Have you ever thought about how even within a season like Spring, there is a birth-death-rebirth cycle?
When I was in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont with lovely blogger Linda Mathieu of Frenchless in France a couple of weeks ago, I noticed how a lot of the spring flowers which were at their peak a week or so earlier were starting to look past-their-prime and beginning to fall off the trees, making petal confetti on the walkways. (In fact, Linda has some photos of that day, too. She shows the petal confetti perfectly!) It made me think about how those spring flowers die to make way for richer, more verdant summer leaves and ripe fruit. Later, of course, these things fall to the ground, too, and summer makes way for fall, and then we do it all again, at least in climates that have this kind of four-seasons pattern.
What with Easter just around the corner as I begin to write this (and just beyond us as I finish), the idea of birth-death-rebirth resonates. It is a good time to post my report on the Salon de la Mort, the Death Expo,which was held in Paris on April 8, 9, and 10th.
(If this is feeling familiar, it’s because I wrote the Part 1 post here, introducing the salon just as it was happening.)
To learn more about my impressions of the opening night for the press and other advance visitors, please continue reading.
(Short attention span? Like me as a person, but hate my long posts? Check out this under-300 word summary on my Posterous site! )
Paul and I arrived at the Carrousel du Louvre a little before 5 pm on April 7. I had never been down to the underground shopping area before, and one reason was because I had wondered about how people get inside**. I learned that there is an entrance at 99 rue de Rivoli (which is here — the Google Maps street view). One goes in the entrance, down the escalators, et voilà, there you are. Easy peasy, right? Well, now I know, and so do you.
(** I understand how this should be a no-brainer. Obviously, you have not been inside of *my* brain lately, have you. )
One of the features of this underground shopping mall, which also connects with the entrance to the Louvre, is the “inverted pyramid” mirroring the one above it in the Louvre courtyard.
According to GoParis at About.com, ”open 7 days a week, the Carrousel du Louvre features dozens of shops, a gourmet food court with 14 restaurants, and an elegant and airy setting.” One of the big and popular stores we passed going to the exhibition hall was the Apple Store. You can see a smidgen of it on the opening page photo at the Carrousel du Louvre website. We didn’t go in.
Another interesting thing on the way to the exhibit space were the vestiges of the Medieval palace walls.
There is a nice photo and some explanation in French — I used Google Translate to get the gist — at this link here: Paris –> Musée du Louvre –> château du Louvre médiéval et enceinte de Paris.
The Salon de la Mort
There I am at the entrance to the exhibition halls. I decided to be a little humorous, and dress with a little bit of death in mind. (Get it? The skull and crossbones?):
It’s a little (*ahem*, a LOT) blurry as point-and-shoot cameras don’t do very well in low light. It’s a t-shirt designed by my long-time blogger friend, Kate, from The Radula. You can buy one at her Zazzle.com store, Dorid Designs. Here’s a better view, and the link where it can be found: PIRATE WENCH t-shirt
Cute, huh! I have done a little bit of t-shirt surgery on mine, but I won’t get into that here. (Already I’m a bit off-topic, huh, but I have wanted to write about Kate/Dorid’s shirts for a while now. She has some other good ones at her site. Check them out! Even better: BUY ONE. Kate will appreciate it mucho.)
After getting our press passes, we were told to go up to the bar area where the presentation of the Salon would happen by its creators, Jean-Pierre Jouët and Jessie Westenholz. These are the same folks who have brought to Paris FIAC, the Salon du Livre, the Salon Nautique, the Salon Marjolaine, and the Salon du Patrimoine Culturel.
Why was the Salon created?
Mme Westenholz, in her introductory speech, which, bien sûr, was in French, expressed how and why the salon was created. Here’s a paraphrase of a couple of key thoughts which jumped out at me, and which I (think I) understood:
Death exists in all domains, in all areas of our life. It’s taboo to talk about, but key to our life. We have to prepare for the eventuality of our death just like we might for our children’s wedding. We have a choice in how things can end for us, and for our family and responsibility’s sake, we ought to plan for the eventuality of death in our life.
I hope that is a fair representation of some of the important things that Mme Westenholz wanted to express to the press about the Salon and its purpose.
Later on, I had a chance to read the press packet (also in French, bien sûr — my weak French got a workout!), and these other notions about the purpose of the Salon were expressed:
There are medical, economic, legal, cultural, and philosophical aspects of death, and the Salon intends to inform in each of these areas. The Salon hopes to encourage people and help them try to overcome the taboos about speaking of death, and also hopes to inform participants about their choices and options, preparatory steps, and help them to anticipate necessary decisions when it comes to death. The Salon also hopes equally to encourage thought, reflection, exchange, and sharing about the topic of death.
What was at the Salon?
In addition to meetings, round-table discussions, and debates on the topic of La Mort, nearly 100 exhibitors were present in the following categories:
- Internet Companies/Organizations
- La mort autrement — including things like urns, coffin art, memorial trees and memory gardens
- Funeral Service Operators
- Other categories — including notaries (French Notaires), the Musée du Funeraire (who knew?!), something called “Sismo” (more on that later)
- Press and media — such as Psychologies magazine, which had a feature in its April 2011 issue entitled «Pourquoi est-il si difficile de parler de la mort?» (“Why is it Difficult to Speak About Death?”) Their web article about the Salon is here. There is a second article with touching words given to the magazine about why a few participants went to the Salon here.
- Expositions — art displays and other special features prepared by exhibitors
The exhibit was from one of the largest funerary associations: CSNAF, a “union of manufacturers intended to bring together all types of funerary monuments, caskets, ceremonies, care of the dead and embalming, services, marble and granite, machinery and tools, flowers, etc. … and so lead a large community of funeral goods and services” (from the website About page, paraphrased with the help of Google Translate).
We also learned about Internet services such as this one: La Vie d’Après.
La Vie d’Après at laviedapres.com, is a service that helps you organize your online life and gives solutions about how your family and friends can access your important accounts in the event of your death. As it states on the site’s Servicespage:
A dashboard allows you to easily write messages to each of your relatives. It is a way sure to give them support when they need it most, but it is also for them to access your memories and your online life. You can organize and plan your messages and be assured that their contents will be issued no matter what.
Think about it — how many of you who have Facebook, Flickr, blogs, email, and other accounts for which you would want there to be closure for family and friends? Wouldn’t you like these things to be organized and available (or perhaps NOT available!) to family and friends in the event that you died? I know this exhibitor made me think about this in my own life.
One of the exhibitors I really was taken with was Extra-Céleste urns.
Sandra Piat, pictured in the center of the photo collage with Paul, is the creator of these artistic urns. On the website, it explains that Mme Piat “wishes to fight the taboo with which society surrounds Death,” and she has used her “creativity, professionalism, and sensitivity” to create these beautiful works of art.
I loved the colors, shapes, and various styles that were presented, and also the creativity with the materials chosen. For example, the urn in the first column and third row is made of Egyptian salt (it’s also pictured in the upper-right photo). Called the “Siwa,” it is designed to dissolve in water. Other urns are made of environmentally-friendly and biodegradable materials, too, such as the ones in the bottom right-hand corner. Called the “Cocoon,” these urns are made of hand-woven cotton and are intended to biodegrade in earth. My favorite of all, though, is the center photo of the urn decorated with shells. The “Nacre” has such an ethereal beauty. My photo does not do it justice, but trust me, it was really pretty.
My only wish was that my French could be better: I would have loved learning more about Mme Piat’s story of how she came to channel her artistic vision into such beautiful objects for such a necessary purpose. If you are decent at reading French, Extra-Céleste uploaded in PDF format the article from the Psychologies magazine in which they are featured.
Just when you think you have seen it all, something like the Alternita necklace for cremains or cardboard coffins from ABCréations (cercueils-en-carton.com) comes along. This stuff made me grin, but only because not only are these things interesting and fairly “hippie chic,” they are downright intelligent. Here’s another unique idea…
The above is a nice segue into the artistic side of the Salon. Several artists displayed paintings, sculpture, and photographs relating in some way to death.
1 ) Artist unknown — I realized on posting this one that I forgot to note who created this mural. It was a part of the Art+2/Exposition «Pas de visa pour l’au-dela» exhibition. [Later: A little research in the press packet and on Google leads me to believe this is a work by Philippe Cognée. There are others very similar online in a series called «Vanitée». In fact, I just found this blog post online which makes believe this is «Vanitée 4».]
2 ) Hervé Di Rosa – La Procession, 2002
3 ) Top: Xavier McPake, Untitled (this particular work is displayed at the Galerie Premier Regard in Paris, where McPake is a featured artist); Bottom: Jean-Pierre Raynaud 11 September 2001. (His official site is here: Jean-Pierre Raynaud.)
6 ) Gérard Garouste, Vanité au singe, 2010.
7 ) Mark Brus, Profile of the Mountain, 1995.
8 ) Mark Brus, Flores para los muertos, 2006. (Note: I can turn up nothing about this artist online. He’s beyond my Internet magic skills, I guess!)
9 ) Joel-Peter Witkin, Still Life with Mirror, 1999. More of his work is shown here at the Edelman Gallery site. Caution: some of it is pretty bizarre, and probably not safe for work. It’s interesting, though, in a strange, dark way (if you are into that, which I can be when in a certain mood).
(**Okay, you gotta check this out — it is some trippy sh*t. I don’t know why I have never heard of the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo before, but I haven’t. It’s WILD. The Paris Catacombs cannot hold a candle to this creepy/cool place! Okay, so maybe they are both super-creepy, but I’ve already seen the Paris Catacombs. Now I want to see the Palermo ones!)
Some of the artists were not strictly related to the funeral industry, but their artwork has applications to memorializing loved ones who’ve passed on.
The creators at L’Emaux Zaïque de Dawa (this is supposed to be a jeu de mots that I am sure is puntastically wonderful, but all I can figure out is that l’emaux is “enamel.” All together, the pun sounds like le mozaïque, which is the crux of the pun) were busy replicating the Salon de la Mort logo in mosaic tiles (and drinking wine, haha — “Welcome to France” [WTF] as DL would put it).
For example, here’s how I have seen mosaics used in Père Lachaise Cemetery (not this company’s work as far as I know, but for illustrative purposes I wanted to give an example. Check out their site for their specific work):
The Heliostèle is another interesting idea for memorializing someone. They can be seen at the site Repose in Light (dot) com. The company representative spoke to Paul and I in English and said that they are solar-powered, and are things that can be placed in gardens or in homes as memorials in addition to cemeteries.
One of the most unique things we saw at the Salon de la Mort was this, by Sismo Design.
Their website, sismodesign.com, is a little hinky (very Flash-heavy), but here is the essence of what is going on. A person has their head scanned. A full-3D model of his or her skull is created via that machine in the picture. It’s very CSI, very 21st century, eh?
Here’s a photo from the exhibit showing the results:
Paul and I saw much, much more at the Salon within these categories, but what’s represented here were the highlights to me (and my camera).
A significant portion of the Salon was made up of the talks, debates, and discussions going on during the actual event from April 8-10. Since we were just at the press opening, we did not get a sense of all the information communicated in those forms. However, the website for the Salon de la Mort has more information, including videos of newscasts and the press dossier that can give people a better idea of what all was there in terms of content.
In addition, I found these sites reporting on the event:
- MSNBC Photo Blog, April 7, 2011 (English)
- The Salon de la Mort SCOOP (dot) It web article curated topic (mostly French, but some English articles)
- FOLEFFET.com’s report about the Salon de la Mort (French)
- Global Action on Aging’s report on the Salon de la Mort (the site itself is in English, but the article is in French, on the French-language portal of the site)
…il n’a pas été facile de monter cette première édition… Les médias ont répondu aussi présents, la couverture presse est très bonne. Des journalistes ont pu être gênés de couvrir un tel évènement, mais après échanges, discussion sur les enjeux, ils sont repartis avec la sensation d’aider les vivants, concrètement! … [N]ous espérions 25 000 entrées, [mais] nous ne devrions pas dépasser les 15 000. La première édition de ce salon ne sera pas rentable. Nous pensons que nous devrons attendre sa troisième édition pour atteindre un résultat positif. Rendez-vous en avril prochain pour le prochain salon de la mort!
…it has not been easy getting this first edition… The media responded and were also present, the press coverage is very good. Journalists have been embarrassed to cover such an event, but after exchange, discussion on issues, they are left with the feeling of helping the living, actually! [W]e had hoped for 25 000 entries, [but] we won’t exceed 15 000. The first edition of this show will not be profitable. We think we will have to wait for its third edition to reach a positive outcome. See you in April for the next show of the dead!
I really respect what the founders of the Salon de la Mort have tried to achieve. I think it is a great idea, I think it is something that is very-much needed, and I wish the Salon better success next year. Go next year! Learn all you can about this very necessary aspect of life: preparing for death.
Over and out.
(an alien parisienne)
P.S. Because, you know, I didn’t reach 3,000 words, yet. This post would have come to you sooner if it had not been for THE ROYAL WEDDING, which I somehow got sucked into watching today, April 29. I became obsessed, tweeting like mad! Really, it was the most I have tweeted in a day, and now (probably) represents about 1/4 of my total tweets.
Anyway, there are some remarkable photos from The British Monarchy’s Flickr site:
I have not had so much fun in a long, long time, nor have I cried as much having that kind of fun! I didn’t expect myself to be so emotional, but it stands to reason, since I woke up at Wee Hours o’clock on July 29, 1981 to watch Prince William’s mother and father wed.
But, I also wanted to send much love and light to those who have lost much, including their lives, in the southern United States. Peace be with them.
(Now it’s really good-bye until I post next. See you again soon!)
UPDATE: May 5, 2011
I take the above back. I’m here today to link in Paul’s post about the Salon de la Mort over at Bonjour Paris. He’s very punny, as usual (love the one about “carrying a torch for cremation,” haha!), and he added in a couple of things we saw together about which I didn’t write, so check it out. Thank you!