My research explores the role that Trace Objects play in mourning and the role of artistic discourse within contemporary funerary rituals. Trace Objects are personal items left at graves that act as markers of identity for the deceased. They can be items owned by the deceased, hand-made after an individual’s death, collected and purchased with the deceased in mind, as well as the headstone.
My research is practice-based, utilising darkroom techniques to create photographic installations. Shadow Mementos was inspired by the role women played in the caring for the dead and the directorship they displayed in preparing funerals in the 1800s. It was women’s work to wash the deceased, plan a funeral, host a viewing and create memorial objects. It was their loving, hand-made tributes which inspired my installation. These tributes often utilised fabric as a base and were embroidered. It is for this reason I use fabric and embroidery with a contemporary approach in design. Shadow Mementos is site-specific and for each cyanotype I use transparencies of grave photographs from Christchurch Cathedral Cemetery that date to the 1800s, which I have documented. Each cyanotype is on light-grade calico, which I hand-embroider. This is a meditative process of hand-stitch, producing organic and abstract results that build upon the content of my photographs. Shadow Mementos is a memorial object – a Trace Object – for the deceased. The embroidery is designed to reflect each individual with the information interpreted from the headstone. I chose to use cyanotype as it was invented in the 1800s and over the course of the festival Shadow Mementos will fade and deteriorate in the sun and weather. In this way it parallels with the fading of memory and the degradation of Trace Objects over time.