Bethany Wells - Guest Blog
Today I fly out to Mexico City to join our Mexican collaborators for Part 7 of the Grief Series. I’m just hours away from meeting back up with our collaborator Vlady, getting to know Laura Pirez, who will be my host, and meeting + working with the Faro artists. I'm dizzy-excited for this adventure, like a child on Christmas eve.
Last year, 7 of us travelled out to research Day of the Dead, and to understand what it feels like to spend time surrounded by a culture that honours death as a part of life, and that has established rituals for reconnecting with grief.
This year, we’re continuing our research questions with a focus on how things are made, who makes them, who makes them happen + the creative process behind the alebrijes, ofrendas, sugar skulls + public events around the celebration.
We’re in new territory as artists with this project; the international collaboration we are looking to establish is not about duplicating rituals, bringing back traditions to a place they don't belong, or showcasing Mexican work, but about spending time living and breathing the cultural + social atmosphere, planting creative seeds + testing ways of thinking that might inform the next stage of our work back in the UK.
We’re interested in creating new rituals and public/community projects that are able to transform the social and cultural conversation around grief in the UK. We love the idea that our work will be informed by many voices + give shape to a new public expression of grief and remembrance. At this stage, it’s a live investigation, a project with open ends + edges. We can’t wait to see what this next phase of the collaboration might give rise to.
For now, I’ve written a mini manifesto for how we might re-imagine halloween to take on some of the humanity and social spirit of Day of the Dead:
Imagine if we celebrated halloween with as much care as we do Christmas.
What if instead of hanging up anonymous skeletons, we displayed items that honoured those we have lost; friends and family, ancestors and inspirational figures.
What if, as well as digging out + carving a pumpkin lantern, we dug out old recipes, re-created meals we used to love, brought out old photographs + invited people round to remember the favourite drinks + foods we shared with those we have lost.
What if, instead of trick or treating, we visited our neighbours + collected money from our friends and colleagues to support those who look after the dying; hospices, palliative care + mental health charities.
What if, as well as spraying cobwebs, we decorated our windows with seasonal fruits and flowers, reminding us of the life that we lose as we head into winter.
What if, as well as the pound shop fun, we each had a box stored carefully under the bed containing decorations, handmade or inherited, that remind us of our ancestors, and call their presence back to life as the evenings draw in.