Andres Serrano | U.S.A.

The Morgue (Homicide), 1992

125.7x152.4 cm

Courtesy of the Artist and Yvon Lambert, Paris

"Death is a bad portrait painter" said Goethe. Serrano's recent photographs of dead bodies raise questions about death and art.

At first sight, these large color prints make one wonder how and when and why Serrano made these images. Serrano has said: "I photographed these people after the moment of death. I never knew them as human beings. I never knew what languages they spoke, what their religious or political beliefs were, how much money they had, or who they loved. All I know about them is the cause of death. […] The morgue is a secret temple where few people are allowed. Paradoxically, we will all be let in one day. I think one can be upset and confused to be brought there prematurely. My intention is to expose people to this sacred place. The rest is entirely up to them".

Serrano is influenced in his photographs by Christianity's view of death. Death is reflected in the notion of the Divine Judgment Day. Contrary to the injustices of this world, the fleeting emptiness and pleasures, death is certain, it is eternal.

There is a clear distinction between post mortem photographs taken to commemorate and remember, and those taken for purposes of medical documentation, research and pathology in order to decipher unsolved cases of murder or death. Serrano's photographs are neither of the two.

They portray an element of aestheticism and an attempt to preserve death by freezing the moment and thereby eternalizing its continuity. It is an experience which arouses in the living associations to try and comprehend the essence of the shadow of the human being lying there for eternity.