The Life and Deaths of The Mels: Here Lie the Bones
About the Project
Keiser rewrites her personal history as the births and deaths of a linear progression of discrete selves. This project builds evidence that these selves exist: she makes a body for each self and buries it in a cemetery.
Entangling the borders of reality and fiction, this project is a journey to understand self-death. Keiser collaborates with experts to prepare a funeral for her first self. Modeled from 3D scans of my body, we hand-carve disarticulated bones as a surrogate body for burial. Concurrently, a gravestone is hewn by a stone carver trained to be a priest; a casket is hand-built from a tree that clones itself; and mourning clothes are tailored from the clothes of the living and deceased selves. With these objects, Keiser will hold a public funeral, burying the bodies of these past selves, incorporating a small plot of land in Illinois as a family cemetery, creating a public art site.
For more information on the status of the project, and for a list of current collaborators and contributors, click here for the Project Status page.
Images: exhibition at Wedge Projects, Chicago in January 2020.
Image credit: Clarissa Bonet.
Above: Effigy body for Melissa-Louise-Keiser (aspen wood). Casket for Melissa-Louise-Keiser (aspen wood, cotton). Rug dyed with earth from Melissa-Louise-Keiser's hometown (rug, earth). Draft epitaphs written by the Seventh Mel for Melissa-Louise-Keiser (graphite on paper). Plants from the home of Melissa-Louise-Keiser. Program for exhibition with a schema of a sign for the cemetery where Melissa-Louise-Keiser will be buried. Installation view of the exhibition, with projected short film and seating (chairs, found wood). The Study of the Seventh Mel (custom wallpaper, cross-stitch by the Seventh Mel, desk, bible edited with white pigment, limestone, rug, paper replicas of artwork that hung on the bedroom wall in Melissa-Louise-Keiser's home, stained glass portrait of Melga Blank, plants from the home of Melissa-Louise-Keiser).
The Life and Deaths of The Mels: Here Lie the Bones is partially supported by an Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. It is also funded by Northwestern University The Graduate School Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts and the Judith Dawn Memorial Fund.