Café La Petite Mort

As performance-based research for Care for Death, I began Café La Petite Mort, a series of one-on-one performances that started in the context of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Triennial Exhibition (2013-14). The invitation was to come to talk with toward your own death. Even if shrouded by taboo and prophylactically enwrapped by the plastics of convention, death is not cloaked in silence, but is, like sex, the truth of ourselves we are, nonetheless, compelled to speak. Out of the cracks in the perverse menu of what are hardly free choices (tubes or no, resuscitate or not), these formally orchestrated conversations based on a sequence of questions that culminate in the taking of a photograph are dedicated to opening an intimate public space to imagine and practice toward the “good death” that might allow something more. These intense chats over coffee took the form of formal, anachronistic encounters in which I urged us toward two questions: what’s the death you don’t want and what might be the “good death” for you? What I learned about myself in these conversations I never wanted to end is that I want them to be the end. Conversations at the table with sex, death, and the ghosts of the dead I carry with me are the only way I know how to learn to live my dying.