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Peace at Last: Beautiful and moving photographs of dead animals
08.28.2013
12:43 pm

Topics:
Animals
Art

Tags:
Photography
Death
Gemma Davies

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It was Gloria the cat that first brought Gemma Kirby Davies the “gift” that started her photographing dead animals.

“It started about 18 months ago when Gloria (the cat) brought me a gift,” Gemma tells Dangerous MInds. “A perfectly intact, but totally lifeless mouse–which as it fell from her mouth to the floor, seemed to sink into the earth with a complete sense of purpose and ultimate timeliness. It was his time to go, and the earth swallowed him back up. It made me feel a huge sense of peace toward death.

“Gloria rarely eats her prey, and so the mouse’s corpse was given back to nature. In one of my favourite books, Jim Crace’s Being Dead, there are beautiful descriptions of nature reclaiming nature and how through the death and decomposition of living things, nature is renewed and the dead (once living matter), prevail in the earth, the soil and the plants.”

Gloria’s gift inspired Gemma to begin photographing dead animals, when and wherever she discovered their bodies, and curating these beautiful and moving pictures on her website Peace at Last. It should be made clear that Gemma has nothing to do with the demise of any of the animals photographed, and her work aims to preserve something of each creature’s final beauty. The site is introduced by the poem “Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost over throw
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure - then, from thee much more must flow;
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones and soul’s delivery.
Thou’rt slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke. Why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more. Death thou shalt die.

Gemma Kirby Davies: We, like all animals will one day die. It’s something I find sad, but reassuringly certain. I hope my photographs evoke a sense of how I perceive death; wholly still, eternally quiet and completely calm.

I see death as stillness and as sleep. Not all of my images are cute and fluffy; some animals may have come to a brutal end and their visceral wounds reflect that. But death for me is always an end to chaos: an end to suffering, peace at last.

Dangerous Minds: What attracted you to this subject matter?

Gemma Kirby Davies: Growing up I was always interested in dark themes in art; Francis Bacon’s paintings and macabre literature. I love Taxidermy, and have been extremely inspired by this art trend, especially the exquisite work of modern artists like Polly Morgan and Nancy Foutts.

Yes, there is a deeper meaning behind what I am doing, but I think the colours and composition of my pictures work on a superficial level too – dead animals can be visually stunning… and much easier to photograph when still.

DM: What has the response to your work been?

Gemma Kirby Davies: It’s not for everyone. My aunt’s response to the invite to my recent exhibition was, “Of course I’ll come and support you dear—as long as you don’t expect me to ever put any of it up on my walls!” and on applying for a stall at Spitalfields Art Market, I was advised that my work wasn’t family friendly and cautioned that my photographs could be “interpreted as disturbing”… I didn’t have the heart tell them that that was sort of the point!

I think art should always incite feeling, and if we all got excited about the same things then life would be rather boring. Reactions like that - especially from an art market in London’s seemingly edgy East End - prove that there is a real stigma around portraying death in art. If I have hit a nerve with this subject matter then I am glad of positive and negative responses as it opens up a debate.

Gemma is now developing a Peace At Last book, which will include pictures sent to her by other artists. If you are genuinely interested in submitting a picture, “your personal interpretations of this theme (photos of ‘peaceful’ dead animals),” then please send your images to peaceatlastphotography@yahoo.co.uk Alas, Gemma can’t offer a fee, but if published in the book each artist will be credited and “of course get free champagne at the book launch!”

Discover more of Gemma Kirby Davies’ incredible photographs at her site Peace at Last.
 
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More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Norris Church Mailer RIP
11.21.2010
03:03 pm

Topics:
R.I.P.

Tags:
Norman Mailer
Death
Norris Church Mailer

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Norris Church Mailer (1949-2010), the sixth and final wife of the late novelist, Norman Mailer, has died today after a long battle with cancer, it has been announced.

It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Norris Church Mailer, widow of Norman Mailer, who died November 21, 2010, after a long and valiant struggle with cancer. Norris was many things to many people. She was an unusually gifted and talented writer, an insightful observer of the human condition, both as novelist and memoirist.

She was an acclaimed professional painter and illustrator, as well as a teacher in her native Arkansas and then a beautiful fashion model in New York. She was the pilgrim soul who captured and won Norman’s heart and mind and who shared with him the last three decades of his life. She was a loving mother and adored stepmother, the glue that held together the eclectic Mailer clan. And she was a good, passionate and generous friend for so many of us who came to know, admire and love her.

Announcement from the Norman Mailer Society.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Cleveland’s Black Rock Legacy: Purple Image

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Today’s resurgence in black rock and Afro-punk has been accompanied by a boosted interest in obscure post-Hendrix black rock from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, as shown by the rediscovery of Detroit bands like Death and Black Merda.

Elsewhere in the heartland, Cleveland’s late-‘60s soul and R&B scene (a role-call of which can be found in this bio for the Imperial Wonders) also boasted a clutch of guitar-centered rock bands, including the excellently named Purple Image. Rising from the 105th St. & Superior area (which took a big hit during the unrest resulting from the 1968 Granville Shootout), PI traded on a thumping, harder-than-Parliament psychedelic sound fortified by powerful group vocals and the two-guitar attack of Ken Roberts and Frank Smith. Unfortunately Purple Image’s excellent self-titled 1970 debut would be their one and only, becoming a rare black-rock nugget before it was re-released by the UK’s Radioactive label in 2007.

It would take another Midwestern black rocker to pick up the

purple

but that’s another story…
 

 
Get: Purple Image - Purple Image [CD]

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
All Black Punk Band from 1974 : Death lives ...For the Whole World to See
03.19.2010
09:07 pm

Topics:
History
Movies

Tags:
Death

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This article from the New York Times about a totally unknown, all black proto-punk band called Death, circa 1974, has me salivating to hear this CD. Except for some hardcore music fanatics, Death were totally forgotten, even by the participants, really. Then one of their kids heard his father’s voice on a record at a party in San Francisco and this started a chain of events that saw the music of Death released on CD by Drag City Records:

The group’s music has been almost completely unheard since the band stopped performing more than three decades ago. But after all the years of silence, Death’s moment has finally arrived. It comes, however, nearly a decade too late for its founder and leader, David Hackney, who died of lung cancer in 2000. “David was convinced more than any of us that we were doing something totally revolutionary,” said Bobby Sr., 52.

Forgotten except by the most fervent punk rock record collectors — the band’s self-released 1976 single recently traded hands for the equivalent of $800 — Death would likely have remained lost in obscurity if not for the discovery last year of a 1974 demo tape in Bobby Sr.’s attic. Released last month by Drag City Records as ”,,, For the Whole World to See” Death’s newly unearthed recordings reveal a remarkable missing link between the high-energy hard rock of Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC5 from the late 1960s and early ’70s and the high-velocity assault of punk from its breakthrough years of 1976 and ’77. Death’s songs “Politicians in My Eyes,” “Keep On Knocking” and “Freakin Out” are scorching blasts of feral ur-punk, making the brothers unwitting artistic kin to their punk-pioneer contemporaries the Ramones, in New York; Rocket From the Tombs, in Cleveland; and the Saints, in Brisbane, Australia. They also preceded Bad Brains, the most celebrated African-American punk band, by almost five years.

Jack White of the White Stripes, who was raised in Detroit, said in an e-mail message: “The first time the stereo played ‘Politicians in My Eyes,’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. When I was told the history of the band and what year they recorded this music, it just didn’t make sense. Ahead of punk, and ahead of their time.”

The teenage Hackney brothers started playing R&B in their parents’ garage in the early ’70s but switched to hard rock in 1973, after seeing an Alice Cooper show. Dannis played drums, Bobby played bass and sang, and David wrote the songs and contributed propulsive guitar work, derived from studying Pete Townshend’s power-chord wrist technique. Their musicianship tightened when their mother allowed them to replace their bedroom furniture with mikes and amps as long as they practiced for three hours every afternoon. “From 3 to 6,” said Dannis, 54, “we just blew up the neighborhood.”

This Band Was Punk Before Punk Was Punk (New York Times)

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Phantasm: 30 Years Of Ball-Grabbing Fun

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The LA Times recently noted the 30th birthday of Phantasm, the first entry in director Don Coscarelli‘s quartet of Phantasm horror films.  Scraped together from a meager budget, and shot and edited over a period of roughly 20 months, Phantasm and its sequels continue to suck me in with a frequency that I’m sure wreaks havoc with whatever Netflix algorithm crunches out the recommendations linking those films to L’Eclisse.

For Phantasm newbies here’s the story (the bare bones, so to speak), per its official film site:

Michael Baldwin and Bill Thornbury star as two brothers who discover that their local mortuary hides a legion of hooded killer dwarf-creatures, a flying silver sphere of death, and is home to the sinister mortician known only as the Tall Man.  This nefarious undertaker (with an iconic performance by Angus Scrimm) enslaves the souls of the damned and in the process his character has entered the pantheon of classic horror villains.

Sounds kicky, right?  What the synopsis leaves out, though—and what no synopsis could possibly accommodate—is precisely that elusive, unquantifiable element that makes the Phantasm films, in my eyes, so haunting.  Whether due to exigencies of budget or imagination, the logic these films operate under is so far out and unpredictable, the effect is like watching a 6-hour nightmare unspool before your eyeballs. 

How is one supposed to reconcile, exactly, hooded dwarves, funeral homes, and flying, eyeball-gouging orbs?  Um, I’m not sure you can, really (believe me, I’ve tried!).  And as the quartet progresses, the entire Phantasm mythology assumes ever-more grand and baroque dimensions.  For example…

SPOILER ALERT: About those dwarves?  Oh, they’re ultimately destined for another planet.  Those flying silver balls?  They’re storage containers for the souls of the recently departed.  END SPOILERS.

Contrast that inability to reconcile so many dreamy, disparate elements with the boringly formulaic, teenage-slashing rhythms of Freddy and Jason, and you can begin to understand how I consider Don Coscarelli more in league with Suspiria-meister Dario Argento, than the Wes Craven of Scream and Elm Street.

And, much like Argento, whose capacity for creative bloodletting seems undiminshed by time, Coscarelli continues to direct.  His last film, the cult-fave Bubba Ho-Tep, starred the always great Ossie Davis and Bruce Campbell.  The trailer for the original Phantasm follows below:

 
In the LA Times: Happy Birthday, Tall Man! “Phantasm” Turns 30

Official Phantasm Site

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
The (Real) Smell Of Death
08.18.2009
12:20 pm

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
Death
Cadaver Dogs
Natural Disasters

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As the recent earthquakes in China and Italy showed us, tragedy can keep unfolding far beyond those first few seconds of violent shaking.  In the China quake alone, vast number of people were either killed or buried, still alive, under mounds of earth, steel and concrete.  Locating these bodies can take days, even weeks.  With this in mind—and as an occupant of quake-prone Los Angeles—I’m very much encouraged by the progress made in “chemical profiling” which

could eventually lead to a portable device for detecting human bodies at crime scenes and disaster areas.  To develop such a device, scientists must identify what gases are released as bodies decompose under a variety of natural environmental conditions.  In addition, they must detail the time sequence in which those odorant chemicals are released in the hours and days after death.

How far off is such a death-sniffing device?  Well, researcher Dan Sykes is currently affixing sensors to decomposing pigs, “They go through the same phases of decomposition as humans, as well as the same number of stages.  And those stages last about as long in pigs as they do in humans before complete decomposition occurs and only the bones remain.”
 
Via Physorg: New Insights Into The Smell Of Death
 
The Aftermath: How To Embalm A Body

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment