resomation & fluxus: theatre of the individual life

“Resomation” or “green cremation” is a new invention in corpse management, a natural process for the speedy decomposition of the body. The deceased is fed into something called a “resomator” (which looks like an elongated washing machine)

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and at high pressure exposed to a water and potassium hydroxide solution. After three hours the machine spits back out around 200 gallons of mineral-rich liquid. Dental implants, crowns, pacemakers (which don’t explode like they do during cremation!) and other remains are ground into a fine ash and given to the family, the volume of ash being much less than that remaining after cremation. Resomation also consumes eight times less energy. The deceased’s liquid remains can be used as fertilizer, or just tipped down the sink. The process even erases any DNA trace of the deceased’s identity.

“We are all dust and it is to dust we shall return” could soon be: “We are all liquid and it is as liquid we shall end.” For the many people who felt their lives worthless, posthumous transformation into this truly liquid form could be of some comfort. (Water the lettuce with Grandma! We’ve never had such tasty lettuce before! …

– Dubravka Ugresic, “Liquid Times” in Europe in Sepia, p. 119

– Gottfried Benn

Fluxus performances situate the body in the center of knowledge as the principal means by which to interrogate the very conditions in wich individuals interact with things and thereby produce social meanings. Each Fluxus action thus contains wthin itself a “history” that is both of and for the body, of and for society, for as Lefebvre has noted “the whole of [social] space proceeds from the body.” I am particularly eager to secure Fluxus performances in this broad context so that the many possible theoretical interpretations they suggest may be grounded in material and historical conditions. For as Lefebvre has also argued, “The body is establishing itself firmly, as base and foundation, beyond philosophy, beyond discourse, and beyond the theory of discourse” [in large measure because] “Western philosophy … betrayed the body; it has actively participated in the great process of metaphorization that has abandoned the body; and it has denied the body.”

– Kristine Stiles, “Between Water and Stone: Fluxus Performance, A Metaphysics of Acts”. In The Spirit of Fluxus (Armstrong, E. and J. Rothfuss, eds.) pp. 62-99. USA, Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1993, p. 65

– Gottfried Benn

Fluxus, [Maciunas] expounded [in a letter to Schmit], “is against art as a medium for the artist’s ego … and tends therefore towards the spirit of the collective, to anonymity and ANTI-INDIVIDUALISM.”

– Kristine Stiles, op. cit., p. 69

If two people’s entire lives together were a body, were all of its organs and flesh and lashes and toenails, Night Tide [duet by Eiko and Koma, 1984] was like that body’s “soft, porous white bone remains, easily crushed,” left over after alkaline hydrolysis turned the rest into Mrs. Butterworth’s.

– from here

– Joseph Beuys performs Siberian Symphony, 1963 (photo by Manfred Leve), from Kristine Stiles, op. cit., p. 69