Dama dama (2022)
A photo series consisting of 25 photos.
With a shiver down my spine I move forward, knowing another confrontation with death awaits me. Before I see it, the smell penetrates my nose. My first encounter with the dead fallow deer (Dama dama) was an unpleasant surprise. He must have died shortly before this first encounter; cause of death unknown; fully intact; a pale gleam still on his eye and fur. At first I wasn’t even sure if he was dead or not. The grove, including fallen trees on either side of the deer and a beam on sunlight shining through the leaves that touched his eye, ear and antler, turned the place of death into a baroque scene. It was as if nature exceeded itself in creating this dramatic setting, crossing the border between beauty and the sublime.
As death has largely disappeared from sight in the Western world, this confrontation was also an unexpected opportunity to follow the process of decomposition in the following weeks. Each visit evoked ambiguous feelings: both curiosity and revulsion. Each time curiosity won and made me return. A nearby dune top was an ideal place for reflection, as each encounter did not leave me untouched. It evoked questions about my own death, my own body. Myself as a potential source of nutrition, to be part of the food chain. It reminded me of texts by Val Plumwood:
“The exceptionalism denial that we are food for others is reflecting in many aspects of our conventional death and burial practices – the strong coffin, conventionally buried well below the level of soil fauna activity, and the slab over the grave to prevent anything digging us up, supposedly keeps the Western human body from becoming food for other species.“
The Eye of the Crocodile, Val Plumwood, edited by Lorraine Shannon, ANU E Press 2012, page 12