Fuck Dying

Fuck Dying

Catalogue essay for Georgia Banks' Remains to be seen

Gertrude Glasshouse



Georgia Banks, Remains To Be Seen, Gertrude Glasshouse, 2021

When Georgia Banks explained to me the premise of her show Remains to be seen, which is a wonderfully morbid competition in the style of reality TV—where she grants the winner creative control over her funeral, her body, and her life insurance—I thought about the palpable darkness of her words. The letters in phrases such as ‘when I die’ quickly began casting shadows on the walls of her Gertrude studio, where we were conversing, to create a phantasmagoria that made the visit so noir.

Her sentences were decaying, with every passing breath, like rotten fruits in a still life, to cast a negative picture of form—or as we call it—a shadow. Within this theatre of putrefaction, I imagined a crooked nook, where spiders hide their kin and trap flies, in an abolishment of life. To my own admission, I went very German expressionism that day.

Her work Remains to be seen is the black silhouette of reality shows and mediatised competitions, a realm she knows well from firsthand experience, after competing for pageantry. This project is situated in the beyond, where only death travels—like souls marching in an infernal procession—as black shadows of the living. This is an ornamented (and obfuscated) way to say that Remains to be seen is about the unseen: the dark side of disposable celebrity culture, and its relationship to mortality. It looks at how contemporary culture allows people to alleviate their fear of death by creating a digital footprint, in the context of reality TV. Georgia Banks’ work is an ode to those amongst us who want to simultaneously die, and live forever.

On our first meeting, I died inside when I confessed to the artist that I became obsessed with recent interviews of Steve-O, who is now in his 40s. Steve-O is a media personality who came into prominence in his mid-20s as a makeshift daredevil, in the hyper-jock MTV show Jackass (2000-). He rose to stardom doing juvenile stunts on camera—like feeding alligators with raw chickens hanging from his anus slice—and inhaling nitrous oxide on live TV.

He is not the most proper quotation in art talk, to say the least. An earlier draft of this text described Steve-O as ‘an accelerated version of a party boi colliding with a Kurt Cobain complex (the fear of turning 30)’. Upon further consideration, I would describe him as the shadow puppet of MTV, for they used him like a marionette to create a toxic play about the dark gift of eternity.

In the YouTube clip, Is Steve-O Scared of Death?, he explains how recording himself allowed him to reconcile with mortality, by leaving behind an immortal message. More than a death wish, these personalities bear an undead wish, that they manifest by reproducing their youthful image, to achieve a state of media perpetuity. Like a vampire, the world ages but their picture stays the same.

Georgia Banks’ Remains to be seen considers this undead wish in the context of an arts practice, for delegating her funeral allows her to extend her presence beyond termination. It is also a broader commentary on how artists engage in art to leave a shadow behind them, that can linger without a physical existence, once their body dissipates. There is a monetary reward for the winner of this contest but also the chance to become a penumbra, by engaging in a post-mortem collaboration.

After death, there is a reality show.