Art of Dying Art of Dying_Volume III_joomag - Page 84

PIA INTERLANDI We don't have a lot of healthy bereavement or healthy grieving in contemporary Western society. That's why the need for ritual is reappearing. I dressed my grandfather, my Nonno, in a traditional suit that he'd worn to the last family wedding. I was very naïve. I didn't know what to expect. You cannot dress a dead body as you would a living person. You're rolling the body side to side, so physically it is quite strenuous. You need several people. Our clothes are designed for vertical wearing, so nothing drapes as intended. I realized that his clothes were going to outlast his body’s decomposition. The leather shoes really hit home for me. They were difficult to put on. They were pointless in terms of their function. Where was he going to walk? But the most transformative part of my experience was the fact that I hadn't experienced a dead body before. Seeing a dead stranger is quite different from seeing someone you love. I was struck by the surreal stillness of his body. Your eyes play tricks on you. You expect to see movement. But I was aware that he was no longer in there and he no longer needed this body. That my Nonno’s essence was gone didn't reduce the need to address his body. There are so many levels to what happens when you're dressing someone. Yes, you're putting them in clothes, but what you actually experience is far more nuanced and intangible. After almost a decade, I’m still affected by it—but in a positive way. Dressing him in his clothes transformed him from an old dead man in a hospital gown into 84 | ART OF DYING my Nonno. And through this dressing I was also transformed. Dressing someone who has died places you in a state of healthy bereavement. We don't have a lot of healthy bereavement or healthy grieving in contemporary Western society. That's why the need for ritual is reappearing. People have been paying huge amounts of money for funerals that don’t touch what's going on emotionally. It's been, "Yes, we need the ornate coffin. Yes, we need the flowers. Yes, we need music. Yes, we need to give an eulogy in a lavish venue.” But none of those things are actually soothing the fact that someone you love has died. The body’s transience inspires the way I work. Biodegradability is a primary facet of my designs. Wrapping the body in natural fiber is harmonious with death and decomposition. When you consider life as a composition of notes, everyone’s essence is a song. Decomposition is our notes’ return to the bio-system to be reworked into new compositions. I use fabrication that won't hinder that process and is palatable to the soil. I think of the body as a gift that you give back to the earth. You present the gift of your body in a beautiful wrapping that life delicately opens and receives. My prototype is basically a very long piece of