In Althea Thauberger’s, Not Afraid to Die, the exhibit features a girl who appears to be in the woods waiting to die. She looks to be worried at first, but then she gradually becomes calmer. The exhibit is very simple and it features the girl just being at one with the elements. She may be lost. She has a pack of food with her, so she may not have been lost for a long time. The girl looks to be a student from high school, and she is eating food that high schools students would typically pack with them. Furthermore, she appears to be a teenager, and she is carrying a backpack. Not Afraid to Die, is an exhibit that makes the viewer stop to question their routine life, and put it into perspective of nature, which always ends in death.
In the exhibit, the girl student seems to accept the fact that she will likely die. Even though it appears that she has not been lost for a very long time, she does not appear to be making an effort to find safety. Even through the woods are dark and mysterious, she does not seem to be fearful; instead, she is unafraid. She perhaps does not know whether death is waiting for her, but due to the title of the exhibit and the fact that the girl seems to be quite accepting the fact that she is in the woods, it gives the impression that she is aware of the possibility of death and is not afraid.
The piece could be interpreted as going much deeper than there simply being a girl in the woods waiting to die, and being unafraid. It helps to provide context into the busy lives that many of us live. Typically, people are either consumed by going to school all the time, or attending work all of the time. People tend to get lost in their habit of these very common lifestyles, and they likely tend to veer away from the inevitable death. People often do not stop to think about the fact that they are going to die, and the subject is almost taboo. Everyone knows it is eminent, but instead of contemplating the fact, they are instead consumed by executing school assignments, or going to work so that they can put food on the table or shelter over their heads. But the girl in this picture has stepped away from their regular school life, and they are now face to face with nature and the impending death.
The exhibit may be intended to be taken figuratively, and the forest that she is in is the forest of her mind. She might even still be in her classroom, listening to a lecture, but this existential student has decided to instead contemplate death, and she sings a song in her head about not being afraid to die. This contemplation penetrates everything else, and boils life down to its essential form, and that is the form that is presented by nature, which is represented by the woods. The daily activities of the girl are represented by the fact that she has a school backpack with her lunch. This helps to illustrate the divide between everyday activities and the activities pursued by the girl in her daily life.
The work is living and breathing. It is was created in 2012, but the exhibit itself is meant to be applicable to any time. It is only after death that the looming death is applicable. The physical condition of the work is impeccable, due to the fact that it is a recording of the teenager who is in the woods. This work is applicable to all cultures and all forms of life, and so it is timeless. The piece raising the ultimate questions, and would be relevant given any time period and given any type of race. It breaks down any cultural barriers, and looks at life in its naturalist state.
The piece was made in Victoria, B.C., yet it could be taken from anywhere in the world. The singing gives away that it originates from an English-speaking nation, and the Caucasian girl shows that it is likely that it was made in a nation with mostly Caucasian people. Even though the origin of the piece can be narrowed down relatively significantly without looking at the written material about the exhibit, the school of thought – which largely relates to existentialism – could apply cross-culturally. Death binds us all, but it is the way that each of our cultures deals with death that divides us. While the piece does not deal with the idealistic differences between cultures, it does give an indication of the attitude towards death. Many culture fear death, and others embrace it as finishing one period of existence, and moving on to the next. The girl in the piece does not provide an indication of her ideological beliefs, but she does allow the audience to become aware that she is not afraid to die. She not only communicates this in her behaviour, but also in the song that she sings. Furthermore, the title of the piece provides a clear indication of the girl’s attitude towards death. Her expression at the beginning was relatively fearful, but as time went on, she seemed more composed, and accepting of the inevitability of death.
This piece works by having the ability to take a complicated subject (death) and displaying its interaction with real life. Nothing is more natural than death, which is why the exhibit takes place in the forest. Also, the forest provides the perfect analogy for death, because it is natural, and it is largely unknown. Many mysterious components are in the forest, such as the potential danger of wildlife, and being exposed to the elements that are out of control – similar to death. This is coupled with life’s elements, such as the backpack and regular lunch products to combine the notion of dying and the current reality of a routine lifestyle. This combination puts the relationship of life and death into perspective.