October 20, 2008 / 12:34 PM / in 9 years

Rehearse your own funeral at Vienna art exhibit

VIENNA (Reuters Life!) - If you want to make sure everything goes to plan on your special day...then rehearse your own funeral in Vienna, with music, flowers and an audience.

<p>A woman practises her own funeral as part of an art installation "The Centre of Attention" in Vienna October 18, 2008. REUTERS/Pierre Coinde at The Centre of Attention</p>

Conceptual artists Gary O‘Dwyer and Pierre Coinde have been encouraging people in the Austrian capital to lie back on a white, elevated tomb-like platform in the city’s central Karlsplatz while they play a chosen funeral song.

Their art installation, which has passed through Frankfurt, Istanbul, Toronto and Venice, blends in well with Vienna, the home of elaborate funerals and with one of the world’s few museums dedicated to death.

“Some people are curious, some are horrified, like you have asked them to do something terrible,” O‘Dwyer said.

“But for us it is about remembering to live. It gives people the chance to make a statement through a song.”

Classical music is a popular choice in the home of Beethoven, while some people choose more tongue-in-cheek tracks like Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ or Falco’s ‘Rock me Amadeus,’ one of Austria’s few international pop hits.

Florian Wagner, 24, opts for Phantom/Ghost’s eerie song ‘Relax it’s Only a Ghost’ as he lies back on a red pillow in the sunshine next to a plinth decked with flowers.

Passers-by on their way to a nearby concert house stare quizzically at his inanimate body while others stand solemnly and watch the ceremony.

“It’s a way of relaxing, it is not macabre at all and gives you a chance to confront ideas about death, which is a good thing,” Wagner, dressed in black, said after hopping off the tomb platform with a smile.

People of different nationalities act in different ways, the artists said, with some older Italians a little shocked at what they are being asked to do.

“Some think it is like tempting God or tempting fate,” Coinde said. Some Austrians have wondered whether the exhibition is connected to the state funeral of Austrian rightist Joerg Haider who died in a high speed car crash on October 11.

“Yesterday a little girl came up to us afterwards in tears,” Coinde said. “If the song is upbeat, people can feel good about it, but if the music is sad, people can get very emotional about the experience.”

For more see: www.thecentreofattention.org/

Reporting by Sylvia Westall, editing by Paul Casciato

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