The Good Death
Death, burial and mourning are still taboo for most of us. The Good Death exhibition, inspired by the death positive movement, directs its attention to the last stage of life, inviting participants to discuss the inevitable.
Is it possible to design your own death? Are our remains a danger to the natural environment? What will happen to our personal data when we’re gone? Is it possible to maintain a relationship with our loved ones after they’re gone?
Death, burial and mourning are still taboo for most of us. The Good Death exhibition, inspired by the death positive movement, directs its ATTENTION to the last stage of life, inviting participants to discuss the inevitable.
We are witnesses to redefining experiences of death, burial, mourning and remembrance. Societies are ageing. Overpopulation and lack of burial space in some countries collide with the diminishing population of others. Secularization and the creation of a new spirituality require the consideration of old or obsolete rituals. The growing awareness of ecology, mobility and digitalization are constantly changing the perception of burial and the function of cemeteries.
All of these issues take on a new meaning during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, which we have come to face this year. It showed us how helpless we are toward death, which comes at the least expected moments and strips us of final goodbyes.
Objects and experiences that are to be presented at the exhibition are important signals of global change. We will be showing innovative designs and simple ones, exposing the costs of eco-friendly burials, as well as barely seen before alternatives to traditional funerals.
The key question is: How to design the experience of a good death today?
Preparing for death
Is it necessary to prepare for death? Great philosophers thought that frequent contemplation of our mortality helps for a better life. Therefore, they didn’t push away the thought, but rather encouraged talk about it, similarly to the exhibited social movements or book authors. Preparing for death can have several scenes – we can talk about it, we can prepare our home by emptying it, or maybe hold a funeral ceremony expressing our personality. The uniqueness of these preparations lays in the fact that they force us to answer the most important, existential questions.
The death positive movement
Do you think that the subject of death is taboo? The subject of death, in Western culture, is ousted, marginalized and eliminated from sight. Dying is medicalized, whereas burial – professionalized. A personal family ceremony changed into a formality, a repeatable product created by the funeral industry. The positive death movement, initiated by Caitlin Doughty, who in 2011 founded The Order of the Good Death, wants to change this. The goal of the Order is to make death perceived as part of life, breaking the silence in culture and creating awareness of preparation for this stage. In the past couple of years several similar niche social initiatives have been founded that change the perception of death.
Would you like to join?
Would you like to talk about death?
Real and virtual spaces, where people who have the need to discuss their fears, emotions and experiences of death, can meet. Though the name is provocative, the meetings take place in regular spots with a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. The subject is difficult, but death generates many discussion topics and is associated with strong emotions ranging from fears to acceptance. There certainly are many questions, which we long to answer.
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Would you like to prepare your own coffin?
Coffin clubs, in a humoristic way, tame the subject of death, help work on fears, imaginations and stereotypes. During a six-week course, participants paint and decorate their own coffin, which can be disassembled and stored until the moment it’s needed. An important part of the meetings are honest discussions on types of burials, the character of farewell ceremonies, or making a bucket list. This ensures the predictability of the funeral ceremony and unveils the needs and wants of the dying. Another issue is holding a cheaper ceremony. The cost of a wooden coffin is 250 pounds, which is an affordable price, lowering the cost of the funeral. Taking part in the course is free of charge.
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“The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter"
Have you ever thought what happens to your things after your passing?
Margareta Magnusson wrote a book about döstädning, namely, cleaning up your life before death. The author, a design school alumna, was always a creative person and a gatherer. However, after the passing of her loved ones and being forced to clean their belongings, she came to the conclusion that during our lives, we gather many objects that seemingly have meaning to us, but none to others. Her advice is simple – leave behind only the things you love and others will want to keep. Give the rest away. Her book isn’t only a guide, but also an interesting excuse to talk to your close ones about life and death. When we compare both book covers and translations – Polish and English – we’ll notice the lack of the word predeath in the Polish edition, which of course, isn’t an accident.
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"Duck, Death and the Tulip"
How do we talk about death with children?
The first questions about death are posed quite early, and often spontaneously. Death reveals itself in children's lives in the form of deceased animals or dying grandparents. However, we often don’t know how to talk to children about death and mourning. We’re afraid we’ll make some kind of mistake. Books can be quite helpful in this kind of situation. One of the most beautiful but simultaneously simple and visually restrained books about death is Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch, a German illustrator and writer. It’s about a duck that is constantly followed by death. The relationship forming between them forms a kind of anxiety and melancholy, as well as affection and humour.
We are entering a period in time when Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are approaching the stage of old age and death. Unlike their parents, this generation consciously prepares for their departure and wants a death on their own terms. Because of sickness and accidents, death also occurs among young adults and children. Experiencing the death of a loved one touches many people around the world, especially now in the time of the global pandemic.
Simultaneously our knowledge of the last stage of life is small, just as is our skill of accompanying others in mourning. The awareness of palliative care is expanding around the world. Home and stationary hospices are evolving, and new professions such as death doulas are appearing. They support the families and take care of the dying, helping them on the journey to the other side.
Art and design are appearing to be an immense help in moments like these, and aid in finding the sense of life. Thanks to them we can more accurately design supportive spaces (hospitals, hospices), or objects and services, that raise the quality of life at this stage. We want to consider how we can design a good death.
What are your connotations with hospices?
For many people, death is a failure of human nature, a sign of loss of control, a disease we will once win over. The search for a cure for immortality – physical or digital – is still ongoing. For now, however, life ends at an average age of 80.9 for women and 76 for men (source: CBS, 2018).
With the advancement of medicine, dying has become a medical process – it takes place in a hospital or stationary hospice. We are afraid of these places. According to the research of Puck St. Padre Pio Hospice, most of us would like to peacefully pass away at home, in the company of loved ones. However, over half of the respondents believe that we can be happy in the last stage of life. We want to draw the attention of recipients and designers to how much is still to be designed in this area. Sometimes we can't extend life, but we can improve its quality. By referring to empathy, designers can create places where the dying process we face in terminal illness will be less physically and emotionally painful.
Would you like to have a person next to you at the stage of a palliative disease, who will help you enter into the natural process of death with confidence and peace?
At birth, the mother and child are assisted by a midwife or doula, when we die, we may be accompanied by a death doula. This new profession supplementing palliative care was introduced in 2003. The Endla Life Doula nonprofit organization (INELDA) has trained over 2,000 people for this role. A death doula gives the dying person and their loved ones full attention, and through open conversation helps to deal with the fear of the unknown. They encourage the dying person to express and fulfil his or her own wishes in the last stage of life. It can also help a family prepare a deceased person for burial and organise a personal funeral ceremony.
Among those preparing for the role of doula death is Anja Franczak, a cultural expert, film producer, mourning companion, and author of the blog Last Things, which talks about who the death doula is.
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Palace- Stationary Hospice for Children
Do you think that the space where we pass away matters?
In 2013, the Gajusz Foundation created the first stationary hospice for children – Pałac. Children who require palliative care who cannot stay in family homes are sent there. The foundation's headquarters and hospice space are designed with great care to meet all medical and sanitary requirements, but keep the interior cosy. Everyone who visits this place can see how important this procedure is for the well-being of locals and visitors. We feel at home here. This is a great example of the direction in which designing such places in Poland should go. The architects are friends of the foundation.
Would you like to have time to say your goodbyes?
This is the first such place in a Polish hospital. In room number 125 at the hospital Rydygiera in Łódź, parents can say hello and say goodbye to their newborn but terminally ill child. It's time to be together, take photos or mould the baby's feet in a plaster cast. The room is small – there is a medical bed and some home furniture, such as armchairs, a round mirror, and plants. A substitute for normality, dignity, and peace in a very difficult moment of life and death. The room was created thanks to the Gajusz Foundation, which runs three children's hospices in Łódź: home, stationary and perinatal. Funds for this purpose were transferred by donors. The first delivery in the farewell room took place during the pandemic.
Children's funeral clothing
How to say goodbye to children who died prematurely?
Every year many children die before or shortly after birth. Often their parents do not even know if they have the right to be buried. Children's clothes available on the market are often too big for prenatal children, which is why the English charity Cherished Gowns creates unusual funeral outfits for them. Packages include a dress, hat, boots, blanket and diaper that are available in several sizes. The foundation delivers them to hospitals in the UK and directly to homes. Clothes sewn by volunteers are made of wedding dresses donated by couples from all over the country. This initiative shows how someone's happiness can become a support in dealing with misfortune and loss for others.
Burial practices change. It is the result of the secularization of society in many countries and a new hybrid spirituality that draws inspiration from Eastern religions such as Buddhism. The body is no longer treated as a “house of the soul” that needs to be preserved after death. After completing its earthly task, it returns to the cycle of nature.
This way of thinking is also supported by the growing ecological awareness. Today, we must manage the planet's resources wisely and cautiously. Yet, the funeral industry consumes large amounts of wood and metal resources, emits a significant amount of CO2, and uses hazardous chemicals.
Further problems include the growing population, urbanization and the limited number of places in cemeteries. Reconsidering the method of burial is thus becoming one of the important challenges of the modern world.
In recent years, we have seen a growing interest among designers in environmentally friendly burial methods. They all break religious and cultural taboos, and therefore require discussion and social acceptance. The resistance they evoke is also related to the status of the funeral industry, which may, as a consequence of changes in funeral habits, lose its position and significant revenues.
The funeral revolution seems, however, inevitable. It is an opportunity to create an industry that is more transparent, focused on human needs and safe for the environment.
Do these new concepts have a chance for social acceptance and widespread use?
In many overcrowded countries finding a place for new cemeteries is a challenge, as well as also a financial one. In others, cemeteries are becoming empty due to aging and depopulation of the community. Some people don't feel the need to visit their dead, while others can't. They travel, change places of residence and thus move away from family graves. Cemeteries are changing in appearance. The increasing number of places for urn burials shows the change visible in many countries of Western Europe and the USA – the growing number of cremations. Due to the growing ecological awareness, natural burials are becoming popular, and specially designated glades, forests and hills are the last resting place. There are no traditional graves there, only simple tablets or GPS markers. The grave is slowly displaced by the natural form of burial, and the decaying body can return to the cycle of matter.
The role and function of cemeteries is also changing. These are not just spaces perceived as cities of the dead, but attractive park-like meeting places. Many of them host historical, psychological or natural workshops, yoga exercises, and family celebrations. In a sense, this is a return to the former role that cemeteries had in urban space when they were the places for picnics, walks, and even feasts (ancient agape).
The law of burial in Poland has not changed since 1959, but the way of life and our expectations for the funeral have changed dramatically.
The principles of burial of the dead were formulated in the Act of 31 January 1959 On cemeteries and burial of the dead (Journal of Laws of 2000, No. 23, item 295, as amended).
In accordance with art. 12 paragraph 1 of this Act, the body of a deceased person may be buried as a corpse, or it can also be cremated.
Corpses buried without incineration can be covered in earth and stone graves, catacombs and by sinking in the sea. On the other hand, corpses subjected to cremation can be buried in stone graves or catacombs and by sinking in the sea, as well as stored in a columbarium.
The ashes can't be scattered in the deceased’s favourite place.
The urn with ashes can’t be kept at home.
No items can be made using ashes.
Economics of Death
Funeral prices around the world are steadily rising. At the same time, funeral allowances do not increase, and in many countries they are absent. For the poorest, the funeral becomes a financial challenge and requires borrowing. Some decide on a cheaper burial in another country. This creates the phenomenon of funeral exclusion. In Poland this problem will also increase.
New forms of burial, such as cremation and natural funerals, simplify preparations, funeral ceremonies and reduce funeral costs. Funeral cooperatives or alternative funeral homes are a potential alternative to the commercial funeral parlours.
A funeral for believers is a religious event.
The ceremony ritual is an expression of faith in the immortality of the soul and, depending on the religion, it provides the deceased with the possibility of resurrection (Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Islam), a return to the circle of existence (Hinduism), or an end to nirvana (Buddhism). Depending on the requirements of the religion, cremation is possible, or an intact burial is absolutely required. Often, there is an internal dispute between different branches of one religion regarding what is allowed. Tradition is evolving very slowly, e.g. the Catholic Church has accepted cremation after many years, although it does not recommend it.
Ruriden Cemetery, Koukoko-ji Temple, Tokyo, Japan
Who will look after your grave when you die?
The cemetery Colurbarium Ruriden houses 2,046 futuristic altars with crystal Buddha statues illuminated by LEDs. Behind the statues, the ashes of the dead are kept. The columbarium is located within the old Koukoko-ji Buddhist temple in Tokyo. This is an interesting example of combining tradition and technology, an attempt to answer the problem of overpopulation and lack of space for graves in large metropolises. Japan, with over 25 percent population older than 65, has the oldest population in the world. By 2060, the number of older people will increase to 40 percent. Many people worry about who will pray and look after their grave. The fee for burial in the temple is not small, but it guarantees posthumous protection. The ashes stay in the columbarium for 33 years, then are transferred to the area around the temple.
Would you like your body to become part of nature?
Natural burials are associated with growing ecological awareness and the less waste movement, but what is important is they return to the tradition present in many religions, e.g. the Tibetan air funeral, in which the corpses were exposed to the elements and wild animals.
In the process of preparing the body for funerals, chemicals such as embalming fluids are not used. They are placed in a biodegradable, simple casket (of wood, wicker, bamboo, seaweed) or shroud and buried directly in the ground, deep enough to protect the body from animals, but shallowly enough so that aerobic bacteria can digest cells. No concrete grave vault is created.
The funeral takes place at a natural cemetery, e.g. a clearing, hill or forest specially designated for this purpose. These types of funerals are popular in Great Britain, Germany, Canada and the USA. In Germany, the option of forest burial is available. The urn with ashes is placed at the roots of the tree on which the name of the deceased can be placed.
Today, there are over 200 forest cemeteries in Germany. In Poland, such burial is not yet possible.
Recompose – body recomposition
Would you like your body to recompose?
Recompose is an innovative method of cremation and traditional burial invented by Katrina Spade. Recomposition transforms human remains into soil. It is ecological and does not require a lot of space. After the funeral ceremony the body is placed in a container with organic materials such as alfalfa and bathed in air heated by microbes. After about four weeks, it turns into fertile soil, which the family will be able to pick up and use in a place of their choice or leave to scatter in a specially created cemetery forest. The first place in the world where the law allows this type of burial will be Washington state in the USA. The price of the ceremony will be lower than the traditional funeral, but slightly higher than cremation.
The Catholic Church was against the law legalising Recompose because, according to clergy, the method is based on composting and does not show sufficient respect for the body of the deceased. Perhaps this position will change over time, as has happened with the church's opinion on the cremation of corpses.
Biodegradable Wicker Casket,
Would you like to be buried in a wicker casket?
A simple wicker casket is a great solution for natural burials. It is biodegradable and affordable. In Poland, those plain handmade caskets are not as popular as traditional burial methods. For many people wicker is still received as a cheap material, which is not appropriate for funeral rite. Coffins made of this material are produced mainly for export to England, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. In these countries interest in natural burials is increasing and the law allows to bury the corpse in a biodegradable casket, directly in the ground, in cemetery forests or natural cemeteries. In our country that kind of coffins are mainly used for cremation.
Price: from 350 to 600 PLN
Would you like to change into a tree after death?
Capsula Mundi allows for such a change. The tree is a universal symbol of life and rebirth in many cultures and religions, an axis connecting the earth and the sky. Italian designers have created an alternative to the traditional casket, which with a short durability has a significant impact on the environment. The ashes of the deceased or the corpse in the fetal position are placed in a cocoon of biodegradable material. It is also a symbolic return to nature and rebirth to a new life. With time, the cocoon changes into a tree of the kind preselected by the deceased or the family. This type of burial shows that we are part of the natural transformation cycle. The designers' idea is to change a cemetery full of tombstones into a green park.
Price: 400 €
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biodegradable urn with tree seed
Is it important for you that the urn be biodegradable?
Bios Urn® is biodegradable, simple and affordable. It is divided into two capsules: the lower one, in which the deceased's ashes are tightly closed, and the upper one, which contains a soil expansion disc, made of coconut fibre, vermiculite and paper. Everyone can choose the species of tree that will be planted in remembrance of a loved one. Bios advises that they be local species to maintain ecological balance and ensure better plant growth. Urns are sent to various parts of the world. The company is a global leader on the market for these type of products. This year, "Boisé de Vie" – the first Bios Park® in the world – was created for natural burials using Bios Urns.
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Would you like your ashes scattered at sea?
The biodegradable, paper urn Kami resembles a shell, grain or mother's womb. It is simple and minimalistic. It can be dyed at the customer's request. The burial ceremony designed for it is inspired by Zen spirituality and takes place at sea, where the urn is lowered into the water, 3 miles from the shore and gradually falls apart, allowing ashes to sink to the bottom. The ceremony can be broadcast online. In this way the designers took advantage of the possibilities of Polish law, which allows you to dump ashes in the sea. It is also a response to the nomadic lifestyle of modern man and the need for a new, secular ritual. Kami is made of ecological material in cooperation with local artisans or socially excluded people. The urn can also be laid in the ground.
Price: 200 €
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biodegradable funeral clothing
Would you like to see flowers grow on your body after death?
AfterLife is a new, biodegradable material created from the remains of the food industry, saturated with flowers from which new life grows. It was designed specifically to wrap the body of the deceased, helping to transform the body into life-giving soil. The end of human life thus becomes the beginning of plant life. Studio Chardé Brouwer hopes that the project can change our approach to death – transforming the end into the beginning and changing the definition of a cemetery into a forest or park. This is one of the alternative, environmentally friendly methods of natural burial.
Price: upon special order
Infinity, biodegradable funeral suit from mushrooms
Would you like to be buried in a mushroom suit?
The Infinity funeral suit is handmade for the deceased. Why is the action of mushrooms so important in it? In the human body, according to the Center for Disease Control in the US, there may be 219 toxic chemicals. These include tobacco residues, dry cleaning chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, flame retardants, heavy metals, preservatives. The Infinity funeral suit contains biomix composed of fungi and other microorganisms that work together to neutralize toxins, accelerate body breakdown, and transfer nutrients to the soil. The suit is intended for natural burials. One of the first people buried in a Coeio suit was the popular actor Luke Perry, who was a supporter of natural funerals.
biodegradable casket with mushroom spores
Would you like your body to be more environmentally friendly after death?
Shaina Garfield initially designed the biodegradable casket 'Leaves With You' as a new proposal for ecological burial. Over time, it turned out that people also need a safe space to say goodbye and talk about death. This is how the ritual of weaving the casket from macramé was created. The ceremony gathers family members, friends and mourners, gives them time for conversations, memories, evokes emotions, releases regret and can be the beginning of the healing process. Through ceremony, people can support each other in this very difficult moment of life. After the casket has been woven, the deceased is virtually wrapped in an object of love created by those closest to him or her.
Price – $1800-3300
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urn made of a mixture of ashes and bioplastics
Did you know that the human body is full of chemicals that are harmful to the environment?
Because of this, our remains, even incinerated ones, can become a threat to nature. Toxins get into the soil and water. Studio Nienke Hoogvliet wants to slow down this process to make it more secure. Mourn urns are made of a mixture of ash and plastic called PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate). This material is similar to ordinary plastic, but completely dissolves in the environment. Because soil processes nutrients at different rates, Mourn has three shapes that break down at different speeds, depending on each type of soil. These urns do not store ashes, but help them return to nature gradually. On a larger scale, this may prevent soil and groundwater contamination around burial sites.
Price: 250-2,500 €
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modular urn with the option of personalization
Would you like to personalise the urn?
Bogdan Kosak was one of the first Polish designers to take up the topic of funeral design. His minimalist urns designed in 2009 are an alternative to typical products we deal with in funeral parlours. The user has a choice of one-element and modular urns, made of precious stoneware, with a mineralogical composition similar to that of porcelain. They can be used both for burial in a columbarium and for home use. The modules give the possibility of creating individual combinations, from three vessels with functions: dishes for ashes, a container for souvenirs and covers. The additional chamber for souvenirs of the deceased is a nod to the old tradition of burial, in which the deceased is accompanied in the last journey by her favourite items or gifts from relatives saying goodbye.
Price: 500-600 PLN
What happens to our data after death?
For the first time in history we are faced with a situation where, after death, each of us, apart from material things, leaves hundreds of data points – our digital trace, as unique as a fingerprint. We remain in the digital world through social media accounts, email boxes, subscriptions, and iTunes multimedia libraries. The average user has over ninety online accounts, which after the death of the user, family and loved ones do not have the right to access.
Shouldn't we think of a digital will or service that will help solve this problem? Users should ask themselves: what would they like to do with their data after death?
The end of digital life
Many people return to social media profiles of lost loved ones. They post or send messages to them, reliving memories left online. Unfortunately, active accounts of deceased people also interact with their virtual circle of friends through automated features because they were not designed for death. This can also arouse very negative and difficult emotions. Solutions to this problem arise gradually. For example, Facebook allows family and friends to convert accounts of deceased people into memory pages. This process allows the conversion of a standard profile into a blocked and simplified version with the inscription "in memoriam".
How can designers design the end of the user's life in the digital sphere?
Since it is anticipated that by 2050 there will be more accounts for dead people than alive ones on Facebook, the question seems reasonable: will social networks turn into virtual cemeteries and profiles into tombs in which records of our lives are stored?
Have you thought about what will happen to your data after death?
The device and service designed by Fraser McPhee responds to the new problem of the digital age, which is data archiving after the death of the user. The device allows you to store personal documents and files in the cloud’s online memory for the entire period of use. Upon death, a copy of the death certificate is sent to the cloud space; all information is deleted and copied to a number of offline storage devices that are sent to designated relatives and loved ones. The service relieves the relatives of the deceased from dealing with the problem of their data in a difficult moment of mourning. The software on the device allows you to view chronologically, geographically or through events, with details of each file provided to better understand the deceased and their life.
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The only way to keep the connection between the deceased relatives and us is to maintain memories of them. In every culture and religion, we will find various possibilities to keep memories inside us. Commemorating the dead has a long history – from the Egyptian pyramids, through Roman mausoleums, to posthumous photography, or funeral jewellery popular in the 19th century in Victorian England. We can keep these memories by visiting the grave, remembering important anniversaries related to the relatives’ lives or by having contact with objects that we have saved of the deceased. The objects presented show modern ways of commemoration, which are in line with the current lifestyle and new technological possibilities.
vinyl made of ashes
Would you like to hear the voice of your deceased loved one again?
Jason Leach used the power of sound in an unusual design commemorating the deceased. On a vinyl record made with the use of ashes – their voice, memories, songs related to important life events and sounds from favourite places, are recorded. In the production process, the ashes are forced into the plate structure and form a type of residue on the surface that affects the sound. The author used the advantage of sound, thanks to which we can recall the image of people who have passed away, which is strongly moving emotionally.
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a diamond made from the ashes or hair of a deceased person
Would you like a loved one to turn into a precious stone after death?
ONE Diamonds is a certified, high-quality diamond created from the ashes of a loved one as a reminder of their memorable life. The human body contains 15% coal, and consequently 50-100 stones of different sizes can be created. The service is extremely expensive but raises a high interest. A diamond is considered a sacred stone, a symbol of purity and peace. The idea of commemorative jewellery refers to the old tradition of funeral jewellery, popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, or fashion for ornaments made of the deceased's hair, which appeared in Victorian times in England.
Price: 4,700-111,000 PLN
Would you like to look back and feel a part of past generations?
The concept of the service, which aims to commemorate a loved one by creating a porcelain object, also includes the ashes of the deceased. The minimalist object will be created in laboratory conditions, making it safe for the environment.
Its form is not associated with death, so you can place it at home. It is a kind of time capsule, a legacy for posterity and an reason to pass on family history to generations. Its surface is as smooth as a mirror, and the shape and colour of the lens intentionally distorts our reflection, in which we can find similarities to our loved one. An additional aspect is the therapeutic effect of the object – thanks to daily contact with the object, we have the opportunity to gradually accept the loss of a loved relative and maintain a spiritual relationship with them.
Reflection is the result of an analysis of funeral services available in Poland and the growing need to create alternative solutions in this field.
set of funeral accessories
Would you like to say something important to the person who left?
The I remember project is a diploma project, which negates kitsch aesthetics, a characteristic that dominates among tombstones in Poland. The set of elements includes: a package of sheets for burning, a memory bowl with an ash container, a horizontal vase for cut flowers and a pot with a terracotta irrigation insert. The author refers again to the tradition of worshiping the dead, strongly rooted in Polish culture. The candle is turned into a sheet of paper covered with beeswax. On it you can write a message to the deceased, thank them for their presence in our lives and burn this letter on the grave in a dedicated ceramic vessel. It burns for a few minutes, giving us time to pray or focus on the here and now. The item can also be used at home.
The project received the Rector's Award for the best design diploma in design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice.
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set of funeral accessories - light and ritual
Would you like to limit the number of plastic candles at the cemetery?
Katarzyna Giedroyć’s Neo is a light and the corresponding ritual of lighting a flame to remember the dead. The name comes from the word Neolithic, the final period of the Stone Age, when fire provided humans with warmth, food and survival. The light is made of rough stone with a system of holes, a steel container for fuel and a wick, a vessel for olive oil, and two handles. All the elements are placed on a wooden base and the set is complemented with a linen cloth. Each instrument has its own function and the order to use it. The stone is always a different sample, so each set is unique.
Lighting a wick of Neo requires time and effort that emphasises the uniqueness of the moment and creates a space for thoughtfulness and remembrance. Neo can be used in a cemetery or any other space.
Price: 2,000 PLN
In Memory of
house altar with an urn
Would you like to have a home altar dedicated to mourning?
The project was created out of disagreement with the culture of silence about death that dominates Northern Europe. Although everyone experiences death and loss, it remains a taboo subject, and the mourning of the deceased is usually done alone. The inspiration for creating the home altar was from Mexican culture, in which the traditions of joyful celebrations of the life of the deceased are very strong. The form of the urn is inspired by the shape of an acorn symbolising the resurrection. The urn made of oak is placed on a house altar made of wood and sandstone. It is both a monument and a souvenir.
The designer also created a ritual that could help people cope during mourning. It involves writing a message with a brush and water on sandstone to the person we miss. Although the letter will disappear within a few minutes, this ritual prompts you to consider the words you wrote.
a candlestick remembering the deceased
Do you cultivate the tradition of remembering the deceased by lighting candles?
The object that accompanies the people after the death of their loved ones, regardless of religion or culture, is a candle (fire/flame). It allows to commemorate the memory of the deceased, but also unites people around. It was precisely in this intention to create candlestick Lit. The name is derived from the Latin abbreviation lux in tenebris (light in the dark). Its shape and the way it connects relates to the relationships that occur in the family. Its elements are different as well as the size of the candles which can be used, but it forms the whole, adapting to the number of people sitting at the table and the degree of their intimacy. Although the elements are connected together, not all are related. Separate modules allow you to use them individually and thus manifest your individual needs or emotions. The candle fire acts calmingly, creating a space for meditation/contemplation, so that we can realise our position. The timeless brass used for the candlestick production allowed for a significant weight of the candlestick, which gave it both physical and emotional value. It obliges the user to give him/her considerable attention during both use and care.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that despite believing in humanity’s tremendous potential, it is constantly subject to disease and death. The fear of death paralysed the whole world and kept us at home. Views of coffins waiting for the dead in Bergamo, images of bodies lying in refrigerated trucks in New York, or photos of group graves flooded the media. People dying alone in the hospitals said goodbye to their families by phone. Families could not attend funerals at the cemeteries, instead they watched them through an online transmission. Technology can give us a taste of that.
In my opinion, this experience could change our attitude toward death and help with the conversation about it. Reimagine, an American organization, created an international virtual festival devoted to life, grief and love during the COVID-19 pandemic. Artists and designers, spiritual guides, healthcare representatives and ordinary people joined forces to create events which could change our approach to life and death during the global pandemic.
Death during the COVID-19 pandemic
Does the Covid 19 pandemic is going to change our relation with death?
Despite the fact that everyday many of us check COVID-19 mortality statistics, death is still a taboo denied from our collective consciousness. Michel Houellebecq commented on the situation:
„For over half a century, the trend, well described by Philippe Ariès, has been to hide death as much as possible. Well, death has never been more discreet than in recent weeks. People who die in hospitals or nursing homes are immediately buried or cremated, without inviting anyone secretly. Death without any testimony or sacrifice boils down to individuals in the statistics of daily deaths and anxiety, which grows into a strangely abstract thing as this number increases.”
The pandemic has undermined many certainties, we are in the middle of a global experiment from which a picture of the new world emerges.
Will we tame death and give it its rightful place in our culture thanks to this experience?
Will the culture of silence win?
Will we learn the art of conversation?
We asked how the designers who take part in our exhibition see it.
We invite You to watch Jo Jurga, Fraser McPhee, Arkadiusz Szwed and listen to their short statements.