Steve Pyke | Los Muertos | Intro
I had heard about the mummies of Guanajuato in Mexico, mummified cholera victims from the 1830’s. The reason for the condition of the corpses was said to be minerals found in the soil locally. The bodies were of men, women and young children, including one stillborn fetus. I had seen photographs but wasn’t prepared for the initial encounter… Walking into the small dark museum I saw rows of glass specimen cases containing atrophied yet completely mummified figures. Some were arched over as if in death throes, whilst others seemed at peace and holding books. Others I saw were standing as if soldiers on sentry duty. There was the faint, musty smell of mothballs in the room. It felt like a church in there, but with a frozen congregation. I felt a hushed reverence to these figures. I’m sure they would have been recognizable if I had been able to see photographs of what they looked like when alive, but when these people died photography was only just being invented.
“I might even show you my photograph album. You might even see a face in it which might remind you of your own, of what you once were. You might see faces of others, in shadow, or cheeks of others, turning, or jaws, or backs of necks, or eyes, dark under hats, which remind you of others, whom you once knew, whom you thought long dead, but from whom you will still receive a sidelong glance, if you can face the good ghost. Allow the love of the good ghost. They possess all that emotion… trapped. Bow to it. It will assuredly never release them, but who knows… what relief… it may give to them… who knows how they may quicken… in their chains, in their glass jars. You think it cruel… to quicken them, when they are fixed, imprisoned? No…no. Deeply, deeply, they wish to respond to your touch, to your look, and when you smile, their joy… is unbounded. And so I say to you, tender the dead, as you yourself would be tendered, now, in what you would describe as your life.”
-Harold Pinter, ‘No Man’s Land’
*requested by Pinter to be spoken at his funeral