The Haunting Art of the Afterlife

Hal Conte, Centurion Staff

As Halloween season floats over Bucks, students who want a more serious insight into haunting topics can attend the Newtown campus art exhibit, “Memorials,” an attempt by artist Gabe BC to preserve the memory of those who have passed away.
“I’ve always been interested in the way different cultures look at life and death,” Gabe said. “From a very young age I was obsessed with the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles and the La Brea Tar Pits, both sites which deal with memorialization and preservation.”
Gabe’s exhibit features many mysterious as well as sentimental pieces. One work is a television with a separate screen on top. Two people struggle to help each other exit the TV and enter the “outside world” in the above screen.
“I think my pieces have a lot to do with technology and memory,” Gabe explained. “There is this urgency to escape the technology often in my work. I’m striving for a time when memory and technology work seamlessly together but right now technology still feels very cold, very daunting.”
Another similar work, “Animalia Chordata,” shows six human beings “trapped” inside bottles. The people inside run a gauntlet from a businessman reading a newspaper to a young child.
The pieces are open about discussing a very emotional and controversial topic that is rarely talked about – death.
“I think we live in a culture which is finally starting to address death again in public, thanks to social media sites like Facebook,” Gabe said. “We’ve been embarrassed or ashamed to talk about death for so long in Western Culture and I think social media presents us with a venue to have difficult discussions.”
One particularly personal piece is the “Hereafter Locket,” which is worn around the neck. It recalls the family relics of the Victorian era.
“During the Victorian era it was alright to speak publicly about death. Today if you mourn the death of a friend or relative for longer than two weeks you are misunderstood by society.”
Gabe’s most moving works, however, use television screens and in one case an interactive virtual-reality stimulation to arouse intense feelings in the viewer.
“Hereafter Life” allows the viewer to explore the lives of three individuals and listen to the memories of their surviving relatives via headphones. It is heart-warming yet oddly chilling to learn of the lives that these people lived.
“I make art that will live on after the people in the artwork die. Many people in my art actually have died already. In a way, I view art and the practice of making art as a sort of curated afterlife,” Gabe said.
A powerful work titled “Ascent” consists of a wooden “window” that depicts people climbing a ladder one after the other. Although they may have died, their destination is ambiguous.
Gabe poses the question, “I think we are at a point of transition in our culture when it comes to death. What does it mean when our memories, our data can be collected after we die? What happens when eventually our every living moment could be recorded and categorized? Could we re-enact our lives? Could we re-visit someone else’s personal memories? Do we really die?”