New Pictures: The Propeller Group, Reincarnations

Mia digs up the way we deal with death

A man playing a trumpet with fog in the background.
The living need light, the dead need music, the Propeller Group

photos courtesy of the propeller group

It was, in its odd way, very beautiful. Such are the rituals we use to surround mortality—probably the main factor in life itself that transcends culture. The Vietnam-based artist collective the Propeller Group brings the particular viewpoint of its culture to this multimedia show at Mia, but through an intriguing lens—marrying the very new with the very old in order to evoke the eternal. 

The exhibit revolves around Propeller’s recent film, The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, an intriguing 21-minute meditation on funeral traditions and rituals in Vietnam as well as the Global South (countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that have experienced great social, political, and economic upheaval). Combining documentary footage on death rituals with artistic and stylized reenactments, it’s a blend of artifice and authenticity that verges on the uncanny.

A girl laying in a boat in the middle of a swamp.

Along with the film, Propeller has delved into Mia’s collections of Asian, African, Classical, and Native American art to select items that resonate with its themes. About 30 pieces of art spanning some 4,000 years in silent conversation about this mortal coil will speak differently to each of us, while also touching a well of emotion that we all share. No matter what we think about what comes after the dimming of this particular light, it’s a transition that has underpinned our culture since the days of cave paintings, which here gets an examination that could only happen with Mia’s deep and varied collections.

New Pictures: The Propeller Group, Reincarnations
Through Sept. 10