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Grief Cave


Photo credit: Meriam Metoui

Grief Cave is a sculptural, site-specific installation built entirely of recycled materials. It holds space for community grief, and is built in collaboration with participants, inviting them to share voice recordings or written memories and contribute their own objects which are then woven into the fabric of the cave itself.

Grief Cave was originally built in 2021 as a mobile piece in the back of a 15 foot truck which was driven to neighborhoods around Detroit where it invited participation from the surrounding community. Its second iteration in 2022 took place as a three month installation at Hatch Art Gallery.

The installations included large sculptural pieces created from recycled fabrics and liquid rubber, a water fountain, a soundscape created using ambient cave sounds and recordings from previous participants, a notebook and tape recorder for participants to contribute messages or stories, and a lantern which participants could use to explore the space and objects left behind by previous visitors.

Visitors were invited to bring small items representative of something they're processing. These contributions were worked into the body of the cave, so that each new iteration has more and more grief totems knit into the walls and stalactites/stalagmites. A calcification of a community’s grief into a space of comfort and growth.

Grief Cave was born of a realization that the modern U.S. has a dearth of grief rituals. There are exceptions, such as sitting shiva, but these are few and far between, nowhere near ubiquitous, and usually specific to familial death. 2020 brought an ambient, layered grief into the lives of most people, with very few cultural tools to handle it.

Enter: caves. They’re full of hopeful contradictions - formed by erosion, they come into existence via the dissolution of something. When you refer to a cave what you’re really referring to is the absence of something, what’s not there anymore. Creation via destruction! An apt metaphor for grief.


Here are a selection of progress photos from one portion of the installation at Hatch Art:

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