The Art of Dying

From Orion Magazine:

Chicago I’M LYING ON MY BACK on the concrete in the heart of Chicago. Chaos whirs around me, so I try to focus, to let the warm light streaming down through the geometry of steel and glass become what it is, a prayer of forgiveness. But this only partly works. We need a lot of forgiveness these days. And I’m distracted—by the abrupt carbonic hiss of a bus pulling out into traffic and the sudden rat-a-tat-tat of a jackhammer breaking up a sidewalk somewhere. It sounds close.

My feet are a few inches away from the feet of the Flamingo, a four-story-high Alexander Calder sculpture in the middle of Federal Plaza. It has always looked like a big chicken to me, as if it should be titled Big Red Chicken Stalks Inner City. Since I have covered myself with a white sheet and am pretending to be dead, I can’t see the red chicken. But I imagine it looming over me, coming to life, pecking at my soft flesh and at the other bodies lying around me. Given the tenor of the moment—pretending to be dead and all—I should be more serious, but the chicken keeps scratching around in my brain.

I dream of the president making an emergency announcement on nationwide television that the Calder chicken and the equally worrisome Picasso sculpture in the Daley Plaza are terrorist robots that are electronically connected to a Henry Moore sculpture in the Art Institute of Chicago. Reportedly planted long ago by a sleeper cell of starving artists, they can be simultaneously activated at any moment. “We are all vulnerable to such attacks,” the president might say. “The enemy is everywhere. Even in modern art.”

But here’s the thing: this daydream is no more absurd than the war itself, or than I am, lying here wrapped in a sheet in the middle of a huge city on a busy workday, just a few feet from the honking congestion of Dearborn and Adams streets.

The die-in is an art installation. The organizers are artists.

More here.