Sunday, 1 November 2015

Enjoy Gallery // Hiroharu Mori // Death Workshop // 14 October – 7 November, 2015

By Kari Schmidt 
In his video work Death Workshop, Hiroharu Mori documents a series of workshops he undertook with Japanese students wherein the students imagined and enacted their own deaths. These included, for example, death via earthquake, pancreatic cancer, a cough in the night and a sudden, inexplicable falling to the ground.

There is a certain tedium to this work as we witness each student work through their imagined demise – it takes some time to feel involved in the piece, and even then it can still feel banal. However, Death Workshop does have a certain aesthetic quality in the artist’s framing of the students, and there is much to empathise with in this work. For example, one of the students expresses their likely bitterness at having to die from an earthquake after having been so careful their whole life. A desire to contact loved ones is also expressed, and a to leave something behind even if it’s just words. And hope – “I don’t [sic] wouldn’t want to get chemo… I might cave in and hope to be cured.” Through experiencing these enactments of death, you do start to think about your own eventual passing – when will that moment be? Tomorrow? Or in 70 years? Will it be painful? A short death or a fast one? What will be my last words (“In the end, I’d definitely want to die saying something impressive”)? Will I be alone or with the ones I love? What time will it be? What will be the last thing I ever see? Eat? Hear?

The process and collaboration inherent in producing any kind of theatre is also evident in this work, the conversations and interactions between students to some extent constituting the piece. In many cases, there is discussion over how the death should look, or how the individual would feel. There is also a lot of laughing and humour – an approach which obviously helps the students to deal with this particularly heavy theme. Because this is not a real play there is also an informality to these negotiations – the students laugh, the props are basic (a small heater representing a tumour in one instance) and we can see the room they practice in  - soda bottles on the table, shoes lined up along the mat. Which just goes to show how the acting out of a thing – so obviously fake and play as it is – can bring a concept to life and help us to work through the anxieties and emotions associated with it.

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