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CULTURE

Paul Koudounaris: Memento Mori

A global photographic exploration of the concept of death and how different cultures interact with it

by David Graver
on 09 March 2015
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Photographed across 250 sites in 30 different countries and incorporating ten years of work, "Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us," by Paul Koudounaris reveals the cultural and historical relativity regarding the concept of death. With striking visuals and thoughtful text, Koudounaris explores the use of human remains worldwide—from devotional practices to decorative celebrations. What most of the Western World associates with the macabre or taboo is sometimes seen as affirmations of life and love (and what comes next) in other civilizations. Over 500 color images shed an intimate, thought-provoking light on these lesser-known wonders.

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From preserved Buddhist monks in Thailand to mummified Catholic brothers from 16th Century Western Europe and the cigarette-smoking skulls of Bolivians to skeletal painting in Bavaria, Koudounaris explores the starkness of genocide memorials and the grandeur of Roman adornment. The scope is vast and the context is eye-opening. Death is a dynamic mystery and this book makes clear just how differently cultures around the globe interact with the physical body after its organs have ceased to function.

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As far as presentation goes, the 216-page hardbound (and shimmering) book is a beautiful design object itself. Preorder Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us on Amazon for $41—with shipment expected around 14 April 2015.

Images by Cool Hunting

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