Blog of Design Studies
Memento mori literally means "Remember you must die".
The early Puritan settlers were particularly aware of death and fearful of what it might mean, so a Puritan tombstone will often display a memento mori intended for the living. These death’s-heads or skulls may strike us as ghoulish, but they helped keep the living on the straight and narrow for fear of eternal punishment. In earlier centuries, an educated European might place an actual skull on his desk to keep the idea of death always present in his mind.
A memento mori is an artwork
designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the shortness and fragility of human life
A basic memento mori painting would be a portrait with a skull but other symbols commonly found are hour glasses or clocks, extinguished or guttering candles, fruit, and flowers.
Closely related to the memento mori picture is the vanitas still life. In addition to the symbols of mortality these may include other symbols such as musical instruments, wine and books to remind us explicitly of the vanity (in the sense of worthlessness) of worldly pleasures and goods. The term originally comes from the opening lines of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible: ‘Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’
The vanitas and memento mori picture became popular in the seventeenth century, in a religious age when almost everyone believed that life on earth was merely a preparation for an afterlife. However, modern artists have continued to explore this genre.
An exhibition wich caused much controversy over the ethical use of live animals in art was Exposición No.1. A show of work by Guillermo Vargas, a Costa Rican artist also known as “Habacuc,” took place on August 16, 2007 at Galería Códice in Managua, Nicaragua. Written in dog food on a gallery wall was the statement, “Eres lo que lees,” meaning, “You are what you read.” The center of attention was a sickly-looking street dog tied to a metal cable bolted to the wall with a short rope. The animal was supposedly captured in the alleys of Managua by some children who were paid by the artist. According to hundreds of blogs and news articles circulating on the Internet, the artist intended for the dog to starve to death during the course of the exhibition. Vargas intended to raise awareness of the public’s hypocrisy by comparing what happened to this dog to a burglar named Natividad Canda Mayrena, who was mauled to death by two rottweilers in Costa Rica while the police and onlookers watched.
Guillermo Vargas, “Exposición No.1,” 2007.
Galería Códice, Managua, Nicaragua.
Marianne Vordermayr, a free artist caught some photos of rooms or simple items.
As looking at them, they spontaneously transport the feeling of missing “a person”: The person who is or was living here. I had impulsively the feeling to see some details of the living space of an elder women, who likely had been died shortly before the photos were taken.
Have a look to the photos:
Marianne Vordermayr – Abwesend (absent)