I was invited to the first Death Salon by Megan Rosenbloom, who teaches a history of medical literature to med students among other wonderful things. I had no idea what to expect. Of course, I stalk The Order of the Good Death, of which Megan is a member, across their blogs and twitter, but the only person I’d actually met was Bess Lovejoy, author of the entertaining Rest in Pieces. If I went, I’d be surrounded by death-obsessed strangers.
How could I say no?
Yesterday was an extremely full day of presentations, from Annetta Black talking about explorers who failed and why their deaths were inspiring to a panel discussion of Death & the Feminine, which spanned from obstetrical machines to images of Death and the Maiden or Death as a Maiden to women in the modern funeral industry. Over all, there was a huge amount of food for thought.
The highlight of the day’s presentations was a short film about Pia Interlandi’s work creating clothing for the dead that will decay as naturally as the body does. Pretty much everyone in the theater teared up as the husband and children of a woman who commissions her own shroud see the burial gown for the first time.
After a dinner break, the Death Salon reconvened at the Bootleg Theater for a night of death-oriented cabaret. Paul Koudounaris’ discussion of the jeweled saints he photographed for his new book ended up in a highly unexpected place. Sarah Troop talked about necrophilia and true love. Lindsey Fitzharris and Bess Lovejoy both introduced people abducted into medical collections, although Fitzharris argued for the value those specimens had and Lovejoy argued for their return and reburial.
Jill Tracy played the beautiful lullaby she wrote for the mermaid baby in the Mutter Museum. I can hardly wait for her album of Mutter-inspired music to be finished.
I wanted to stay to hear Christine Colby talk about necrophilia and snuff porn, but I was done. It was 11 (past my bedtime) and my head was as full as it could get.
Today is another full day. Lectures reach from 11-6 without a meal break, so I’m off to breakfast to fortify myself for another day full of death.
As to being surrounded by death-obsessed strangers? Today I’ll be surrounded by death-obsessed friends. What could be better than that?