Saturday, 21 August 2010


Mourners are increasingly choosing to do something different with the remains of their departed loved ones.

Until recently, the trend was for burial or a discreet scattering of the ashes in a remote far-away place that had sentimental memories for the bereaved, or their family member.

But now those left behind are looking for something different.

Those who are still following a reasonably traditionalist route, can find places of beauty on National Trust land.
The Trust says it does not have a formal policy and will consider requests as long as they have no adverse effect on the environment.

"We are in charge of a lot of coastlines so obviously we can't police all of that and as long as it does not interfere with others enjoyment of a property," a spokesman said.

English Heritage, too, seems to be quite kind-hearted about the idea.

The caretaker of Stonehenge says: "It is not possible to scatter ashes within the Stone Circle itself, however it is possible in other areas of the site."

The Royal Parks, on the other hand, are against the idea, saying: "Remains contain high levels of minerals and other elements which, over time, can sterilise the soil and leach into watercourses..."
Among the latest strange offerings are organisations such as Ashes into Glass, which turns your loved one into jewellery or paperweights, or Heaven's Above Fireworks, which specialises in firework displays that incorporate some of a person's remains.

If you want to go further afield, HAF even offers memorial space flights which sends a small portion of the ashes into space.
Artist Jason Shulman decided on his own tribute to his father by incorporating his father's ashes into an artwork.

The sculpture was aptly called "A Piece Of My Father".

Some people keep their loved one’s ashes in an urn on the mantelpiece; others scatter them to the wind. A contemporary artist, however, has decided to pay tribute to his late father by using his cremated remains as part of a new artwork.

The work, entitled A Piece Of My Father, is on display as part of Magnetic Vision, a new exhibition at London’s Kinetica, the UK’s first museum dedicated to kinetic, electronic and experimental art.

Created by London-based artist Jason Schulman, the piece comprises suspended particles extracted from the ashes of his father by use of a magnetic field - together with brightly coloured elements, which have been meticulously sorted, sieved and filtered from his father’s remains.

“My father died, he was 92, and I went to collect his ashes from the funeral director,” Shulman told the 24 Hour Museum. “While I was there a thought dropped into my mind from a book I once read as a child about how, if you broke the human body down, you could get something like six erasers, four pencils, four horseshoe nails and things like that. What I particularly remembered was the iron in the body for the horseshoe nails.”

After being given a tour of the crematorium and a detailed explanation of the processes that go into the cremation of the human body, Shulman took the plastic bucket full of his father’s ashes back to his studio to test out the iron theory.

“I got a huge electromagnet and sifted the remains, which are like coarsely ground coffee, and all the iron basically stuck to the magnet.”
Emboldened by this remarkable discovery, he then spent the next couple of months meticulously filtering all the colours – the greens, the reds and the blues – visible in the remains, which appear as a result of the bones oxidising.

“It’s a very cathartic process to go through and it’s quite shocking coming across gallstones or a filling,” he added. “A great anvil drops on your head at the enormity of the experience. I think I kind of connected and disconnected with him at the same time – and to be honest I’m still surprised I did it.”

“My initial worry was how the family would react, because at the time they didn’t know I was doing it, but when they came to see the piece they were actually okay about it. I honestly don’t know what other people will make of it.”

The finished piece features beautiful stratified layers of colour and iron encased in a glass tube, which is precariously suspended by a thin thread above a concrete floor. If a heavy lorry trundles along the road outside the gallery, the whole piece shakes as though it could fall at any moment – effectively evoking a second level of mortality and adding a strangely human dimension to the work.

It is, by its nature, a very personal work. But unlike other pieces of modern art Shulman, who has been praised by fellow artist Marc Quinn as “one of the most interesting artists I have seen for a long time,” says the piece is most definitely not for sale. “I will never sell it,” he said. “It will remain an art piece, but selling it would be like selling your own grandmother.”

It’s probably this personal and human element which makes this piece of art different from the other equally fascinating pieces on show – many of which display technologies such as electromagnetism as well as sound waves and computer technology.

1 comment:

  1. Have we mentioned this before: ?