As part of the ‘Encountering Corpses‘ event convened by Dr Craig Young (Human Geography) and Helen Malarky (IHSSR Project Manager and Humanities in Public Creative Programme Co-ordinator), the Institute of Humanities and Social Science Research (IHSSR) proudly presented an exclusive exhibition of photography and community art.
Saturday 29th March – viewing open 4pm – 6pm
The exhibition was comprised of three interleaved elements, all of which evoke themes of death, contemplation and empathy.
Firstly, Paul Koudounaris exhibited 12 large-scale photographs from his two books Heavenly Bodies: Cult treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs (Thames and Hudson, 2013) and The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Thames and Hudson 2011). This was the very first exhibition of Paul’s work outside North America.
Paul Koudounaris has a PhD in Art History from UCLA and specializes in the visual culture of death. He is the author ofThe Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Thames and Hudson, 2011) and Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs (Thames and Hudson, 2013). His more global study of decoration wass scheduled for a 2014 release under the title Memento Mori.
See more of Paul’s work on his website.
Secondly, MMU’s Sue Fox exhibited a series of photographs from work undertaken for her book Post Mortem, which was published originally in 1997. For this work, Sue gained unparalleled access to autopsies, mortuaries and crematoria in Manchester. Featuring work which has never previously been exhibited, this was a rare chance to experience these haunting and thought provoking works first hand.
Sue Fox is known for her taboo images of the dead in a three part series called Vile Bodies, on contemporary and international photographers in 1997 & 2000. At the time, Sue was working on new photographic images about ‘the visceral body’ and a series on ‘abandoned buildings’ exploring the peripheries of access points. She was also working on her first novel, and looking for a major publishing deal in 2014. Find out more about Sue’s current work on her MMU profile.
Finally, as a counterpoint to the professional photography being exhibited there was also responsive pieces from local community artists who will reflect on the themes of the exhibition from varied perspectives and walks of life. Intrinsic to the Encountering Corpses events is a sense that we can grow as living beings through our encounters with the dead. The exhibition was hosted by Sacred Trinity Church and so, to illustrate and practice this theme, the community art group based at Sacred Trinity presented a series of their own new and original art works, inspired by thinking about death, burial and dead bodies in art and other cultural spaces.
As a one time special commission, Annabel ‘Lecter’ de Vetten of The Conjurer’s Kitchen produced a cake based on Paul’s photography. Featuring edible jewels and gold chocolate filigree, this was an event where even the catering was a work of art.
During the evening there was a presentation from Paul Koudounaris about his work as well as the opportunity to purchase Paul’s book and have it signed.
Further entertainment was provided by Canadian singer songwriter (and true crime expert) Lee Mellor, who performed a selection of ‘Murder Ballads’ live in the church.