Circle of Life

This project investigates the industry and the work flow behind the management of death, with a special focus on the Covid era and the circularity of the human matter.

The last 12 months and the global pandemic showed us how fragile human life can be, threatened by a minuscle virus. And suddenly death was a daily business, for each one of us.

The line between life and death is a very thin one, we understood. Dying seems so easy nowadays. But one can also have a different point of view on all this: circularity. “You were made from dust, and to dust you will return” the bible says. But if you are lucky enough, you might become part of a tree. A green leaf. Or a scented flower.

And that’s where my journey begins: the woods. Not just any woods, but a Tuscan wood in Italy that is a reforestation area, where ill or weak plants are cut in oder to prevent the health of the woodland.

Wood is also the last home that we have on this planet. Coffins are made of wood and people need one even when they choose cremation.

During the first lockdown last spring there was suddenly a wood emergency. There was a need for lots of coffins. Lumber mills and companies that produce coffins kept working full time, trying to rearrange their work flow in this sudden emergency.
But what happens, on a practical level, when somebody dies in the midst of a global pandemic?

During the last year we have seen the sacrifice made by doctors and nurses. But there is one aspect that has been overlooked. If the profession of doctors and nurses is the noble art of saving lives, the profession of those who manage the bodies of the deceased is no less delicate. No less complicated. No less risky.

It is necessary to handle the bodies devastated by Covid, but with care, without running the risk of infection. Double layers of gloves, overalls, protective screen, sanitizing sprays.

And what about funerals, in the Covid era? How are they organized, maintaining social distancing? 

Cremation has been a common choice for many, since it might be seen as more ecological, hygienic and less expensive than burial. A convenient way to dispose of an extraordinary amount of human matter.

And once matter is turned into ashes, that’s when those ashes can go back to nature and start again the journey of life. In a memory garden, where ashes are scattered in the ground, they are absorbed by the roots and they might become part of a tree. A miniscule beginning that can turn into a green leaf. Or a scented flower.