Everness – the art of being dead

Maria Tsilogianni
November 7, 2017
Examples of private archives processed and interpreted by creative employees that form the archives and produce representations of them. © Everness

When somebody passes away, the way in  which they are remembered and commemorated is left largely to the  friends and family they leave behind. But what if living individuals  could exercise more choices regarding their death and legacy? Cemeteries  in the UK offer the option of booking a plot in advance of one’s death.  Should the living then not be able to determine more than merely the  space they will occupy in the cemetery after they die? Should they not  also be able to book the kind of space they would like to occupy in  their relatives’ memory? If they can choose their plot, and whether they  will be cremated or buried in a casket, could they not also choose the way in which they would like to be dead?  People use a certain style in order to design their way of living, their own art of living. Could not a similar sense of style be deployed in fashioning different modes of being dead?

Everness is a speculative design and architecture project that  explores the possibility of offering the living an opportunity to design  their own ways of being dead.  Everness would provide  individuals with the ability to curate environments of remembrance that  reflect their lived experiences and that serve as a kind of “conceptual  cemetery” after their passing. These “conceptual cemeteries” would be a  kind of personalised archive of the deceased’s memories that would  contain the deceased’s most formative lived experiences and thoughts.  Everness would allow the ‘Not-Yet-Dead’ to design how these experiences  and thoughts are organised and represented in the archive that will  survive them. The existence of such an archive would create a new  representational space for the ‘Others’1  to reflect upon and reinterpret the life of the person who has died.  This process of ongoing re-interpretation of their memories of and  relationship with the deceased person can be called the art of being dead.

Examples of re-interpreted private archives. © Everness

© Everness

Examples of private archives processed and interpreted by creative employees that form the archives and produce representations of them. © Everness

Companies that seek to maintain a connection between the deceased and  their relatives already exist, but their approach is often underpinned  by the notion of death as a disorder or malfunction depriving humans of  their loved ones. These enterprises seek mechanisms of bringing back the departed from the after-life, of designing digital representations or digital legacies that can live on forever. ‘liveson’2,  for instance, analyses the entirety of an individual’s tweets, learns  the patterns in their language and continues to tweet on the deceased’s  behalf from the grave. The ‘lifenaut’ website3  allows people to record memories and experiences in the form of mind  files (mind files reflect one’s digital life. They are a compilation of  saved digital reflections of one’s self, such as stored emails, chats,  blogs, texts, uploaded photos and videos, search histories, which might  be used in the future by artificial intelligence software in order to  reanimate and recreate the essence of a person so that they might  inhabit cybernetic environments or be transferred into another form,  such as a robot, a hologram or an avatar. In this way, the surviving  loved ones can hope to one day interact with an exact robotic copy of  the departed that is always there to have a chat or keep one’s company  over dinner. ‘eternime’4  preserves thoughts, stories, and memories and creates avatars as a  digital alter ego that lives on after people die. These companies rely  on people’s insistence on maintaining their existing relationship with  the deceased, of extending their lost presence into the future. They  struggle to design a digital immortality, reflecting human vanity and  its desperate struggle to defeat death.

Instead of trying to replicate the living in non-human, digital form  after they die, Everness embraces death as a condition distinct from  life with its own set of limitations and possibilities. Everness seeks  to extend the Dead’s presence beyond their death in the form of a  dynamic and evolving conversation with the Others. According to Derrida,  the act of creating an archive both records an event and at the same  time provides space for the consideration of that which has not been  originally considered, grasped, or experienced during the actual event.  It follows then that the archive is a site for the potentially possible. In the case of Everness, the archive is a place where secrets  can be kept safe, in safety deposit boxes that only the Dead, while  alive, can access. The Dead assigns these deposit boxes to be opened by  specific people that are provided with a key after their death . This  grants the Dead the possibility of expressing those facets of their  identities that they kept secret during their lifetime from beyond the  grave. The archive that the Dead leaves behind becomes a site of ongoing  discovery and re-interpretation for the Others —a dialogue between the  living and the dead. The Dead might not be able to respond in this  dialogue, but they can at least speak.

After the Dead passes away, Everness would notify the relatives and  friends of the deceased that they now have access to the Dead’s archive.   Through their engagement with the archive, the Others begin to  observe, interpret, and translate both the traces of existence left  behind by the Dead as well as the ways in which the Dead has chosen to  preserve and represent them. Thus, the Dead triggers a kind of dialogue  with the Others out of which grow new kinds of memories and  interpretations of the Dead. In order to enhance this process of  reinterpretation, Everness would have a variety of designers, artists,  musicians, and writers on staff who would work with the Others to create  new representations and interpretations of the archival material. These  works of art, music and writing would be added to the Dead’s archive  such that the process of remembering and interpreting the Dead becomes  an ongoing evolution.

Based on the decision of the Dead (as specified in the will, and also  taking into account permission from the Others), Everness permits the  public to access the representations of the private archive. The  material produced by the creative workers is exposed to a wider network  of potential communication and interpretation. The ensuing dialogue with  the public creates an additional way of being dead. This could  occur either in an online space, or in a real space such as a gallery  exhibition. A dialogue unfolds with unknown Others, observers without  previous relations to the Dead, who only enter into communication with  the deceased following and due to their death. This  creates a situation in which strangers seek to navigate the  individuality of the Dead only after the latter’s subjectivity in the  real world has already been erased. The space of collective memory  created would be constantly updated as relatives and friends and the  public upload new material and comment on the existing contents of the  archive. Re-commissioning new creative employees to reinterpret the  archive could also be a means of updating the artwork exhibited in the  public archives.

Everness provides the Not-Yet-Dead with a say in how they would like  to be engraved in Others’ memories. They can indicate their preferred ways of being dead, which  their relatives and friends may then use in the process of redesigning  their legacy. Everness reconsiders the notion of death by bringing  together the deceased and the Others in an ongoing dialogue. Unlike  heirlooms that are left behind to fade in time and become distanced  objects that no longer maintain their original significance in relation  to their owners, the archives of Everness would reflect the subject’s  lived experiences and would be used to redefine and generate new ways of  remembrance. These new modes of being dead become the product of  another kind of art, the art of being dead. This kind of art is  given its content by the Not-Yet-Dead, is interpreted by the Dead’s  friends and family, is represented by the creative workers who play the  role of mediators, and lastly is re-interpreted through the perspective  of unrelated observers. A dialogue-network is created between the  various parties, transferring the traces of the dead’s existence into a  space of dynamic and collective memory. Everness lays the groundwork for  a new kind of memorialisation process. The space inhabited by the Dead  is no longer limited to the plot physically occupied in the cemetery but  has expanded to become a dynamic and evolving space of collective  memory in which the Dead continues to have some degree of agency.


1. ↑ Relatives And Friends Of The Deceased; Those Who Have Been Left Behind

2. ↑ Https://Twitter.Com/_liveson  Is An App That Was Designed To Work Within Twitter But Due To Great  Controversies After It Was First Launched, It Is Not Being Used Anymore

3. ↑ Https://Www.Lifenaut.Com/

4. ↑ Http://Eterni.Me/

All by
Maria Tsilogianni