ARTWORK > SOURCES, SYSTEMS AND NOTATIONS FOR WORDS FROM OBITUARIES




SOURCES, SYSTEMS AND NOTATIONS FOR WORDS FROM OBITUARIES


These sources are arranged to correspond with the sequence of the works in the preceding section.

When I exhibit the WORDS FROM OBITUARIES pieces I don't show the printed source. I give each work a title that includes the name of the deceased and the date in which their obituary was published in the Times. I also include the year when I completed the work, which frequently occurs much later than the date of publication. This information is enough of a hint for finding out more about who died and the kind of life they lived, as it is summarized in the newspaper.

In obituaries, the mode of remembering is already distilled. It is always already a redaction. The medium is language. For WORDS FROM OBITUARIES, I work solely with obituaries from the New York Times.

I look for a short fragment of a phrase in the already distilled language of the obituary. I search for a part of text that can be distilled even further. I look for something that, in its brevity, heightens and evokes. The words remain attached to the person who is the subject of the obituary. But they also function beyond the source. Yes, language operates in context. And yet, letters and words are nothing if they cannot navigate a multiplicity of contexts.

My choice to find words in some obituaries might reflect personal inclinations and fascinations. But the reality is that the New York Times publishes long-form obituaries of women and persons of color less frequently. Lately, my sense has been that, depending on the day, this pattern is challenged by the editors of the &Times%, but the majority of obituaries focus on lives lived by men. This is inevitably reflected in this project, and I anticipate that changes in the media (for the better, I hope) will continue to open up the field of choices.

It is important to note, however, that there are occasions when I want to find something in an obituary of an admired person, but the words were not there to be found...



CHART FOR WORDS FROM OBITUARIES