9. July – 4. September 2022
Cabinet Exhibition in the Rotunda
Our current selfie-society is all about ego. Filmmaker Vanesa Abajo Pérez explores how we can experience life through the eyes of our surrounding reality instead of our own. In her films she often uses this particular change of perspective: she does not show people as typical main characters in a leading role. Abajo Pérez is fascinated by the poetic quality of the material world that surrounds people. What connection do people develop with the objects they posses or interact with? How is the presence of people reflected and felt in their surrounding world?
In I AM NOT MY BODY Abajo Pérez places this thought in the context of an approaching death. For this purpose she spoke to many ill persons who were confronted with death. The filmmaker explored the changing perception, of themselves and of life. It is a sober and nostalgic journey on the border between the cinematic and the literary, in which the artist tries to hold on to the human. The texts in the film are written by Flemish poet Maud Vanhauwaert.
Vanesa Abajo Pérez (1979) is a filmmaker and multimedia artist. When her aunt became terminally ill, she made her first short documentary LA CASA DE PIEDRA (2016), in which she portrayed her aunt through the eyes of the space this woman once inhabited. From that moment on, Vanesa devoted herself completely to making artistic documentaries. Her first long film LIFE IS DREAM premiered in 2020. In 2021 her solo exhibition I AM NOT MY BODY opened in the Dutch Funeral Museum Tot Zover. Part of this work is shown here. Vanesa is currently working on a second part of this project, as well as on a new long documentary on the island La Palma.
Abajo Pérez is a nostalgic filmmaker. When her aunt was diagnosed with a terminal illness, she recorded her aunts voice, who read to her a poem about the house where she grew up and where her presence would live on. After her death, Abajo Pérez filmed the house and combined the images of the empty interiors with her aunts living voice. The result was the film LA CASA DE PIEDRA (2016), which inspired her further work.
For several years Abajo Pérez did research. She spoke to many people who were confronted with illness and death, and explored their changing perception, of themselves and of life. On one hand she found out how relative and subjective our experience of time can be when death approaches. It’s as if time stands still or becomes completely irrelevant. On the other hand and because of this timeless state, the presence of a human, who is already about to disappear, also blurs out. Until the point that a person is not really there anymore shortly before dying, but still feels present after his death. In this sense, the artist calls death a surrealist occasion.
I AM NOT MY BODY is a project which explores the divisory line between life and death from this surrealistic and poetic angle. It concerns an ongoing, cross-media project, part of which is shown here.
For over a year, Abajo Pérez filmed the life of a woman who was terminally ill. A woman who refused to resign herself to the thought of her own death. My body is not the only thing that matters, she reasoned, my identity also exists beyond the limits of the physical. In the film, a poetic voice, representing the body, argues and battles with the character's mortality. The poem cuts between the images that Abajo Pérez filmed at the woman's home. Visually, Abajo Pérez does not focus so much on people, but tells the woman's story through the eyes of her surrounding reality: her home, the neighbourhood where she lived in, etc. The narrative is anchored in the world that remains behind when this woman is not there anymore.
As human beings we experience our own life as a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. In our society, most of the stories we know about death are also linear.
The film tells the story of a woman who basically denies this passage of time. The woman in the film is convinced that she will not die for the time being. However, the naming of the seasons in the film shows how time actually passes. A full year passes and after the character's death, life continues.
After watching the film, visitors of the exhibition will be invited to reflect on the passing of time through an installation in which they can compile their own timeless collection of poems. They can translate the film into a book form.
After their death, people leave an imprint in their environment. Chairs are unique and extremely personal in this respect. They are objects on which people were 'seated' and with which they have been in contact for a longer period of time. There is a personal connection.
For this exhibition we collect chairs from people who have already passed away and which will be lent to us by residents of Kassel. We will use these chairs to create a small cinema room for the film. There is a story behind each chair.
While the film focuses on the proces of disappearance of the human within the surrounding space, Abajo Pérez is currently working on a continuation of the project: a multimedia poetry bundle that portrays people who passed way through the space the left behind. This second part will see the light in 2023.
This project is made possible by the Dutch Foundation for Literature, the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, the Dutch Cultural Media Fund and various private sponsors.
I AM NOT MY BODY is a production of Ten Zuiden van de Grens.
For this exhibition, we are therefore collecting chairs of deceased people that are lent to us by citizens of Kassel. With these chairs we will create a small cinema room for the film. For each chair there is a story, which we will record and make audible in the exhibition.
So if you own such a chair, have a story to tell about it and would like to lend it to us from end of June until the end of September 2022, please contact us.
Phone: 0561 918 93 20
Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e.V.
Zentralinstitut für Sepulkralkultur
Museum für Sepulkralkultur
D-34117 Kassel | Germany
Tel. +49 (0)561 918 93-0