CHART FOR WORDS FROM OBITUARIES
In 2010 I started an archive of obituaries, which I loosely classify according to a typology of professions.
By 2012 I had codified, using different colors, groups of what I determined, in my idiosyncratic view, as related occupations. For example, persons whose work was dedicated to language (poets, translators, linguists, coders, writers…) are classified in PINK ; those who worked in scientific exploration (astronauts, physicists…) are classified in GREEN , and so on. I embroider words chosen from particular obituaries in shades of the color corresponding to the profession of the person deceased with the certainty that no “life-work” can be neatly classified.
Persons are remembered for all kinds of things, some of which could be unspeakable, as in war crimes [ GREY ]. Some people are remembered for their engagement in work, such as activism [ YELLOW ], which could be considered a resolute commitment, rather than a profession.
When systems of classification get messy—and they will—they become uncomfortably interesting. Why? The mess illuminates the fact that a human life (or whatever is being classified) is irreducible to one single, compelling account.