Monday, March 15, 2010

Motorcycle Funerals

While I driving around in the UK at the end of February, I didn't see any motorcycle funerals. Too wet, I suppose. But this site illustrates that the motorcycle hearse has been available to UK bikers for over 22 years. At Managing Director Rev. Paul Sinclair believes we should reflect people's lifestyles in their funerals.

Although my own photographic/art practice is focused on old, decrepit cemeteries and related themes, I know there is a world of current funerary practice out there that would be fascinating to the sociologist, cultural anthropologist, or historian. I suppose I don't pursue that avenue of exploration because of a reticence to intrude on people's privacy during difficult times. I am more interested in the decaying visual remains of a Gothic Victorian past; when death, funerals, and memorials were a bigger part of life; when people participated in an overtly fashionable act of mourning.

A good book about this glorious past is James Stevens Curl's The Victorian Celebration of Death. [Phoenix Mill (UK): Sutton Publishing Ltd. 2000] This is a well researched history (PhD dissertation) of 19th C. attitudes, contexts and traditions surrounding the growth of the Victorian Celebration and Mourning of the dead. For a dissertation about 19th C. American funeral practice and attitudes towards death, see Gary Laderman's The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Towards Death, 1799-1883. [New Haven: Yale University Press. 1996]

For those interested in current European funeral practice, in my first blog entry I pointed out Thanatorama. This French site (with English subtitles) features an inter-active audio-visual presentation to guide you through the immediate "afterlife" where you are the recently deceased. It is a fascinating journey through the cultural constructs of the funeral: embalming or cremation, and rites of burial as practiced in France today. Extremely well done. BUT be forewarned. There are a few images of actual corpses here...nothing gross or disrespectful, but a very informative story and well worth the journey.

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