Monday, January 19, 2009

You're Going to Die

The amazing collaboration supported by the internet and user-created content never ceases to amaze me both in the inane and profound. The growth of video sharing sites has unearthed numerous media clips that would previously been lost to the ages or only held in the memory of a few people. A hat tip to Scott Lake for forwarding this clip titled "You're Going to Die" to me. the clip itself. I find it to be an exercise in opposites. Go ahead and watch it first and then I will demonstrate some off those points of opposition. (Note the meat of it doesn't start until after 40 sec in). (For email subscribers click the title above to go to the web page to view)

The narration is done by Vito Acconci , a NY-based performance artist, and the entire work is often credited to him, although the words were written by Timothy Furstnau, and the video itself was done by Dennis Palazzolo.

Furstnau explains on his site his "text uses a strategy employed in much of my textual work of exploring one monolithic idea ad nauseum bonum, but with a bit of a children’s story tone." I could not find any reference to ad nauseum bonum, so one assumes it means an argument by repetition for a good cause. The calling to mind a children's book also strikes an opposing conventional eisdom to the subject of death. The narrarator does set up a pretty even cadence as you listen to the video more.

Some of the text appears to be condescending to those who 'say nice things to you, or tell you wild stories.' But the narrator is only trying to demonstrate his world view which is true to him. The comments on You Tube devolve into: the existence of heaven, the atheist/agnostic vs. Christian debate, how this is depressing to watch. The great part about the dismissal of the 'stories' we tell ourselves, is the narrator usaully says 'But this is OK too."

The deep montone voice of Acconci is devoid of any emotion. He statements are meant to be as such to emphasize these are the facts. I would imagine most people see discussions about dying as emotional and here Acconci plays it to the opposite extreme.

In the end this potentially depressing video strikes a completely opposite tone by stating the knowledge of death makes life meaningful. Which is really the important message here. Some more learned readers might pick up on some Buddhist references in this clip, so feel free to post your insights in the comments.

Piece: You're Going to Die (2000) (video)
Text: Timothy Furstnau
Narration: Vito Acconci
Directed by: Dennis Palazzolo

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1 Responses to “You're Going to Die”

Gail Rae said...
February 24, 2009 at 2:09 PM

Hi, Christian!
Forgive my very late notice of this post...I came to it through Jessica's blog just today and fell in love with the video, so, of course, I followed her links in reference to it. I also looked it up on YouTube and (only) scanned through the many comments, per your post. I notice that no one, so far, has left any comments on your post about it so I thought I'd be the first, since, after having commented on it over at Jessica's and lived it with for something over an hour, I have more to say on why I so enjoy this video.
In my journey through my reactions to my mother's death the hardest circumstance has been that, up to the point of seeing this video, all the stories I've read, heard and recalled have been non-"extinctionist". No surprise, there; especially since I have a strong thread of non-"extinction" running through me, which I understand is hard wired into our species. The largest of my personal challenges, though, in handling my mother's death has been her obvious extinction and the finality of death. It's the challenge that stops me in my tracks, day after day, hour after hour. This video is the only Death Story I've come across, so far, that addresses this challenge. For reasons I don't clearly understand, as I watch and think about this video, which says nothing to which I haven't been introduced, nothing I haven't contemplated, I'm finding it incrementally easier to stand in the shadow of death, hers, mine, ours. Maybe this is because I'm familiar with many more "afterlife" stories than I can use and all of them attempt to assuage or eliminate the "sting" of death, rather than allow me to experience it until I can live with it. Maybe what I've been needing is a Death Story such as this that lets me sit with it, talk to it and lick my wounds, even as it threatens me with yet more deaths, including my own.
I'm sure there are many who would balk at the possibility of introducing this to someone they know who is grieving a recent death but my experience tells me that some of us, maybe more than seems obvious, would benefit from this Death Story, especially while in the fresh throes of grief.
Also, sidebar here, I finally got around, today, to doing something I've been meaning to do for awhile: Add Pallimed's blogs to my links list and recommend them. The write-up is here, in case you want to check it. I thank you and your contributors for these sites, and for Palliative Care Grand Rounds. Good stuff. --Gail