Date of Award
University Scholars Director
Dr. Christine Chaney
First Advisor/Committee Member
Second Advisor/Committee Member
art, poetry, ecology, creative essay, performance, installation
The grief web project is an attempt to respond to death. To become responseable — responsible and able to respond — within the deathzone: where the living and the dying meet, where we live on after they die, where their deaths make our lives possible. I grieve for all beings who have been made ungrievable, for all who die before their time, for all our dead and dying kin and kin of kin. In particular, I mourn for childhood friends who have been killed in my neighborhood, for species made extinct by climate change and capitalism, for my three grandmothers and all my ancestors, for roadkilled animals, and for every being killed by those two great American weapons: the car and the gun.
The grief web is an interdisciplinary project that combines performance poetry, creative essays, installation, found object sculpture, printmaking, video art, and soundscapes. To create physical grief webs, I gather discarded materials from Seattle’s streets and transform them into ephemeral site-specific memorials. I make memorial shirtpoems covered the names, images, and words of dead kin, which I tear open and weave into branches, mud, and my hair. Expanding from these artworks, I have written these pages, better described as language-webs (or quilts) that tangle (or sew) my work with the work of others. Grief tangles up my language, making it difficult to write or to speak, and so I have learned to inhabit the language of others as a grief practice. The words of others are always on my tongue, repeated over and over like a funeral or a baptism liturgy—but also altered through discourse with my own work, unraveling me and unraveled by me. These others include thinkers, artists, poets, and scholars whose work has been indispensable to me—those who do the work of extinction studies, Latin American liberation theology, queer theory, human-animal studies, abolition geography, ecopoetics, postcolonial storytelling—as well as loved ones: parents, classmates, siblings, teachers, friends.
My work draws from the mourning practices of my community, the Excelsior District, which include memorial tshirts, candlelight vigils, protests, roadside memorials, ancestor rituals, funeral liturgies, church services, rap, and spoken word. I also draw from the mourning practices of nonhuman animals and multispecies communities, especially magpie rituals, the song of the last Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, and vulture funerals in Asia. Joining them, I become one thread within an interdependent web of vulnerable creatures — entangled, ephemeral, embodied, emplaced. Through mourning rituals and storytelling, we practice precarious life in the shadow of death.
FONG, Patricia M., "grief web" (2023). Honors Projects. 179.
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