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Grave Matters: Memory, Memorial, Mourning

November 8-9, 2002

This interdisciplinary symposium was organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in collaboration with MASS MoCA and the Williams College Museum of Art. It was occasioned by the publication of the book Grave Matters by Mark C. Taylor with photographs by Dietrich Christian Lammerts and a related exhibition, which opened at MASS MoCA on October 31, 2002.

The symposium probed the ways in which modern artists, writers, philosophers, and architects have struggled to figure death. The exhibition presented relics and photographs of the graves of 150 people who have helped shape modern culture in the West. What can these graves tell us about their works and our world? Starting from this question, symposium speakers asked what art has to teach us about death today.

Death, in Wallace Stevens's memorable words, is the "nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." During the past year, death and the nothingness it harbors have haunted our personal and collective memories. In a world created by techno-science, how can death be memorialized and what does it mean to mourn? As we struggle to fathom the abiding enigma of death, memory braids together disappearance and appearance, absence and presence, loss and recovery, to create a spectral play that provokes reflection.

Titles appearing in blue are available for review by clicking on the link.

For more information, contact the Research and Academic Program or call 413-458-0460.

  • Ann Hamilton Presentation - audio | video
    Ann Hamilton
    Artist and MacArthur Fellow
  • Joanna Scott Presentation - audio | video
    Joanna Scott
    Novelist and MacArthur Fellow
  • Monument and Memory: Representation in Architecture after 9/11
    Peter Eisenman
    Louis I. Kahn Visiting Professor, Yale School of Art and Architecture, and architect of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial
  • Panel Discussion
    Moderated by Mark C. Taylor
  • Thomas J. J. Altizer Presentation - audio | video
    Thomas J. J. Altizer
    Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at Stony Brook

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