Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead. Creative Section

Funerary Artefacts, Cemetery Souvenirs and Final Resting Places


  • Catherine Bell Australian Catholic University



urn, final resting place, floral foam


This photo essay discusses artworks that explore the commemorative dimensions of death through socially-engaged artistic processes, and the use of Oasis® floral foam—an ephemeral material that is integral to making flower arrangements that venerate the cycles of life and the celebratory milestones between birth and death. It examines the material’s uncanny corporeal associations when it is formed into vessels, and the ways in which the foam may be seen to transform meaning into materiality. It reflects on how the exhibition of cremated remains of Roman Londoners with associated funerary vessels, titled Roman Dead, at the Museum of London Docklands, informed a series of miniature foam gravestones adorned with custom-designed vessels created on site at East London’s Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, and a series of art workshops in hospice settings with palliative care staff, which were designed to promote meaningful reflection and healthy discussion about death and dying.

Author Biography

Catherine Bell, Australian Catholic University

Associate Professor Catherine Bell is a multi-disciplinary artist and academic teaching visual art in the Faculty of Education and Arts, Australian Catholic University. Her art practice explores the role of the artist in the archive and healthcare setting, art on the margins, socially-engaged and relational approaches to art making, feminist and care ethics in collaborative practice and challenging taboos surrounding death and dying. Recent artist residencies in the oncology ward at St Vincent’s Hospital and Caritas Christi Hospice in Melbourne involved implementing communal creativity with patients and staff to promote healthy and meaningful discussion on death and the dying. She is represented by Sutton Gallery, Melbourne. E-mail: 





Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead. Creative Section