What happens to us after we die? This question hasn’t ceased to fascinate, possibly scare and eventually occupy the minds of anyone who ever grasped the notion of one’s mortality. But what happens to our corpses? And how does it sound? Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard, whose sound art has resonated within the walls of venues such as MoMA in New York, the Rothko Chapel in Houston and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, dared to take an acoustic trip into the future - recording the sounds produced by and surrounding a human corpse post mortem.
Kirkegaard’s works are often metaphorical, working within a particular context and the listener’s imagination in order to capture ethereal and delicate ideas, such as in his work ‘4 Rooms’ that was inspired by Alvin Lucier, for which he layered the recordings of rooms in Chernobyl in order to hear the sound of radioactive spaces; or closely examine the physical and acoustic phenomena - which are seemingly impossible to hear. Similarly, in his project ‘Labyrinthitis’, Kirkegaard produced otoacoustic emissions inside of the ears of the listeners.
Opus Mors combines the metaphorical and scientific approach in an attempt to explore one of the biggest mysteries which at the same time has been an essential part of life itself: the human death and what happens to the body after its last breath. The piece is divided into four topics which reveal the sounds linked with a human corpse in the immediate post mortem.
‘Opus Morturarium’ are two recordings from two morgues, containing deep sounds of the cooling facilities. The ‘Opus Autopsia’ reveals sounds of a full autopsy including opening the corpse, slicing the organs before returning them back inside of the body, closing and washing the corpse, each part and organ having their own track so the listener can literally hear opening the heart for example. For ‘Opus Crematio’, Kirkegaard used vibration sensors placed on the surfaces of the cremation oven, recording the industrialized process of the body being turned into ashes. ‘Opus Putesco’, on the other hand, listens to the body becoming “one with nature” as it presents ear-field sound recordings of different stages of corpses decomposing in the ground.
The whole album is an observation without judgment or pathos. Yet it’s literally visceral sounds of the post mortem processes, uncomfortable or other-wordly as they might be, offer us another perspective on the topic of the inevitable end, and according to their author, hopefully spark a conversation which will help us cope with its incomprehensible nature.
Opus Mors was released by Topos in September 2019 as an exclusive deluxe release of 4 LP set in 180g black vinyl. Packaged in archival handmade box, bound in linen and embossed, including five unique prints on Tyvek paper. Signed and numbered limited edition of 250.
Jakob Kirkegaard will perform Opus Mors live at silent green – Betonhalle on a Sunday February 2nd 2020 at 3PM as a part of the CTM Festival programme.