Animating a Cemetery

Last week, i09 posted a video by a collection of animators called Llama Rada.  Directed by Alejandro Garcia Cabbalero, Llama Rada projected videos on gravestones in Mexico’s 590-acre cemetery Panteón de Dolores.

According to i09, the Llama Rada project is bringing the work of animators into public spaces throughout Mexico City.

Although the Panteón de Dolores has around 700,000 tombstones, only a small section seemed to be chosen as screens for the animation.

Panteon de Dolores / Santolo / Llamarada from Ciudad Intervenida on Vimeo.

I don’t have the cultural knowledge to critique this as an art installation, but as much as I support creative ways to bring people into relationships with cemeteries, the video troubles me.  Beyond the violent content of the animations (which again, I don’t have the understanding to put into cultural perspective), I am made uncomfortable by the sense of disrepect this video installation shows, both to the people buried in the cemetery and their families.

What do you think?  Is a graveyard a valid canvas for temporary artwork?  Does beauty trump history? Do the dead cease to care how their monuments are used — or could they use a little music and light to get their toes tapping?

About Loren Rhoads

I'm co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. Angelus Rose, the final book, came out in February 2020. I am the editor of Tales for the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief. I'm also author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel--and a space opera trilogy.
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11 Responses to Animating a Cemetery

  1. crowthorneboy says:

    I don’t know what to think of this, Loren. It does nothing for me. Like you, I am uncomfortable with the ‘hi-jacking’ of graves. Others may disagree but, as far as animations go, it does absolutely nothing for me!


    • Loren Rhoads says:

      I’m not sure why this disturbs me, but performing Our Town or shooting a movie in a graveyard doesn’t. Maybe it’s the singling out of particular graves to serve as canvas. Highjacking is a good word for it, Laurie.


  2. coastalcrone says:

    I would agree with you in feeling that this is a bit disrespectful for those buried there. However, in the culture of Mexico death is a very colorful thing and is celebrated. The Dead of the Dead celebration is quite colorful with many images. For the violence of the video think of the culture again – bullfighting and the human sacrifices of the Maya and Aztec. It was creative artistically but I certainly would not want to see such an installation in any of our cemeteries. Thanks so much for sharing this one. I am always interesting in the way artists try new things in public spaces. Some of are successful than others!


    • Loren Rhoads says:

      Good points about the bullfighting and Mayan sacrifice! I think I am going to have to travel in Mexico and do some research.


      • coastalcrone says:

        I think you could find some different material there. The cemeteries may not be as elegant as most of those you write about, but they are usually colorful in their own way. They seem to embrace death. Even here in South Texas the Hispanics take very good care of their graves generally and decorate them with colorful plastic flowers and other items. Also, if someone dies in an accident by the side of the road, a cross will be put up and it will be decorated as if it were a real grave.


  3. Morning Glory says:

    NOT a fan. While the animation is creatively done, I’m increasingly pissed off at people who refuse to recognize the concept of (in this case) “sacred ground” or Personal Space. They feel like their creative urges trump anyone else’s feelings, and Boundaries are just things to be broken. Cemeteries are meant to be “resting places” of the dead, “hallowed ground” where friends and family may return to reflect and/or mourn their loved ones. They were never meant to be used as amusement parks or whimsical canvases for animators trying to generate “buzz.”

    I’d have no problems with this if it was presented as a “set piece” (i.e., a set was actually constructed as the backdrop); it’s whimsical and provocative. I take offense to the flagrant disregard of this REAL cemeteries history, the trivialization of Death without reference to the setting, the lack of respect shown to those whose graves were used (most likely) without permission, and the general thoughtlessness shown by many artistes who set up shop on public lands to basically yell “LOOK AT ME!” I love art, but when I do come across this kind of insensitive offering, I walk the other way — I refuse to feed the narcissist beast.

    I get the Day of the Dead stuff: culturally, it’s a world away from American’s general beliefs and customs, and those who wish to celebrate it as such are welcome to do so. But Context and Timing generally dictate when and where those displays happen. If this happened to the grave of one of my loved ones? Let’s just say the animators would think twice before casually setting up again, and begin to believe in the “dark side” of hauntings …


  4. The entire purpose of a cemetery is to remember, at least in Europe and North America. It is a place for retrospection and ultimately quiet, a space for thoughts and inner monologue. Graveyards are “grave”, mostly sad and sombre.
    Latin American cultures differ considerably there. Here death is celebrated, a funeral can even be a funny event. The dead are still very much part of daily life. Death is colourful.
    I find the thought of graveyards being so very different according to the nature and belief of the people buried there wonderful, because it makes it personal.
    And what could be more personal than death?


    • Loren Rhoads says:

      Wonderfully put. Part of what draws me to graveyards is that they are all so different: the graveyards of Italy are not like the graveyards of Japan.

      The sticking point, for me, is that it means one thing when families decorate their own family graves for Day of the Dead and another when an artists collective comes in and does it. If the families gave permission, I would be impressed by their generosity. Since I don’t know, I wonder if liberty was taken. I’ve got no problem if artists decorate their own family graves — in fact, I’d love that — but there’s no evidence that these artists belong to these graves. The decoration doesn’t seem personalized at all.


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