opening space: conversations about death and dying, 2015–ongoing, Performative participatory installation with images, texts, personal artifacts, and re-created 1944 Kahler School of Nursing uniform. Uniform made in collaboration with Bill Makela. Photo: Jamie DiSarno.
Image Description: Joan Giroux’s performance opening space: conversations about death and dying. Giroux is on the right in an all-white, 1950s-inspired nursing outfit, anointing Natalie Fleming with oil on her wrist using a cotton ball. On a white, cloth-covered table to Giroux’s right are a variety of objects used during the performance including a lit, white candle stick in a holder, a bowl of cotton balls, and incense. On the green wall angled to the right behind Giroux and Fleming, is Molly Alloy’s Resting Place (Appendix, Fallopian Tubes, Uterus, Ovaries, Cervix).
Part of Joan Giroux’s current series life review, opening space: conversations about death and dying is a performance that engages audiences with discussions about death, dying, debility, and end-of-life. This body of work—life review—came about after Giroux spent a sabbatical training and volunteering in hospice care, as well as her own memories of her mother, a geriatric and hospice nurse.
Joan Giroux (b. 1961) is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and educator, who teaches at Columbia College Chicago. In her work, Giroux translates aspects of care-giving in domestic and institutional settings to frame reflections on diminishment, frailty, vulnerability, loss, and death. She performed “Dear Matthew” in the We’re Still Here: HIV/AIDS Then & Now event at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, as a reprise of life review, first presented in JRV Majesty Productions 2015 QUEER, ILL + OKAY performance series. Giroux has performed and exhibited in the United States and abroad, in venues such as the MCA Chicago, Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Ace Gallery and Artist’s Space in New York, Amerika Haus Berlin, and Künstlerhaus Hamburg. Giroux has received a Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation studio residency, Pollock-Krasner and Berlin Cultural Council grants, and commissions from Illinois’ Morton Arboretum, the South Korean collective YATOO, and Lehniner Kulturinstitut, Germany.