CAITLIN SAYLOR STEPHENS
In a series of still and moving images published live on Instagram, Caitlin Saylor Stephens contemplates the challenges of dead body disposal while interviewing her parents about their afterlife plans. Performed at her parents home in South Carolina, Caitlin and her mother review the contents of their family crypt containing the ashes of their deceased pets, while discussing her mother’s cremation wishes. As they archive, interact with, and touch each box of pet ashes, memories and feelings about each animal are evoked. Throughout the performance, Caitlin’s step-father intermittently appears to interject side-commentary about each pet and his own wishes for the disposal of his body. As the performance progresses, Caitlin questions whether or not it is humanly possible to dispose of hundreds of pounds of ashes, and recollects past conversations with her brother as they attempt to solve this predicament. A meditation on the challenges left to those living, this performance investigates the consumption of digital mediums as morbid artifacts. “Ashes” challenges audiences to confront the permanence of digital performance as a medium that inherently outlasts the performers while revealing an intimate family bonding ritual shared between an artist and her family.