Death Suits Me Fine with Paula Mahoney

These works were made in response to my father’s death. They use photography analogically to reveal the metaphysical presence of death in life. I perform dressing in my dead father’s suits backwards, striving to form an imagined embrace with my father, reaching across to him in death. Using my body in his suits, I try to simultaneously mimic him, and to merge my body with his lingering presence, so I can somehow – if only momentarily – inhabit his skin.


These photographs are interested in the intersection of death and life within the frame and revisiting the time of lamentation, considered the time between when the breath stops and rigour mortis occurs. This time, when the mourner acknowledges their mortality, is also an in-between time, an ambiguous time where the presence of death is heightened, and separation is difficult.


The wail of the mourner is lost particularly in Anglo based societies such as Australia, where culturally emotions are somewhat suppressed. Art though allows a space for the artist to say the unsayable, which is to produce lamentations that formulate different readings outside of Christian mythology. Where religion sees death as infinite, transcendence from the limits of mortality, in a largely secular society such as in Australia and most of the West, death is the ultimate limit. Rather than a notion of death as the infinite, this work argues for an understanding of finitude in the experience of death and lament, and an embracing of our limitations and mortality.