Death Becomes Her: Only Remains Remain

A contemporary tragedy by Freya Powell, elegizing the unmarked mass graves of migrants in Texas as told through the characters of the Greek tragedy Antigone.


SAT, APR 11, 2020 | 2-3PM




The Green-Wood Cemetery
500 25th St
The Green-Wood Cemetery
Brooklyn, NY 11232
United States
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Freya Powell, Only Remains Remain (work in progress), 2020

Only Remains Remain is an immersive, 45-minute performance by Freya Powell addressing a contemporary tragedy through the characters of Antigone. The performance uses the structure of a Sophoclean chorus to communicate an elegy for the hundreds of unidentified migrants that were buried in mass graves in Sacred Heart Cemetery in Brooks County, Texas. The county buried these individuals, whose bodies were found on nearby farms, without following traditional burial standards, in mass graves that bear no names. In 2013, forensic anthropologist Dr. Lori Baker started to exhume the remains and ascertain, through DNA testing, the identities of the deceased. Baker and her team worked tirelessly to return the bodies to their families and offer a sense of closure, echoing the heroic Antigone defying the state to honorably bury her brother. Through an ensemble of 15 performers the piece explores the mournful potential of the voice utilizing pitch, intonation, breath, movement, and silence. The chorus of women seeks to recognize the lives of those laid to rest as unknowns by addressing the silence of their burial and our complicity and grief in the process.

Freya Powell uses time-based and linguistic platforms to explore language and its relationship to memory, myth, and history. She was recently awarded a development residency in the VW Dome at MoMA PS1 and a New Work Grant from the Queens Council on the Arts (2019). Her work has had solo exhibition at Art in General, Brooklyn; Herron School of Art, Indianapolis, IN; and Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Project Space, Queens Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, Bronx Museum, all NY; and #1 Cartagena: the First International Biennale of Art, Cartagena de India, Colombia; among others.

Death Becomes Her is a group exhibition on view at BRIC in the Main Gallery, co-curated and in partnership with The Green-Wood Cemetery. The exhibition features ten artists—Mimi Bai, Kim BrandtNona Faustine, Rachel Grobstein, Gyun Hur, McKendree Key*Heidi Lau, Catalina Ouyang, Freya Powell*, and Keisha Scarville—exploring how death and the grieving process impact the living.

These ten female-identifying artists examine loss as a catalyst for self-discovery, its cultural and social associations, and the politics of death and dying. They are inspired by personal traumas, ancient myths, and historic injustices. Through their use of objects and tropes commonly associated with death (such as gravestones, flowers, and shrouds), the artists also expand the visual rhetoric of how the departed are remembered.

The centerpiece of this collaboration is an unusual activation of BRIC’s Main Gallery. The typically open-air space will be transformed into a tomb-like environment with atmospheric lighting and an intimate enclosure intended to facilitate a deeper engagement with the audience. The works on view are introspective and deeply personal, drawing our attention to the universally inevitable concept of death.

*Death Becomes Her will be accompanied by a series of public programs that, like the exhibition, encourage unconventional conversation and personal inquiry around death. Two of the featured artists, McKendree Key and Freya Powell, will present performance art pieces at Green-Wood in lieu of exhibiting work at BRIC. 5 x 10 @ The Catacombs is a special edition of McKendree Key's ongoing performance project that will present three intimate gatherings in the Catacombs of Green-Wood, bringing strangers together in an artist-led discussion about death, dying, and the hereafter. Freya Powell’s immersive performance project, Only Remains Remain, draws from the Greek tragedy Antigone to create an elegy for the hundreds of unidentified migrants buried in mass graves in Sacred Heart Cemetery in Brooks County, Texas.

For more information on tours of this exhibition for school groups, please visit our BRIC House Tours page.

Sponsored by a Humanities New York Vision/Action Grant.

Only Remains Remain was developed through the VW Dome Artist Residency at MoMA PS1, New York and is made possible, in part, by Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Venue Information:

Founded in 1838 and now a National Historic Landmark, Green-Wood was one of the first rural cemeteries in America. Spread across 478 spectacular acres of hills, valleys, glacial ponds and paths, the Cemetery boasts  one of the largest outdoor collections of 19th- and 20th-century statuary and mausoleums. Throughout the year, visitors are welcomed to explore Green-Wood through art installations, concerts, book readings, outdoor film screenings, death education programs, and  tours. 

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