• Santra Navas

Writing Objects : The Antelope

This is a mummified skull of an antelope. Ever since I was young, I was fascinated by the idea of macabre. The imagery of decay is often seen as disgusting, however, my experience with it is one of aesthetic appreciation of its form. Since I was a teenager I photograph images of decomposing animals that died naturally just to document the process of decay. Eventually, I started collecting skeletal structures of birds and animals to study the form. A lot of my illustrations that I draw in my spare time portray a juxtaposition around the concept of life and death. The idea of macabre is usually defined as “having death as a subject” or “ tending to produce horror in a beholder”. However, my idea is to provoke my beholder to evoke feelings of appreciation of the unknown and gore. Also while inviting them to analyse the subject to redefine what is considered beautiful. All stages of life should be seen as naturally appreciable phenomena but somehow the majority of us sees imagery of decay as something that is horrific and undesirable. If horror movies are part of our entertainment regimen then it is proving my point of how we all are naturally drawn towards it. In the past, religion of Zoroastrianism, left bodies of their deceased loved ones outside for extended periods of time as part of their funeral rites. Allowing the vultures and nature to cleanse the body of impure spirits until all that was left were bleach-white bones. The practice is now banned. My aim is to simply explore these ideas further to study the form and challenge our moral stance. Thus the image above defines my interest and curiosity towards decay and appreciation of the grotesque.

Comparing my writing on 'The Antelope' to Teju Cole's 'Death in the Browser Tab'

My writing called The Antelope and The essay by Teju Cole called the Death in the Browser Tab both explore the societal connotations associated with death. In my writing, I talk about my aesthetic appreciation of decay and how I capture the decomposition of animals through a series of photographs. Teju Cole talks about how death is there to view in our browser tab easily, on how we make private grief into a public spectacle. While I explore the taboo associated with death and breaking it in order to appreciate the beauty of life and death equally, he talks about our desensitisation towards death.

Death as a concept keeps flickering between either pushed to be explored more as an idea or to be kept away from viewing because of the discomfort it brings to the viewer. Viewing images of homicide and of well attired corpses which died naturally portrays two different states of emotion towards death. Death as a celebration and death as terrifying sudden occurrence. While I refer to death as a fact of life which is both morbid but beautiful allowing people to be less anxious about its concept, Teju Cole is talking about bringing the horrifying and suddenness of death making it a spectacle for others to view rather than showing the reverence of it.

In the book The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker, he quotes “The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.” His text describes the need for us to be free from the anxiety of death in order to fully appreciate the essence of life. Both Teju Cole and I describe the anxiousness surrounding death in two different forms. One to be released from it and the other to be aware of it.

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