Friday, June 25, 2010

Sebastian E.: Looking at Life and Death

The work of designer Sebastian Errazuriz is remarkable in both its elegance and power. Looking at life and death through his eyes does more than remind us of our mortality; it helps us to grasp these overwhelming issues in a beautifully intuitive way. Though Sebastian's work is witty and playful, do not be fooled into thinking that it is lighthearted or flippant. Along with its elegance, Sebastian's work holds the power to heal and to inspire change. My sincere thanks to Mr. Errazuriz for allowing me to share this work on The Daily Undertaker.

The Boat Coffin

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Wood, stainless steel motor, fabric, acrylic paint, polyurethane

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Sebastian aboard the Boat Coffin. What kind of voyage will we be taking in such a craft? What spiritual anchors are employed on this lifeboat?

Death is The Only Certainty In Life

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South Beach, Miami 2009

A plane flies over South Beach with a banner that reads: "Death is the only certainty in life". The original phrase intended for the project read: "We are all going to die”. Nevertheless the Federal Aviation Administration decided to censor the project due to the alarm such a phrase could create amongst the population. A series of phrases related to the awareness of death and life were sent to the airline for the approval of the FAA. “Death is the only certainty in life” was allowed. Its shorter version: “Death is the only certainty” was not allowed. -(Artist Statement)

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Do artists have an societal obligation to remind us of the unpleasant realities we ignore? If so, what is the best way to communicate a message like this? One might argue that this statement written in the sky is an obvious fact that is not news to anyone, but certainly the FAA had concerns about it.

Would this message have a different meaning if the sky was overcast, rather than a beautiful blue?

An Attempt to Understand a Statistic
Statistics can be deceptive, even when accurate. When we hear how many have died in a natural disaster, or how many billions are spent on this or that, our minds haven't even wrapped around it, let alone our hearts. Sebastian's next project helps us with both.

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Brooklyn, New York 2009

1100 white crosses are planted into the ground in a waterside park in DUMBO. A group of 40 volunteers forms a line and starts walking forward, planting a cross in each step until the meadow is turned into a temporary cemetery. The 1100 crosses represent the number of people who die in NYC every week. The installation attempts to create an image that illustrates this number and helps us understand the inevitable statistic of life. - (Artist' s Statement)

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Memorial Of A Concentration Camp
This final piece was my introduction to Sebastian Errazuriz, via Charles Cowling's Good Funeral Guide. This work is perhaps the most powerful, elegant and healing memorial I have yet encountered. To even approach an issue this painful and disturbing takes a great deal of sensitivity and tact. To accomplish what Sebastian has accomplished involves a wisdom and humanity that we can all aspire to.
First, a little background information from a post 'The Killing Fields, Political violence on the Soccer Pitch' by David Keyes on his blog, Culture of Soccer .

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Prisoners stand on the terraces of Chile’s National Stadium in 1973

One of the most well known instances of political violence occurring in a soccer stadium occurred in Chile. Shortly after seizing power in a military coup, dictator Augusto Pinochet rounded up many thousands of his political enemies and took them to the National Stadium, where they remained for several months. Conditions in the stadium were awful, with torture common. Many murders were also carried out at the stadium. A Chilean commission studying the torture later offered even more details:

[T]he room for medical treatment was sometimes used for [torture]. Firing squads were simulated and other cruel techniques were employed. As a rule the prisoners were subjected to constant and intense interrogation.

The representatives and medical representatives of the IRCC (International Red Cross Committee) have found that many prisoners show signs they have undergone psychological and physical torture.

This Commission also concluded that a number of executions took place inside the National Stadium. Culture of Soccer

-from The Killing Fields: Political Violence on the Soccer Pitch by David Keyes

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Santiago, Chile 2006

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A 10-meter magnolia tree is planted in the center of Chile’s National Stadium where dictator Pinochet in 1973 imprisoned thousands of political prisoners who were tortured and killed. After planting the tree, the stadium doors are open to the public as a park; offering a space to stop, look again, and remember.

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An impossible, cathartic soccer match played before 20.000 people, closes the project after a week of activity. - (Artist's Statement)

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Sebastian Errazuriz


Chilean born, New York based artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz seeks to create works that can remind people of their mortality, invite them to look again at their lives and question at their daily routines.

His obsession with the dichotomies of life and death are present in his sculptures, public art works, consumer objects, furniture and even fashion.

Selected one of the top emerging designers by I.D magazine, he has also been chosen Chilean Designer of the Year, and received multiple awards by design competitions, and the international media.

His large scale avant-garde public artwork has received critical acclaim. His unique pieces have been incorporated in over 40 exhibitions including Tokyo, New York, Paris and Barcelona. His portrait on multiple magazine covers and hundred of articles showcasing his work, illustrate the interest of the critics and media which follow closely every one of his new projects.

Born in Santiago, Chile and raised in London, Sebastian followed art courses in Washington and film courses in Edinburgh, Design in Santiago and later received an MFA at New York University. At age 28, Sebastian and the Campana’s were the only living South Americans to be auctioned at Sotheby’s Important 20th Century Designs. His design work currently forms part of several international private collections.

Based in New York and with offices and workshops in Santiago; as an artist Sebastian is currently preparing public urban art installations for New York, Madrid and Santiago. As a designer, he is creating products for clients ranging from the design shop of the Museum of Modern Art in New York to private commissions and interiors. Faculty member and university teacher Sebastian has regularly participated with personal editorial columns in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. - bio from website

for more of Sebastian's thought provoking work, visit his website, Meet


ajlounyinjurylaw said...

It's a harsh reality that 1100 people die in NYC. I find that incredible. Seeing the crosses upright strikes hard in my mind.

Larry said...

I've been to ground zero and it's very eery. It's hard to grasp that thousands died where you're standing.

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