The Dressing

The Dressing

Each pig was named, washed to remove debris, and then washed again with a rosemary scented oil to signify remembrance. Each was gradually dressed in a garment of many layers, until the body was entirely encapsulated and ready for burial.

The carcasses were washed and dressed just as a human body would be prepared for burial.  This was a major part of the project as it calls into question the rituals of washing and preparing the dead.

Before the pigs were wrapped up in the garments, I named each* (See Links Below). This was something decided upon in the preliminary stages of the project, as I had not wanted to refer to the pigs as ‘tissue’ or ‘carcasses.’  An attachment of sorts was important. In each of the human dressings I had conducted I had known the person, so by naming the pigs I was a way to become more connected to them. This notion of becoming connected was a way to prepare for future encounters with the dead. It was also a method by which I could become engaged with the research beyond the (comparatively dispassionate) requirements of the forensic enquiry protocol. I was performing a ritual as a funeral celebrant, and not just as a scientist. It seemed important to remain somewhat vulnerable to grieving the deaths of the pigs; to feel the loss of their lives.

Deciding to name each after influential authors, film makers or people who had otherwise informed the research up to this point, was a way of making each pig individual and connecting their contribution to the research. Their names were engraved onto a stainless steel tag which was then threaded onto one of the cords attached to the garment. This tag became another material variable in the project, but on a pragmatic level, it was a way to identify each body when it was recovered later in the experiment. A letter of gratitude I had written to each pig was included in the pocket of each garment. This notion of writing letters to be taken with the dead into the grave is a ritual suggested during group discussion during the funeral celebrancy training I undertook, as a small, personal rite that could be performed by the bereaved. I found it profoundly valuable in my own dealing with the deaths of the pigs.

–Pia Interlandi [A]Dressing Death: Fashioning Garments for the Grave