La Clara Luz de la Muerte 2008
“To think about death is to offer it as a form of spectacle, or turn it into an object of study: it is to reflect on our being, on our mortality.”
The Clear Light of Death is a three channel video installation portraying the last moments of life according to Buddhist tradition, in which we experiment the lost of the four elements absorbed over our lifetime: Earth, Water, Fire and Air, happening in two stages: the external dissolution and the internal dissolution. It is this transitive state that I explore in The Clear Light of Death, to reconsiders death as an experience that extends from and abstracts life, and not as a feared, unknown taboo, standing to confront conventional religious beliefs that dominate our cultural conception of death. Instead of framing it as a victimhood or state change—as a permanent crossing of a threshold—this project challenges the viewer to meditate on mortality and recognize it as another extension of life’s familiar flux.
Enveloping the viewer in a split screen of changing imagery, it purposefully blurs the boundaries between spectacle and spectator. Elements are picture on the left, the physicality of death on the center, while on the right we can see a visual metaphor for what is happening in the mind while loosing the elements. By creating an installation that represents the final breath and the extraction of the four elements.
With this experiential and active, impermanent and beautiful installation, I seek to challenge the notion that death is senseless, weak or cold.
A G G R E G A T E O F F O R M
The body begins to lose it’s strength. We have the sensation of falling, sinking
under the Earth, or being crushed by a tremendous weight. The flesh beings to
lose color and paleness sets in. These are all signs that the Earth element is
withdrawing into the water element. The ‘secret sign’ that appears in the mind
at this stage, is the vision of a tremulous mirage.
A G G R E G A T E O F S E N S A T I O N
We begin to lose control of bodily fluids. Our nose begins to run, we slobber, our eyes may begin to tear and incontinence may set in. The smell of death begins to envelop us. As the aggregate of sentiment dissolves, the body’s sensations diminish, alternating between pain and pleasure, warmth and frigidness. The mind becomes hazy, frustrated, irritable and nervous. Some sources affirm that we feel as if we were drowning in the ocean or being dragged through a tremendous river. The water element dissolves into the fire, which pushes to the forefront because of its ability to sustain consciousness. The ‘secret sign’, at this stage, is the vision of a foggy whirlwind of smoke.
A G G R E G A T E O F I D E N T I F I C A T I O N
Our mouth and nose dries up completely. Warmth begins to leave the body, generally starting from the hands and feet towards the heart. As we breathe, the air that passes through our mouth and nose is cold. We can no longer drink or digest anything. The aggregate of perception is dissolving and our mind oscillates between clarity and confusion.
The fire element dissolves into the air, and is less capable of serving as a base for conciseness. The air element’s capacity to serve as this base become more evident. This is why the ‘secret sign’ are tremulous red sparks that dance over a great bonfire like fireflies.
A G G R E G A T E O F V O L I T I V E F O R M S
It becomes harder to breathe. It feels as if air was escaping through our throats. Inhalations become short and forced, as exhalations become longer. Everything gets blurry. Our last sensation of contact with or physical environment leaves us. For the person who is dying, their interior experience is that of a great gust that drags everyone, including themselves; an incredible whirlpool of wind that consumes the entire universe.
What occurs is that the air element dissolves in the consciousness. All of the winds have united in the “wind that sustains life” within the heart. This is why the ‘secret sign’ is described as the vision of a lamp or blazing flame, with red radiance.
Our inhalations become more superficial with every breath, and out exhalations get longer. At this point, the blood gathers and enters our ‘canal of life’ in the center of our heart. Three drops of blood come together, one after the other, that produce three long and final exhalations. Then, all of a sudden, respiration is interrupted.
The only thing left is a slight warmth in the heart. All vital signs have vanished and this is the moment in which we would be declared ‘dead’ in a modern day clinical situation.
After consulting the “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”, specifically the before mentioned sections, we feel a form of identification with what we would like to represent. Our relationship with our body and senses makes the dissolution of sound and image evident, the Cessation of Reality.
150cm x 84.6cm
Excerpt of La Clara Luz De La Muerte
[For full video please request password via email]