necrosis contrasts with apoptosis, programmed cell death, is its sloppy and localised, country cousin

Death by Asphyxiation, photograph by Andres Serrano, found at:

I would like to cut into the idea of this association between death and representation, this ideal association (see preceding post). In doing so, you see, I’ve already invoked a further association, in The Morgue series by Andres Serrano, which goes against its grain. Serrano has suggested in an interview that what interested him in making his series of photographs of dead subjects was less that they were dead and more that in death their spirit was somehow clearer to his camera, to his viewpoint. His interest is spiritual. But it is also practical. His images of the dead are more alive for the fact that the subjects are dead. In looking for the spirit or the life after life of the dead he succeeds in provoking the feeling in the viewer that it would be a great relief if they were in fact dead and didn’t have the afterlife his photos show them to have.

In the spirit of seeking such relief we might turn to the body of a loved one laid out in a funeral home. He or she is dead without a doubt, cold clay to the touch, the lines of the face fined out, the genitals covered, the eyes closed, at peace in God’s peace which is our peace of mind, granted by what Slavoj Zizek would call the Big Other. We reassure ourselves that they are not there. We seek communal reassurance that nothing is there: Don’t look at a dead person for the image that will reflect there was a life, there was a world. The spirit expressing a life, a world, is Elsewhere. They are gone.

From the anodyne settings in which our corpses are arrayed, with greater or lesser cosmetic intervention, we derive the spooky commonplaces of a secularised belief. (Call it fashion, nothing in itself, but it’s also a relief, a release.) They watch us looking at them. They’re cracking jokes. They’re indulging in celestial vices, the vices they enjoyed in life transferred to Elsewhere, if not Heaven. They’re enjoying the comfort that we find in imagining them absent from the poor cloddish matter of their bodies. No, the body was never them, it was the mere mechanism in which they were housed. We rediscover the old Manicheism – matter bad, spirit good – enough of it, anyway, to suit, to garner our grief. As Zizek additionally says, it’s sufficient that someone else truly believes, enabling us to believe by proxy (on a screen, as it were, in 21 grammes).

Isn’t there, in the death we turn to for relief from death, another kind of death? And isn’t it because we stage death in a simulation, as a simulation, in which it’s all there, apart from death?

Then, is it a complete solecism to say that to represent death as everything but death itself is to deaden representation, so that representation itself assumes this identity, this history, which is death’s own?