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Lydia Smith

February 2 - 24, 2024 

In 2012 I began visiting burial sites after a period of personal loss and mourning. This launched me on pilgrimages to sites across the world in Egypt, Argentina, Australia, Japan, and the Czech Republic, among other countries. This investigation has continually generated questions about the unique entanglements of time, maintenance, hierarchies of social politics, and a community’s role in the production of place.

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Who gets to be remembered? How are burial sites are made and maintained by the living? How might we honor the unnamed, unmarked, and forgotten? What is the living’s responsibility to the dead?


Burial Sites currently takes the form of handbound a multi-volume artist book containing 13,000 photographs of cemeteries that are arranged along a long table for visitor interaction. Each volume represents a different geographical territory, and each page displays a new site. The layouts are each assembled as a unique grid, acting as maps for viewers to navigate from my camera’s perspective. The images capture seemingly mundane scenes: gardening tools, garbage cans, cracks in monuments, foliage, decorative symbols, and signage. They point to various traditions, religions, and histories embedded in sites of burial. Accompanying the volumes of images is a hybrid text, weaving together personal narratives, field notes, unanswered questions, and theoretical citations from multiple disciplines. This includes stories from cemetery administrators, funeral conductors, undertakers, and community members. My writing adds essential context and explores how burial sites might be transformed into archives, time capsules, mirrors, nonhuman ecosystems, architectural phenomena, and places of absence.

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