The possibility of denying death is, in many ways, a modern luxury unique to our time and culture; up until the early 20th Century, death was an unavoidable part of everyday life; this was reflected in folk art, the fine arts, popular amusements, and social rituals. It is my conviction that the impetus to view, contemplate and, ultimately, make sense of death is a universal desire. That the mystery and terror of our own mortality is the central conundrum of the human life, and that as our culture has become increasingly secularized, our ways to attempt to grapple with it have largely shifted from the realms of religion and philosophy to science and medicine. These realms provide a way to experience death, cloaked in the acceptable veneer of rationality, but still quietly speaking of other things.
Jessica McCarrel is a Canadian artist and cultural worker who is interested in ways in which the pre-rational roots of modernity are sublimated into ostensibly “purely rational” cultural activities such as science and medicine. McCarrel obtained her BFA from the Alberta College of Art. Her artwork has been exhibited in Canada (Alberta) and in the United States (New York, Los Angeles).