A companion exhibition at the Side to Under Gods. Whoa, this is a bit “spooky”, definitely a little unsettling. A series of large, unframed prints (taken on a large or medium format camera?) of current and prospective clients of a number of cryogenic institutions, mixed with views of the institutions themselves and various bits of ‘kit’. This is unsettling not just because I find the idea of cryogenics itself unsettling – a highly speculative and unproven branch of science (if not pseudo-science or plain science fiction) – but also because of the obvious and quite touching faith that the various subjects of the portraits in this show demonstrate in the hope of a life after death. There is a nice juxtaposition between this show and Under Gods in that both are at one level or another dealing with at least the hope of resurrection and an after life, one spiritual, the other physical.
What is all the more unsettling is that some of the subjects do not look as if they can afford long term freezing – indeed they look as if they struggle to make ends meet in the here and now – and the facilities range form the shiny, high-tech, to the downright ramshackle. Even at the upper end of the scale, the American facilities, there is a hint of the Heath-Robinson – plenty of duct tape and bodies in sleeping bags. The Russian facility, in what looks like a Soviet era Nissen hut, (see the illustration above) I would not trust with a frozen chicken let alone a body in hope of resuscitation.
A nice touch in one picture, of something called a “portable perfusion kit” – presumably something for pumping chemicals into a corpse, again something that looks as if it has been cobbled together – in the background, on the mantel piece over the fire, there is a row of clocks: a modern take on the Vanitas, a Memento Mori, a useful reminder that although the people involved are interested in a form of physical resurrection, they will in fact die.
Despite my rather negative reaction to the idea of cryogenics I nevertheless found this show to be quite moving and affecting. Just as the subjects of Under Gods have faith, so do these people in the prospect of a further physical life. I cannot but help feel that this faith is seriously misplaced (not least so far as the Russian facility is concerned – deliquescence seems more likely than resurrection!) but there is nevertheless something touching about their hope – though it is tempting to write them off as being deluded at worst or duped at best.