It’s the International Year of Polytheism! At least it is according to the Austrian artists collective, monochrom. And to kick off the occasion, the self-proclaimed “art-philosophy-technology group” wants to bury you alive.
On February 7 at the Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto at Mississauga, participants will have the chance to be laid to rest – in a wooden coffin, dirt and all – for up to fifteen minutes. Titled Premature Burial as a Field Trial for Near-Death Activities, the project intends to bring volunteers face-to-face with their maker – or makers, as it were. As part of their polytheistic drive, monochrom believes the quasi-traumatic experience will allow individuals to “get in close contact with various gods and/or afterlives.”
Apart from the provocative rhetoric (monochrom claims on its website, “Polytheism is democracy, Monotheism a dictatorship”), the performance at the Blackwood is drawing complaints for potential psychological consequences for its participants. Elizabeth Olszewska, community outreach co-ordinator in UTM’s psychology department, expressed her concern to the Star that students could suffer a variety of negative side effects, including claustrophobia, mental breakdown, and panic attacks.
However, in the same interview Olszewska dismisses the artistic validity of Premature Burial, comparing it to garbage. In response, Blackwood curator Seamus Kealy points out the ironic commentary inherent in the project: “It’s a parody and a critique of the North American drive for extreme experience.” Participants will be made to sign waivers. The performance also references the rich cultural history and mythology behind being buried alive.
Monochrom’s previous International Year of Polytheism projects include the distribution of “free” barium nitrate (the stuff sparklers are made of), liberated from Christian-Judeo intent. Premature Burial as a Field Trial for Near-Death Activities takes place February 7, 4-6 pm and 7-9pm in conjunction with the Blackwood Gallery’s Unterspiel, an exhibition of contemporary Viennese artists.
Image courtesy of monochrom.