“Life is hard, but happily it’s short”
Czech photography magazine Fotograf has devoted its 38th issue to death. In one of the first images you see when you open the magazine, a Russian activist holds a sign at a pension demonstration that reads: “Life is hard, but happily it’s short”. The mixture of humour and horror in this picture sets the tone for a fabulously unsettling piece of print. The aim of the issue, set out in the introduction by editor-in-chief Markéta Kinterová, is to destigmatise death. “Why and when are we (un)affected by depictions of death?”, asks curator and theorist Tereza Špinková later in the issue. How can art “deepen our relationship with death?”.
Becoming more intimately acquainted with your own end is not a terribly appealing prospect, but Fotograf’s skill is to approach its topic in a way that, somehow, makes you laugh. The first double-spread, entitled ‘Knock Knock Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ by Dóri Lázár, shows a series of decidedly un-heavenly Hungarian restaurants, called ‘Éden’, which translates to ‘heavenly place’. On the page that follows, we see a pearly white coffin, unceremoniously mounted on a dirty pulley.
My favourite feature of all is about PlayDead.info, a website that invites you to upload a selfie and create your own ‘effigy’. Filters include ‘fire’, ‘pimple’, ‘disease’ and ‘medusa’. What would you pick?