Nepenthe-Memento Mori*

“Then, Heleni, daughter of Zeus, reflected but without waiting, pours into their wine, an herb that fades the mourning, relieves the choler and is the oblivion of every tragedy.”
Homer’s Odyssey

Humans, in 19th and the beginnings of the 20th century, used to take pictures of their dead, posing them, as if they were alive. The make up or the colour, were applied to the face of the dead, in order to hide the typical ravages of death. Mourning, as a memory, kept alive the bond with the beloved one and these photos remained known as “post-mortem”. Post-mortem.

The First Cemetery of Athens, is a place I used to visit for my walks and for taking pictures, without having someone close to me resting there. At a certain personal state of my life, while experiencing some significant predicaments and depressive conditions, my visits there started to become more frequent and my walks there lasted longer. I started wondering about several matters concerning death and loss, sorrow and the handling of such experiences, by those who stay behind. During that phase, I perceived that in the photos I took in the cemetery, existed an unconscious detachment. I realized that inside of me, something like a “brake” prevented me from approaching, the way I wanted and that might be an act of disrespect. But what was really happening, is that there was a taboo, conveyed by modern society and her perception around death, that is not an easy subject for discussion.

The graves in orthodox cemeteries look like small arcs of memories. Like puzzles, composed by the bereaved. The photos of the dead on the graves, through the time lapse and decline, that is gradually created, until the complete extinction of the shape, of whom once existed, seems like they describe the course of the memory of those who knew him and the eternal oblivion through the natural march of time. I realized that the locus of the cemetery, is a place of conflict among the human effort to preserve the memory and the time that crushes these efforts.

Infront of chaos vertigo that death unfolds, we desperate seek to put an order, to beauty with white marbles the disintegration of matter, to certify with statues and busts our passage, to pledge our fear with the symbols of faith.

It feels contradictory: the metaphysics as a crutch for our logic and the chaos of the natural world as the opponent, that sweeps and devastates the human project.

Maybe, after all , these thoughts might not concern death, but through him, might signalize the way we exist.

*Remember that you are mortal.