After the End | Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk

Memorial art works are notoriously difficult to pull off. Yet Candy Chang and James A. Reeves, two New York artists who have created similar installations in the past, hit just the right tone with After the End, a participatory work in the Historic Chapel at Green-Wood Cemetery.

—The New York Times

As one of the first garden cemeteries in America, Green-Wood Cemetery offers a contemplative respite for urban residents to commune with nature and restore perspective. After the End is a public art installation in Green-Wood’s Historic Chapel dedicated to contemplating loss in all forms—the loss of loved ones, relationships, health, and worlds we once knew—as well as the practices that have helped us endure.

Candy Chang and James A. Reeves invite visitors to anonymously share their experience on a scroll and place it upon an illuminated altar. Lit from within, each response takes the form of a devotional candle, and together they create an evolving field of light. An ever-growing cycle of projected reflections encourages visitors to contemplate the experiences of others as well as their own as they sit in the chapel’s apse, a rarefied space oriented towards the greater community. Set to an original score by Stephen Baker, the installation considers how we weather the difficult transitions in our lives.

Inspired by the role of light in religious ceremonies and the visions of science fiction, After the End offers a refuge that reminds us we are not alone as we mourn the end of one reality and enter the next.

Over 3,000 letters have been written about loss. Visitors have also shared the rituals and practices that provide comfort: I swim laps like he did… I eventually forgave you and now I feel lighter… The grief comes in and out like radio static… I am in recovery. I will find my way back… Trees comfort me. Faith exists in these hills… I bought a turntable and began to go through my father’s record collection, his musical legacy… I wish I had appreciated her more when she was still alive… Why did I let you go?… Every year we light candles for each of them… I’m more honest with myself than I used to be… I’ve committed to helping others who are affected by the very thing that took you from me… No matter how painful, I found myself during this time… We all need a little mercy now.

After the End is curated by Harry Weil, Green-Wood’s Director of Public Programs. Original score by Stephen Baker. Acoustic design by Connor Whiriskey. Video assistance by Rooftop Films. Fabrication assistance by KLN Studio, Frank Morelli, William Rivera, Pelegrin Rosario, Alex Hernandez, and Joseph Cubero. Archival assistance from Nadia Delisfort. This installation is supported with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Photos by Walter Wlodarczyk.