The Body as Art: War Bones (Scent the Scene)

In this series, we examine aspects of death and bereavement through art, olfaction, and imaginative thinking. Feel free to follow along at home and leave your take on this scented death meditation below. 

This Week’s Muse

This month we are going to be examining human remains used in artistic pieces. Some of these works serve a religious or political objective, but all have required manipulation after death for purposes of aesthetics not related to the preservation of the actual person’s appearance; thereby blurring the line between the individual and the work of art. This week’s Gore Rating: 1 for real human bones.

Machine Gun, Stop the Violence, Francois Robert 2012


Francois Robert is a photographer that I’ve been following for about a decade. While most of his work highlights the sensitivity and power of the human condition, his Stop the Violence series is cold and to the point. The remains of the dead transformed into the means of death serve as stark reminder of what these machines are designed and indeed fated to do. I highly suggest you check out the whole series.

Scent the Scene

I know the last few days have been rattling for many of us, myself included. Things that were not in our wildest dream now seem to loom. In this scented meditation let’s focus on the fact that the default nature of the cosmos is chaos and that is ok, humanity has learned to flow like water and bend like bamboo, to adapt to the chaos of the world. That is what we are good at. Peace, security, democracy, these are humanity-made inventions, and they require our humanity and diligence.

So as we envision the scent today. The smell of Gun Grease, the sizzle of Gun Powder that burns in the back of your nose and your throat, the bareness of Bleached White Bones, the heady vapour of Rotting Vegetation from fields that have been planted but left to rot. The toxic funk of Burning Tires and the metallic tang of Blood. In short, we are building the scent of  War. As you sniff the world around you to connect with this concept in a different and olfactive way, focus on the world that could be and then the world that you want it to be. The difference between the two is your vocation. Take that vision of a better world and make it your shield, but keep that scent of War in your nose as a reminder.

[PS this is an update of the original post which due to technical issues an earlier unfinished draft was published by mistake. Apologies, the dead love us, computers…not so much.]

That’s how I smell it, but what about you? How do you feel about human remains being used as art? Leave your comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to the DS and never miss a scene.