LIFE AFTER DEATH

ANNA CITELLI & RAOUL BRETZEL
CAPSULA MUNDI

Does the concept of ‘Peak Stuff’ extend even into death? Few of us aim to leave life accompanied by as many possessions as Tutankhamun, but the rituals that accompany the disposal of our bodies involve acquiring yet more stuff that will long outlast us. Italian designers, Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel, present us with a gentle and beautiful alternative.

Our ambition is to change the approach to death. Often, in our occidental culture, this topic is faced with fear, or it’s avoided or hidden. This attitude causes an individual’s alienation from nature. We want to take off the veil of this cultural taboo because for human beings, death is the verification of the natural order of life.

It is possible to overcome the existing distance between us and Nature, through a practice of death rituals, which highlight the natural transformations of life. The human body is organic matter and it belongs to a cycle of mutations well experimented with in Nature. Decomposition, due to the action of specific organisms under the ground, enacts a transformation into simple minerals from which a new organism can take life: the tree. The soil of our planet is the element in which this transformation takes place; this process has been working for millions of years.

Death, from a biological point of view, is no longer perceived as an interruption, but as continuity and return.

In 2003, when as young designers we were invited to the international design exhibition the Salone del Mobile di Milano, Italy – one of the most important furniture fairs in Europe – we decided to convert this idea into a project. We had the courage to present a coffin in an international exhibition of furniture, challenging the established vision in which design reworks objects for everyday usage, presenting them with a new aesthetic form. We thought that designing objects for human life involves creating a lifestyle for our society, and this can inspire reflection. Death was the best way to trigger a debate on the belonging of humanity to nature.

We believe that just as we are free to choose our path in life, we can choose how to manage our end of life. With Capsula Mundi, death takes on a new meaning, surpassing cultural taboos, through universal life symbols (the egg, the fetal position, the tree). Moreover, friends and parents can go to visit their loved ones in a place where life grows and they will be part of that place by taking care of a tree.

This article is an excerpt from Ligature Journal issue one.
Find out more about this issue here and buy a copy from the Tiliqua Press store.

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