconspicuous, slow death, which the individual image cannot capture, because it cannot be recorded in a single moment. Rather, it is the processes – the experience of death over a period of time, the experience of loss and despair, a slow farewell or an abrupt collapse – that leave us on our own, to mourn and grasp the inconceivable.