Death Matters
Tropenmuseum Amsterdam

Death Matters (in Dutch: De Dood Leeft) is a temporary exhibition showing how people worldwide deal with death. It consists of a route through several rooms which is roughly in synch with the different phases relatives experience after someone dies.
An artwork by Jan Fabre is placed at the entrance as a prologue. The exhibition continues in the black volume in the back.
Cotton walls

For this exhibition I designed a rectangular volume of approximately 35 by 15 meters. It is made with cotton and has a height of about 15 meters. By using cotton walls, it was possible to use the full height of the available space, but the cotton also refers to the role textile has in many practices related to death.
The entrance to the black volume shows a glimpse of the interior. An animation is projected on the black cotton, displaying the title of the exhibition.
The first space is a collage of movie clips from the news and TV series. It reminds the visitor how many times a day we are confronted with death, but in a very superficial way.
Grey tones

The black exterior of the volume separates the visitor from the rest of the museum and gives the exhibition a monumental but introverted character. The spaces within the volume are created with curved walls. Because of subtle variation in grey tones every room has different spatial qualities, adjusted to the different themes.
The purpose of the second room is to challenge the visitor with the fact we all will die. Five duo-portraits, by Walter Schels, show five people before and after passing away.
In this room the visitor is immersed in preparations for an Ashanti funeral in Ghana.
Comparing and Immersing

The museum asked us to make several rooms where the visitor is immersed in one culture, but during the design process i conceived the idea to give the visitor a lot of opportunities to compare, because a lot of themes related to death are very universal.
The exhibition is setup with a combination of collection, audio, movie clips, installations, pictures and texts. Here you see a installation and a movie in the Ashanti room.
In this room the visitor is immersed in a cremation ceremony in Bali, Indonesia.

Light plays an important role in the design of the exhibition to manipulate the spaces. For this exhibition I collaborated with several light designers.
In every room visitors can see where the route continues which arouses the expectations.
Personal stories

The exhibition consist of several layers, making the exhibition interesting for people who want to stay for hours, but also for visitors who only walk by. The rooms are filled with objects, photographs, films, and audio points in which personal stories play an important role. Visitors can emphasize with the stories and think about how they would deal with death themselves.
This room represents the hereafter and includes personal stories about where people think they will go after they will pass away.
A variety of burial gifts are displayed in a showcase in the floor.
The idea was to make the room which presents the hereafter the most light one of them all. However some collection pieces could not be exposed to even the low light level of the other spaces. Because of that i designed a installation of full-size reproductions with scaled details.
This room displays the places to commemorate and includes a collection of gravestones from all over the world.
Project details

In employment at: Kossmann.dejong
Client: Tropenmuseum Amsterdam
Contractor: Kloosterboer Decor
Light design: Reinier Tweebeeke / Cue1
Completed: 2011

Death Matters

Death Matters

Death Matters is a temporary exhibition showing how people worldwide deal with death. It consists of a route through several rooms which is rough Read More