In 1901 Dr. Duncan “Om” MacDougall began a series of experiments wherein he placed elderly, terminal tuberculosis patients on massive industrial scales, hospital bed and all. MacDougall weighed six subjects before and after death, and concluded from the postmortem weight loss that the human soul weighs 21 grams—hence the name of designer Mark Sturkenboom‘s “memory-box.”
With 21 Grams Sturkenboom has managed to create an opportunity for a truly libidinal mourning experience. The “kit” comes in a sleek, Jobsian case, openable only with a key that doubles as a lovely pendant necklace. Inside you find an atomizer bulb (to spritz your beloved’s perfume), a set of internal speakers to amplify music from the iPhone dock in the back, and a blown-glass dildo containing a tiny urn of ashes—21 grams of ashes, to be precise. Sturkenboom describes the project thusly:
21 Grams is a memory-box that allows a widow to go back to the intimate memories of a lost beloved one. After a passing, the missing of intimacy with that person is only one aspect of the pain and grieve. This forms the base for 21 Grams. The urn offers the possibility to conserve 21 grams of ashes of the diseased and displays an immortal desire. By bringing different nostalgic moments together like the scent of his perfume, ‘their’ music and reviving the moment he gave her her first ring, it opens a window to go back to moments of love and intimacy.She is able to have an intimate night with her sweetheart again.
Before you go all Social Justice Warrior on Sturkenboom for the heteronormativity of “widow,” (for who wouldn’t want to be penetrated by a loved one’s earthly remains, regardless of gender or marital status?!?), the inspiration for 21 Grams ” is actually an elderly widow—he sometimes helps her carry her groceries. Sturkenboom noticed the urn containing her husband’s ashes, remarking, “she always speaks with so much love about him but the jar he was in didn’t reflect that at all.”
Sturkenboom has not said whether or not his muse is flattered by his tribute.