24 October - 13 March 2016
death: the human experience
Take a moment from your busy life.
Take some time to reflect on death…
What does it mean to you?
How does it feel for others?
The journey we all will take affects the way we live
Let’s talk about death.
As a society we are reluctant to talk about death and dying.
death: the human experience is about helping to start that conversation.
This exhibition is supported by:
symbols of death
Across the world and throughout time people have created symbols and euphemisms for death. They help the living to recognise or try to understand what death is. They are also used to help us distance ourselves from death and its reality.
Buddhist monks meditate on the different stages of decomposition, known as ‘the nine cemetery contemplations’. The aim is to understand that no one is bound to their body forever.
Images of Death as a cloaked skeletal figure carrying a scythe first appeared in Britain about 600 years ago. Shown riding a pale horse he represents one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse- Death, War, Pestilence and Famine.
‘Death and the Pale Horse’ by George Frederic Watts (c. 1878)
Skull and crossbones
In ancient and modern Mexico these appear on Aztec temples and as sugar skulls for the ‘Dia de los Muertos’ or Day of the Dead. In Europe, it emerged as a symbol of death about 600 years ago.
Crows eat carrion, the flesh of the dead, so they have a world-wide association with death. Some North American cultures believe the crow assists the recently dead to cross over to the next world by acting as a guide.
Death's head hawk moth
The moth’s name comes from the skull-like mark on its thorax. When disturbed, they emit a squeak or ‘scream’.
Skulls are a reminder that we will all die. This x-ray was taken from a living person but it still has connotations of death.
‘Truth is an overrated virtue’ by Mariele Neudecker (2007)
The hourglass alludes to time running out. Father Time, as shown here, is shown as an old man with a scythe. He’s been personified like this since the Roman period.
The images on this certificate are symbols of mortality reflecting the Latin phrase Memento mori, ‘remember you must die’. The hourglass is a symbol of limited time on earth, grave-digging tools and dead bodies suggest fresh graves, and angels are associated with heaven.
Kali is a Hindu goddess associated with death and destruction. Followers of Kali reflect on the body as a temporary vessel in an attempt to destroy the ego.
“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it”