Zuzanna Janin

I've seen my Death/Ceremony, Poland, 2003-2005

DVD, 7 min.

Courtesy of Lokal_30 Gallery, Warsaw

Is there anyone who has not imagined being present at his/her own funeral? Zuzanna Janin has gone a step further by actually staging her interment.

In April 2003, Janin published press notices of her demise. The next day, at Warsaw’s Powazki cemetery, she was laid to rest. This sequence of events led to the production of the movie "Ceremony", including footage of the funeral. Art critic Roman Lewandowski noted that the project generated a compilation of iconographic representations of death, bringing to mind social clichés of that motif. He adds that the work is a natural outcome of the artist’s previous dwellings on visual expressions, and her interest in the issue of memory and the illusory nature of the subject and identity per se. He adds further that, by presenting a fabricated visual image of the world after her death, Janin contrives to create an expanse of absence.

The notion of absence in art lays an ethical foundation for social critique, argues Stephen Feinstein in his article “Destruction has no covering”, featured in the exhibition catalogue. Feinstein argues that a stress on absence makes it possible to present a critique around issues of loss and the social circumstances leading up to it, circumstances such as genocide, without taking the easy course of depicting the horrors.

Janin’s work raises the question of whether a private death, occurring far from the eye of the camera or in the center of the world stage, still remains a possibility. Leading death to absurdity sharpens the encounter between the public and the private, an encounter which, at its peak, expropriates death from the mourners and becomes harnessed to political issues.