Exhibition: Proof of Life

What do we leave behind?
Bodies and belongings

Memories and mementos
Evidence of who we were

PROOF OF LIFE was the name of a pop-up exhibition in Clerkenwell, London in October 2015 that explored the themes of love and loss, grief and memory through the work of London artists and designers. It was the memorial I actually wanted to give my mother.

– Grief Curator Charlene C Lam


Featured Work

Curator Charlene Lam and her work Evidence of My Mother, 2015. Inspired by the long process of emptying her mother’s house after her death.

The mini plinths displayed carefully chosen belongings that had become both artifacts and keys to unlocking stories. Visitors could ask questions about the objects and serendipitously, often provide insight into or share their own associations with the objects on display.

A repaired jade bracelet, found amongst the belongings of the artist’s mother.
A visitor who is also a jeweler, offering insight into the repaired jade bracelet.



Cross-Stitch Skull

Always on My Mind, 2015. Cross-stitch by Phil Davison.

Trained as a couture pattern-cutter, Phil Davison comes by his fascination with skulls honestly, having worked in a mortuary in his youth. Each artwork can take over 7 months and tens of thousands of hand stitches to complete. He’s the founder of Urban Cross Stitch and author of Twisted Stitches: 30 Corrupt Cross Stitch and Embroidery Designs.



Embroidered Portrait

Fond Memories, 2014. Hand-embroidered portrait by Emily Jo Gibbs

Emily Jo Gibbs is a British Artist who over the last two decades has established an international reputation for her exquisite textile-based work. Examples of her work are in several museum collections including the V&A, London and The Museum of Fine Art, Houston.


Visitor Contributions

Visitors were also invited to add to the exhibition, by temporarily lending objects they had kept that once belonged to a loved one.


Silvia shared some of her mother Gisela’s belongings.





About the Exhibition

The Proof of Life exhibition was the starting point for this online Grief Gallery and ongoing grief-related exhibitions and installations. I’m so grateful for the people who helped make it happen and the visitors who responded so warmly.

Here was the introductory text to the exhibition, including an explanation of the name:

In the beginning, everyone wants proof of death.
How did she die? When did he die?
How could this happen?
Is she really gone?

There are forms to fill out
Paperwork to complete
Obituaries to write
Questions to attempt to answer

Later, sometimes much later
After the forms have been filed
The piles of paper have diminished
Our focus turns to proof of life

We remember not how the person died
But how they lived
Not the beginning and end dates of a life
But the dash between

This is where we celebrate PROOF OF LIFE

What do we leave behind?
Bodies and belongings
Memories and mementos
Evidence of who we were

Charlene Lam, curator. London, 2015


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