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​Kelly June Mitchell

memento mori

paper, plaster cast hands

dimensions of installation 15 ft x 30 ft x 18 in




In Latin the phrase Memento Mori means “remember that you will die” But day to day most of our time is spent denying this. We do everything we can to create distance between ourselves and death. We cling to medical technology and put ourselves on diets to cleanse out the toxins. We create rituals to remember the dead. We bring flowers to graves in an effort to convince ourselves a part of the departed is still with us, that part of them still lives. Even our language has evolved to distance ourselves from death, we’ve invented cute idioms to describe death “bought the farm”, “pushing daisies,” bringing to mind a pastoral landscape rather than our own mortality. All this distancing is understandable, death is entirely overwhelming.

Memento Mori is a site specific installation that consists of an overwhelming amount of sickly-sweet pink flowers. Pink is not a color generally associated with death, usually it’s considered the color of youth and innocence, something we think that death cannot touch. At first glance the wall seems like a celebration of life with all the bright flowers everywhere. But then you notice the pallid white hands reaching out from the flowers. The gesture of each of these hands is actually a letter in sign language. Strung together, the hands spell Memento Mori, reminding you that even amongst life, death can’t be ignored.



Memento Mori was installed in association with Spaceworks Tacoma.


Spaceworks Tacoma is a joint initiative of the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber designed to activate empty storefronts and vacant space in Tacoma. The initiative makes no- and low-cost temporary space, training, and technical assistance available to artists, creative entrepreneurs, organizations, and community groups in order to nurture successful projects that transform Tacoma into a stronger, more active city.


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