Art + Mortality

Dates + times

19 September 2014
Sir Roland Wilson Building
Australian National University
9.30 am – 5.00 pm
Followed by a public film screening of Tender (2013, 75 min), with Lynette Wallworth, Kath Shelper

20 September
James O Fairfax Theatre
National Gallery of Australia
10.00 am – 4.45 pm
(Registration from 9.30 am)
Followed by a public film screening of Amour (2012, 127 min, M, DVD)


The symposium is free but bookings are essential. Please note that the registrations for each day are separate.


Art and Mortality has been organised by the ANU School of Art Centre for Art History and Art Theory in conjunction with the National Gallery of Australia.

The conference is partnered by the National Gallery of Australia and funded by the ANU Research School of Humanities, and the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences


General information +61 2 6240 6411
For visitors with mobility difficulties
+61 2 6240 6411 email contact

General information Sir Roland Wilson Building: Emma Arnold +61 2 612 56674
Email contact re day one symposium:

Overview | Program | Additional Speakers

Death is one of the enduring themes in the arts, engaging visual artists working in all media. How do their works of art, from the past and present, relate to contemporary concerns about dying and death?

This two day symposium brings together leading art historians, curators and artists to discuss ideas associated with mortality and the visual arts. Topics to be addressed include: the symbolism of death, death and anatomy, death masks, photography and the limits of representation, the scene of death, and ethical and social issues. On the second day of the conference there is a special focus on works in the National Gallery's collection and a viewing of the exhibition Arthur Boyd: Agony and Ecstasy. Films are also included in the conference program.

eX de Medici Blue (Bower/Bauer) 1998-2000 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2004 © eX de Medici.
More information


Conference Convenor:

Professor Helen Ennis, Sir William Dobell Chair of Art History, Director of the Centre for Art History and Art Theory, ANU School of Art. 

Keynote speakers:

Professor Helen Ennis, Sir William Dobell Chair of Art History, Director of the Centre for Art History and Art Theory, ANU School of Art.

Dr Chris Townsend Withdrawn due to unforseen circumstances.

Anne Noble is Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts (Photography) at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand. In her presentation she will consider the importance of imagining and representing death and the ethical issues that this raises.


Tender (2013) 75 min. Australia.
Director: Lynnette Wallworth. Producer: Kath Shelper.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the industrial seaside town of Port Kembla, a feisty and resilient community group have determined to take back the responsibility that most of us leave to someone else - to care for their own dead. Scattered throughout are stories that cut to the core revealing why this small band have decided to take on a practice that for most is taboo. As their plans for community-based funerals gather momentum one of their own is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Tender is at once a heartbreakingly beautiful and beautifully funny glimpse of an extraordinary community taking on one of the most essential challenges of human life ... its end.

Amour (2012) 127 min, France.
Director and Screenplay: Michael Haneke. 
Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.