Hearing the rhythmic sound of musical instruments playing somewhere, an old man suddenly realizes that it is the last day to see his first love’s final moment. It is a perfect ceremony for not only the dead but everyone in this small village. The man dresses to attend the funeral of the woman, who died at the age of 99. Death is the only certainty in life—we are aware that all living organisms die—and, fortunately, this is not the death of a child or a young man or even someone struck by a sudden tragedy. It is a peaceful death of a person who lived a full life, which gives way to a “happy funeral.” The scenes of the funeral in “Village of the Watermills” from Akira Kurosawa’s collection of short films “Dreams” (1990) is what greatly stimulated my interest to explore the idea of a “good death.”
Speculating about the meaning of life and death often reveals that they do not need to be extraordinary to be significant. To be alive in the present moment is only magnificent and remarkable when we all suffer identity crises, becoming a distinctive “someone” or a “nobody” who is completely merged with the crowd during the limited period of our journey. Death must honor the dignity of the person who has lived a life.
With the current pandemic, we would all be deliberating the concept of mortality. The intensity of this inevitable shadow forces us to accept the prospect of personal death, and this acceptance has an impact on how we live. How can we fearlessly but more consciously accept the truth of reality? What should the end of our journeys look like? Do we have the opportunity to genuinely grieve about the closure of life? Is it enough to show the dignity of death in the current funeral culture, whether it’s a cultural or religious ritual or a superstition? What does our body remaining as part of nature after death mean?
My current work involves creating a narrative in a theatrical setting to communicate with the audience. The narrative scenes allow the viewers to follow the journey, creating a surrealistic environment that drives us to stay immersed in the present and free ourselves from the past and future. The story plays the role of the medium while it transforms into its unique form. It becomes the content piece that makes the viewers easily recollect and deeply connect to their own memories. A limited palette is often used to manifest the darker narrative while maintaining the fantastical quality of the work with different scales of form. By using the vintage theme and adding my own twist, I explore the memory, trauma, fear, and anxiety associated with death. Opening up a conversation through my work will enable viewers to not only acknowledge the subject of death but also embrace it. Once the journey is over, we will know what we lived through.