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larb blog morbid

I See Dead People

This piece was originally published today, July 8, by LARB Channel Avidly

By Alizah Salario

At The Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, the dead fill every nook and cranny. “Art of Mourning,” the current exhibit, features celluloid medallions and Victorian-era memorial photographs depicting the waxy, masklike faces of the dead. In “Sleeping Beauty” photos, deceased little girls and boys are cradled in open caskets or propped up in rocking chairs, as still and flawless as porcelain dolls. There are intricate wreaths woven from the hair of the dead in commemoration. What if modern mourners were to knot friendship bracelets from dear dead Bubbe’s blue-grey locks, or use a selfie with her on her deathbed as their Smartphone wallpaper? Just imagine. At best they’d be stigmatized as morbid; more likely perverse or pathological. Death, as we know it today, often happens behind closed doors, hooked to machines, in solitude and silence. Even if there was time to grab a lock of hair or snap a photo, the public display of keepsakes of the dead are today usually considered distasteful or maudlin. Continue reading