“…to him the wall / That sunders ghosts and shadow-casting men / Became a crystal, and he saw them thro’ it, / And heard their voices talk behind the wall, / And learnt their elemental secrets, powers / And forces;”
–Alfred, Lord Tennyson
You Drift Away Closer and Closer:
Fieldnotes from the Modern Afterlife
People often feel like their lost loved ones are “with them” or that their “presence” can be felt, but in the grief-filled weeks after my father’s passing I never felt like he was “with me.”
I felt like I was with him.
Throughout those days, it often seemed I was looking out at the rest of the world from behind an invisible wall, present with my father in a vast and fathomless ocean of time, a murky primordial soup of infinite nowness where ancient things swam past us, very much alive.
My odyssey into that timeless nonphysical space is the source of my Fieldnotes from the Modern Afterlife. It was, I think, a fairly unique grieving experience, emerging from a stew of factors that included extreme stress, time dilation and the sudden worsening of my chronic food sensitivities that left me literally unable to eat anything. I survived that time on an unflavored yellow formula– symbolically severed from the food chain and subsumed beneath the bizarre psychological effects of not eating. Meanwhile, things that had happened days before felt like they were years ago, while memories from months back seemed only moments old. Time had become a churning sea in which I was suspended in an odd sort of limbo, while the rest of the world plodded on unaffected behind the wall.
The waves of time eventually brought me safely back to the side of the living, where my compulsion to create and share this work emerged in response to the void in how modern culture treats dying and the afterlife. We have no solid narrative for the afterlife, no lexicon of imagery to represent it and no rituals around the moment of a person’s passing. For someone navigating the death of a loved one without the benefit of religious faith or links to traditional culture, this void it can feel like an endless chasm.
You Drift Away Closer and Closer is about crossing that chasm. It’s about beginning to patch some of the holes in modern culture, not with a singular narrative around dying and the afterlife, but with imagery that leaves itself open to many narratives, or even any narratives, including the beliefs that the afterlife can only ever be unknown or even that there is no afterlife at all.
My hope is it will provide a visual means of contemplation and comfort to any who have found themselves in this void.