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  • How to Die a Green Death | 2022

How to Die a Green Death | 2022

Artist: Niko Sonnberger
Medium: 35mm Film
Dimensions: 16 x 20 inches

“Preserving a dead body became accepted burial practice during the Civil War, when the technology to chemically preserve bodies was developed so that bodies of soldiers could be sent home to their families. Early embalming replaced the body’s blood with an arsenic and mercury mixture which was later replaced by formaldehyde. Embalming fluid was toxic to undertakers, and even to embalmers today, despite having better protective gear including respirators and protective gloves, and they still suffer negative health impacts from these carcinogenic substances. In contemporary practice, morticians place the embalmed body in a casket made of wood, which has been treated with formaldehyde and coated with laminate, lacquer, or metal, and then adorned with metal fixtures. The casket is then placed into a cement vault in the ground, designed to prevent the shifting of the ground’s grassy surface. All of these materials, and the energy consumed in producing them, filter into the ground and in fifty years the body’s tissues will have liquefied and disintegrated, leaving behind mummified skin and ligaments. Eventually these too will fall apart, and after eighty years in a coffin, a body’s bones will splinter as the soft collagen within them decomposes, leaving nothing but the brittle mineral frame.” — Caylin Ellowitz, Forecast Journal Issue 9 Image features performance by Marianna Varviani.


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