Dead End

Providence Park Department, Providence RI 1999

Customs and habits

I noticed that people cover up death and dying in American even when actually burying their dead. In Austria, where I grew up, we spend lots of time in the grave yards, at Christmas the town will turn out for mid-night mass and a walk among the graves to honor their dead and to greet living friends, it’s very festive.

In the States the graves are often completely covered in cloth or AstroTurf and no one actual sees the coffin being lowered into the ground. It’s so antiseptic. I wanted to dig a real grave—exactly six feet down--and dug by a real grave digger. At the edge of the woods I put up a real road sign saying ‘Dead End’. I thought people might notice the absurdity of that sign, as there are no dead end in the woods. Then along the path they would see an actual 6 foot down deep grave.

After the exhibition was over my children and I went to fill in the grave. We were having lots of fun shoveling in the dirt and climbing and sliding all around. A very old man walked by alone and ask us what we were doing. I suddenly felt very bad thinking he had just lost his life’s partner. My children happily answered ‘Oh this is a grave my Mom dug and we’re filling it up now’. The girls were giggling and laughing and the old man who at first looked stricken started laughing with them.