An invitation to participate in

A Celebratory Gathering

 LIVE from the Rowan Tree and the International Space Station*

Designed and facilitated by Michelle Atherton

A Borrowed Time event

Friday October 15 at 18.30 BST/UTC+1

How do we publicly acknowledge the lives of those no longer living, beyond the funeral and the obituary? In secular cultures how do we bestow significance on a life and mark the lives of the dead? If what is important about life is how it is lived, how do we collectively judge what is consequential, what counts, what really matters? Equally, how do we move away from anthropocentric views on the worth or value of the life of other species and other organisms?

In an attempt to address these questions I wish to invite you to a gathering that will bring together anyone who would like to celebrate, in their own way, friends, loved ones or anyone, any organism or anything no longer in existence and in so doing pay tribute to the full spectrum of life and matter. From the recently or long-since deceased to those that are now extinct, extinguished and forgotten, whether human or not. During the gathering participants can share their tribute through whatever form they wish, whether that be testimony, stories, song, tears, toasts, chanting, recipes, contestation, poetry, imagery or silence… 

Our aim is to create collectively an audible space for the dead to be with the living; to give participants a chance to celebrate the lives and impact of people or non-human life; to register those that might be overlooked or not considered significant.


This Celebratory Gathering is an attempt to acknowledge and explore different ways of paying tribute through celebratory ritual; to inhabit a time and space in a different way, to be with the dead and the undead; to re-examine how to hold public rituals and reimagine future ancestors. 

The gathering will take place via Zoom on Friday, October 15 at 18.30 GMT (which is around dusk). We encourage you to go with your phone to a special place that may be associated with those or that you are celebrating, rather than sitting at home in front of your computer. 

When you register you will receive the Zoom details. We may be able to invite a very small number of invited guests to attend in person (at the Dartington Hall estate). When you register please also state if you would like to be present in person should this be possible.

This Borrowed Time event is part of a project examining our relationships with transience, ecologies of burial and how decomposition is a generative, more-than-human process.

* Note from the team… We decided to ask Michelle about this sub-title because we weren’t quite sure what she meant. Here is what she said: “Re: why I reference the International Space Station – it is the idea of a different/another point of broadcast; refers to an international collective effort; to the technological within the frame of the event; looking back at the earth and out into space (which ecological has been important and is also complicated re: resources). Also both reference points coming from my mother, as Rowan’s were her favourite tree and she was captivated by the idea of traveling into space – of expanding experiences through facing what we do not know.”  So now you know, too.


About Michelle Atherton 

I am an artist, researcher and academic. My work considers particular moments or sets of conditions in our collective histories. I commonly use a remix aesthetic, incorporating sound, image, text, lighting effects and collaborative strategies to create fragmented narratives as hooks to explore our slippery perceptions of the world. The aim is look again at matters that seem settled, beyond question, but where inherent instability opens into other questions of material states, refusals, politics and new imaginaries. 

My work has been supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and shown throughout Europe in galleries, museums, festivals, conferences and via publication. Recent exhibitions include Spor Klübü, Berlin; Autonomy Middlesbrough Art Weekender, UK; Viborg Kunsthal Denmark; Kunstraum Gallery, Linz, Austria; Tatton Park Biennale UK; Kino Babylon, Berlin; Zeppelin Museum, Germany. I live in London and am a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, UK.

[Image (above) Rowan Tree by Eeno11 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons.wikimedia.org_w_index.php_curid=5029715]