Monday 18 August 2008

When Death is on the Cards

Continuing with our history of the world in postcards we come to some examples that deal in more macabre imagery. Only a minority of travellers feel the need to send postcard images of death to their loved ones at home but for those whose taste runs in this direction there is a surprisingly generous selection to choose from. This cheery image of a high-voltage device for the comfortably seated termination of human life could be just the thing for an errant offspring with a tendency to stray from the path of righteousness. The chair was last used in August 1963 at which point Andy Warhol began a series of paintings in which multiple images of the chair were silk-screened on to canvas in rich decorators’ colours.

The images of skulls and bones stacked high in crypts might have a salutary effect on the family hedonist and draw him or her back to a life of virtue and simplicity. The Hindu cremation serves as a timely reminder of human transience. The cards showing Indian Burial Grounds come from St. Augustine, Fla. (upper) and Salina, Kansas (lower). They remind us that postcards, like so much of the constant flow of images that passes through our field of vision, present us with anonymous human likenesses deprived of their personal histories and sometimes we must make the effort to recall that they are no less entitled than anyone else, to a sense of human dignity.

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