Art and Immortality
By Abbey Kleinert
Members of the undead, such as zombies and vampires, have found their place in popular culture, but the human obsession with immortality can be traced back much further than the modern day Edward and Bella. Some of the most striking examples come in the form of relics from ancient emperors’ tombs in China and the pharoahs’ pyramids in Egypt. One could go as far as to say that our country was founded on the notion of eternal life, since the beginnings of European settlement in the U.S. coincide with Ponce de Leon’s search for the fountain of youth.
While today we stagger around zombie pub crawls and fantasize about vampire romances, there lies a real army of thousands buried underground, seemingly awaiting the dawn of their empire. One example is the life-size terra cotta warriors that guard the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang. He was a man so obsessed with immortality that he buried himself in an underground kingdom, complete with warriors, servants, and lavish furnishings for his use in the afterlife.
Since they were discovered by chance in 1974, millions have visited the site to see the ones that have been unearthed, rebuilt, studied, and shipped around the world. And now they have invaded Minneapolis.
The exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts will be showcasing the terra cotta warriors until Jan. 20, 2013. This event brings the ideas of art and immortality to the forefront. The notion of taking physical objects of beauty and meaning with us to the afterlife and how that either lessens the blow of death or helps us prepare for what’s next is fascinating to say the least.
Today, people are still talking about Qin Shihuang and the impressive burial and preparation he orchestrated for his afterlife. But the power of the objects he left behind means more to those here now, than it does to the deceased.