100,000 miniature porcelain skulls make worlds first ‘Skull Carpet’

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Credit: Nino Sarabutra

Skull Carpet by artist Nino Sarabutra.

Here’s some good news: scientists believe we’re in the midst of a huge extinction event. A few finer elements of this bleak story add to the sad factor. While the dinosaurs got away with getting whacked by an extraterrestrial rock, we get to contemplate the extinction of our species and life as we know it, safe in the knowledge that it’s all our fault. Everyone has to deal with the idea that they will die at some point, but this revelation adds to the misery by putting us in the position of being responsible for the deaths of many other creatures, as well as the possibility that mankind as a whole may not live long after us.

Credit: Nino Sarabutra
Credit: Nino Sarabutra

Despite the fact that scientists claim the extinction event is speeding up, it is still too sluggish for us to run out the clock with a drunken end-of-the-world Bacchanalia. Instead, perhaps we might use the time to do some introspection. What Will You Leave Behind?, a Bangkok artist Nino Sarabutra’s installation, is centred on this question. The piece was most recently placed at the Palazzo Grimani Museum in Venice, Italy, according to her website.

The sculpture consists of over 100,000 small porcelain skulls that blanket the exhibition space’s floor. The work plainly owes a homage to Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds, which was shown at the Tate in 2012, yet it does not take away from its allure. Visitors must walk on these skulls as they pass through the room, a message that every step you take brings you one step closer to Death. So although Weiwei had to withdraw the offer to walk on the porcelain seeds (due to toxic manganese dust that rose from the work), visitors here must walk on these skulls as they pass through the room. Nino Sarabutra states:

“I want people to ask themselves how they live, what they are doing— if today was your last on earth, what will you leave behind?”

Nino Sarabutra
Nino Sarabutra

“I don’t see the skulls as images of fear or sadness. They are liberating: look at all of the opportunities, all the lives you could live, how serious your life is. Then go out and make the most of it.”

Nino Sarabutra