Death is inevitable. As the only animal that became conscious of this fact 150,000 years ago, human beings have developed different mental and behavioural defence mechanisms to manage the terror of death — denial, avoidance, or a change in perspective.
Philosopher Martin Heidegger believes we are “being-towards-death”, which one could only live authentically by confronting and making meaning out of their own death. Thus, the concept of this work is to oppose and juxtapose the notions of life and death through the use of visuals of everyday life, implying that death is not directly people’s concerns, but life needs to be recognized as a celebration of details.
This work does not aim to provide answers but a different perspective on the notion of death, and also, life. We are powerless in front of the inevitability of our demise. All we could do is to choose how to face it.
It's natural to fear death, yet a person and death are never present at the same time. Besides, despite the effort, we humans are unable to understand the essence of death. 未知死 is a tiny book aimed at illustrating “death does not concern us”.
The idea is illustrated through the book's tiny size — a metaphor of how little death matters to us. To convey our inability to understand death, the book is aimed to be designed as an object of expression rather than a readable book. It includes a collection of images extracted from 焉知生, with effects added to make the images look unrecognizable. It would not make much sense reading it, just like glimpsing into death — you would not gain or understand anything.
焉知生 aimed at emphasising “what matters is where we choose to assign values into for our finite life”.
Contrasting with 未知死, 焉知生 is a large book. The books' difference in sizes is a metaphor for the differences in how life and death matter to us.
Besides, 焉知生 is a readable book that people could interact with, just as how people could interact with the world while being alive. The book contains a collection of images about everyday life: little things, mundane things, details — something that could be recognized and understood.
The number of pages is 72 — a round-up number of the average life expectancy at birth.
THE TWO BOOKS
The two books could be read together by placing 未知死 inside the hole of 焉知生. The whole image could be reviewed by flipping the two books together.
Audiences could choose how the two books are being read.
Reading them together is a metaphor of acknowledging death is a part of life. Knowing we could live more authentically, or literally seeing a bigger picture, when they’ve come to terms with death.
They could also be read separately. Reading 未知死 is like not being able to gain understanding when glimpsing into death. Reading 焉知生 would have to ignore the hole, and also ignoring 未知死, just like only emphasise on living experiences or avoiding death.
You could choose the reading experience of this work, just as how you could choose your perception of life and death.
Graphic design & photography: Scarlet Ng
Supervising tutor: Cedric van Eenoo