Death & Cocktails.
Join us at Sutton house during Life. Death. Whatever. for an evening of death and cocktails.
We'll be joined by leading death academics Dr John Troyer, Dr Helen Frisby, Nuri McBride, and Ivor Williams, Sarah Kingham for an evening of death from many different angles. Join us for the entire evening, or for the talks which may be of interest.
Cocktails will be available from the bar in the Tudor Kitchen throughout the evening. The exhibition throughout the rest of the house will also be open for viewing.
18.00 - Squeamish: A Look at the Philosophy Behind Modern Death Denial by Nuri McBride
Can we truly lead fulfilling lives while hiding from the reality of our senses, the fragility of our bodies, and the brevity of our time on Earth? Nuri McBride, writer at Death, Scent, & the Live Girl, doesn’t think so.
To embrace the pleasures of life, one must first reconcile with the reality of mortality. Yet, throughout the Western world, we treat death, illness, disability, and ageing as taboo subjects never to be thought, let alone discussed. So instead of finding actual satisfaction in the ephemeral beauty of our lives, we are indoctrinated to pursue the perpetual glorification and maintenance of one's beauty, youth, and longevity at all costs. This leads us to the question at the heart of Nuri’s discussion. How did we, as a culture, get to this extreme state of death, age, ability, and sensory denial and how do we get out of it?
Come enjoy some death-themed cocktails while Nuri breaks down and critiques the philosophical underpinnings behind death denial in the developed world and advocates for the life-affirming power that comes from embracing the brevity of time, the immediacy of pleasure, and the beauty of impermanence.
Nuri McBride is a Research Fellow and PhD Candidate at the Minerva Center for the Rule of Law under Extreme Conditions, a joint venture between the University of Hamburg and the University of Haifa. There she specialises in refugee law, climate migration, and societal responses to mass death and displacement events. Nuri worked in refugee services and torture treatment before continuing her studies. She also has volunteered as a Metaharet (ritual preparer of the dead in Judaism) for fifteen years, is a closeted chemistry nerd, and a journeyman parfumeur. Nuri blends her passions for death positivity, olfaction, history, and chemistry on her blog Death, Scent, & the Live Girl (deathscent.com) where she explores the use of scent to create sacred space in death rituals.
19.00 - The Future of Death Yesterday and Tomorrow by Dr John Troyer
An enormous number of researchers and corporations are working on radically extending human lifespans to well over 100 years. The key to this research is understanding how exponentially increasing a person's age also then requires slowing (or stopping) the ageing process. To be 300 years old and still physically young is one thing. To be 300 years both in years and physically is a terrible proposition. This talk will explore the current research in radical life extension as well as the politics and bioethics of having a body that might never 'die’ and the future of death.
Dr. John Troyer is the Director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath (www.bath.ac.uk/cdas). His interdisciplinary research focuses on contemporary memorialization practices, postmortem bioethics, and the dead body’s relationship with technology. Dr. Troyer is also a theatre director and installation artist with extensive experience in site-specific performance across the United States and Europe. He is a co-founder of the Death Reference Desk website (http://www.deathreferencedesk.org), the Future Cemetery Project (http://www.futurecemetery.com) and a frequent commentator for the BBC. His father, Ron Troyer, is an American Funeral Director.
20.00 - Ivor Williams - Death & Design
As we continue into the 21st century, we begin to openly to challenge the notion that death is something to avoid, hide or deny. Through its myriad forms, death and dying is back in the public imagination. As we seek new ways of contemplating and facing our mortality, design can play a significant part in supporting us at the end of our life. It may seem a new idea - to design around death - but we've doing it for millennia, and it represents a fundamental part of being human. Ivor Williams will explore how design has helped us die in the past, and how can help us again now, and in the future.
Ivor Williams is Senior Design Associate at the Helix Centre, a unique design studio embedded in a London hospital. He is also founder of the design research and consultancy group, Being and Dying.
20.45 - Dr Helen Frisby - The Victorian Way of Death
We’re all going to die: but how we die is specific to the time and place in which we live. In Britain in 2016, three out of four of us can confidently expect to experience what the healthcare professionals call a predictable death trajectory. In other words, we’re likely to live well into old age, and to die in an institutional setting from chronic, degenerative disease. The dead are then kept in a euphemistically named ‘funeral home’ or ‘chapel of rest’, until a funeral which many of us will find unsatisfying on one level or another, and the bereaved will be encouraged to return to normal life as soon as possible afterward.
Go back 150 years however, and things were rather different. While history should of course never be confused with nostalgia, in this talk historian Dr Helen Frisby will argue that the Victorians have much to teach us about using ritual as a way of facing up to the inevitable. Along the way we will learn about telling the bees, pennies for St Peter, why it’s good to be ‘put away with ham’ and that four magpies meant something very different back then…
Dr Helen Frisby is an internationally recognised expert on the history, folklore and historic material culture of death, dying and bereavement. She’s appeared on The History Channel discussing Victorian funerals with Johnny Vaughan, and on BBC Radio 4 discussing the uses of salt in popular funeral customs with Steph McGovern. Meanwhile her undergraduate History teaching interests broadly cover the emergence of modern Western culture, society and identity. Helen has also been part of the cross-disciplinary teaching team on the Foundation Degree in Funeral Services at the University of Bath, UK. Helen is a Committee Member of the Folklore Society, Secretary of the Association for the Study of Death & Society (ASDS) and an elected Member of the Royal Historical Society. She obtained her PhD on The Spiritual, Social and Emotional Significance of Death and Dying in Yorkshire, c.1840-c.1914 from the University of Leeds in 2009. Current projects include a monograph on the moral economy of the Victorian folk funeral, and Grave Communications: a study of the gravedigger’s role past, present and future as a mediator of disposal and commemorative practices.
Helen lives in Bristol with her husband and an elderly cat. She’s an avid armchair Egyptologist and is learning to play the theremin.
21.30 - Sarah Kingham - 'The Ruffian on the Stair': Death Personified
Since the Middle ages the moment of death has been personified in the West as a quasi-human figure whose attributes are explored in literature, poetry painting and film. This talk introduces various anthropomorphic figures of 'Death', both benevolent and sinister, playful, detached or lecherous; in male and female, fleshy or skeletal guises, and explores their cultural context.
Sarah Kingham is a London based artist, writer and academic. Trained in art history and theory, and fine art, she is currently engaged in a Masters in Cultural and Critical studies at Birkbeck University. She enjoys a healthy preoccupation with death.