As a child, Joyce Crago was captivated by funerals. She play-acted, directing her two younger sisters to lie still while she ran the funerals. She especially liked being the corpse, but that never worked out, because her sisters would run off. Since childhood, death and funerals have held her fascination. In 2018, Crago’s younger sister Hazel died unexpectedly, an experience that brought her childhood fascination back to the surface.
PLAYING DEAD comprises lens-based, multimedia works that draw upon Crago’s compulsion to understand in order to process trauma. The installation presents an open-ended narrative, allowing viewers to confront death—a topic that Western society aims to avoid at all costs—and to reconcile themselves to their own mortality. The centrepiece of PLAYING DEAD is an installation that presents a photo-sculpture of Crago’s naked body, around which are displayed still-life images of both items remaining after Hazel’s funeral and her belongings. This piece engages the physicality of the photograph, inhabiting the liminal intersection of photography and sculpture. Complementing this work are two video-performances, in which the artist gives life to her sister’s clothes.
While PLAYING DEAD is an intimately personal work, it offers viewers space within which to contemplate the broader themes of mourning and mortality.