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20 November – 14 December 2008


Through a large scale photographic installation, the artist explores the relationship between photography, death and transience.


‘As tokens of love and remembrance, floral grave ornaments offer greater longevity than freshly cut flowers. The fragile evanescence of real flowers has, since the 15th Century, made them ideal subjects for representing the transience of life, mortality and death itself. 17th Century Vanitas painters in particular used the iconography of withering flowers as allegories of time, loss and absence.


The photographic still life not only builds on the long history of vanitas imagery in art, but also brings with it the additional association of the photograph as memento mori. Rebecca Solnit writes “All photographs in a sense still life, freezing it as something no longer living, but virtually embalmed and immortally immobile.”[1] For Susan Sontag, “all photographs are memento mori.  To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.”[2]


Discussing floral memento mori, Geoffrey Batchen argues that the substitution of artificial flowers for real ones “is emblematic of the process of embalming, which is an apt metaphor for photography, which also chemically embalms its subject.”[3]


Like the photographic image, ornaments still life, yet, eventually they too fall prey to duration, and slowly disintegrate through the inexorable passage of time, becoming elegiac metaphors for the transience of existence; premonitions of death rather than evocations of eternal life.’
- Anne MacDonald


[1] Solnit, Rebecca.  “The Color of Shadows, the Weight of Breath, the Sound of Dust,” J. John Priola: Once Removed, Verona, Italy, Arena, 1998

[2] Sontag, Susan.  On Photography, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1978

[3] Batchen, Geoffrey.  “Fearful ghost of former bloom: what photography is,” Where is the Photograph, Brighton: Photoforum and Photoworks, 2003


Keywords: Ornament Art Exhibition, Anne MacDonald, Photography, Photographer