My language is vibrant color and line.

VELORITO or: "Altar for the Piece of Art that did not Make it"

VELORITO is the minimization of the Spanish word "velorio" which means "event, amusement in the evening" however also "burial". A VELORITO is consequently a "little ritual of grieving".

Some Basic Thoughts

What does keep people apart? The fear of loss - and: the denying of loss and sorrow. If ever experienced, many people tend to deny loss and consequently do not mourn it neither. They assume that as a result of this attitude they will become immune to further losses (although deeply inside they are aware that this never works out). What are the alternatives? To acknowledge loss as a real possibility - which however must not automatically take place.

I believe that if one denies something (such as loss) in some way, it tends to forcefully come into existence.

Installation & Happening

VELORITO is a spontaneous happening, a short-termed arranged meeting of people in the public space to jointly express sorrow over loss and/or failure.

Place unpretentious, downtown; places which invite people to pass by casually: p. ex. on a sidewalk; in no case: places that immediately invoke the aura of "art"
Dimension site-specific, variably
Object context-specific, variably (see "protagonists" and "possible object of mourning")
Material cloth, candles as used on graves, images or symbols representing the object of mourning, flowers; in short: everything that classically can be found on a cemetery or grave; personal statements regarding the object of mourning
Protagonists people who experienced comparable losses or failures and therefore have a common object of mourning
Interaction: with pedestrians; symbolic expansion from the specific object of mourning towards the activity of mourning in general: mourning as an activity that brings people together.
Time frame happening; time for interaction between protagonists and pedestrians; after that the installation can simply be left intact in order to remind for yet some time of the event

Parallels - Human Mourning in Public Space

9-11 Altars

Shortly after the events of September 11, 2001 little "altars" appeared spontaneously at different locations all over New York City. They were a public expression of mourning, recalling memories of friends or relatives that were missed in the events. At the same time these altars often were an manifestation of sympathy: persons who had not lost anybody could relate or even interact. Examples (1)

This model of public mourning is very unusual for my cultural context (Germany). Here mourning takes place almost exclusively on the cemetery, and also there only in very strict and regimented ways. Hardly ever feelings of mourning are shown, to the contrary, it is often explicitly requested to avoid "Beileidsbekundungen" (expressions of sorrow and sympathy).

In the Caribbean I once experienced an entirely different burial. Partially I found its loud and vehement expression of pain very shocking. But maybe the way things are done over here, just burying everything inside oneself, is just worse.


" Marterl" is a slightly different German phenomenon, locally restricted to Bavaria. They are small installations made in remembrance of relatives that lost their lives through accident or misfortune. The place of the misfortune becomes the place of mourning and remembering and the passerby is invited to share the loss. Examples (2)

Thomas Hirschhorn

Thomas Hirschhorn repeatedly constructed "newsstands" or "altars" for those artists who deeply influenced him and his work. These installations are documented in detail.

Thomas Hirschhorn's installations however mainly address the issue of remembrance, and are less an expression of mourning.

Aims & Results

VELORITO: Public Mourning as an Element of Connection - Enrichment - Liberation


VELORITO serves as ritual that builds community and solidarity by publicly and jointly showing sorrow, pain and failure and thus feel connected with others: who is ever free of loss or failure?

Sharing & Enrichment

Today for most people the idea of sharing invokes that I give away something of the things I own. And as everybody only hold money and success, the action of sharing is connected with the experience of material impoverishment.

If one admitted that also loss and failure are part of the human experience and thus also included in the idea of sharing, sharing everything would thus alleviate one's burden as the weight of melancholy, pain or feelings of failure would become distributed over many shoulders. Joint mourning consequently frees and brings the individual at ease, for we can let go of pain.

Maybe the sharing of pain and sorrow is intriguedly connected to the sharing of prosperity: if someone is unable to do one thing, maybe also the other one cannot happen?


Expressing and admitting those things that we usually hide and suppress liberates blocked parts of our personal power. If we mourn something publicly we subsequently can release it, and only then the wound can heal.

Many people are caught for decades in a sorrow they buried within themselves. P. ex. there has never been real possibility for soldiers to express the psychic pain they took home from war.

Pain and sorrow that are suppressed in this way notably disturb normal human sensibility, people become "different", and whenever one asks the only answer is silence. That is a very sad situation.

Possible Objects of Mourning

There are no limits to possible objects of mourning. There are really tough ones (see above, psychic pain from warfare), but maybe it is a good idea to start out light-heartedly with funny ones:

"Pieces of Art that did not make it"

Almost every artist knows them: those works regarded as unsuccessful, leaning against the studio wall and occasionally even considered for destruction. Usually they survive and at some point gain a certain relevance regarding the entire body of work, although strictly speaking they are fiascos. As times goes by a subtle solidarity develops, for they have been there for so long.

"Pieces of Art that did not make it" represent one component of the entire body of work of an artist, just the way sorrow is just one component of the general emotional outlook of a person, however not the only one. The point is not to present oneself as an unsuccessful artist, but rather to say something like: "Hey, everything works fine for me and I am satisfied - however even with me some artworks did not work out." Failure is something very human - and therefore such a wonderfully element of interconnection.

...or: "Love stories that did not work out"

How about an alternative object of mourning, a round of VELORITO for all those lovers, with whom it did not work out? Oh yes, perhaps one should take a closer look at that tight, sad feeling of "not being loved" (which is always a very subjective issue). Usually one keeps it to oneself - so perhaps it would be very freeing to observe it jointly!

With an altar full of little Polaroids of all the guys and girls with who it did not work out. Could even be quite funny...

or quite generally: "failures"

Early in April 06 an article appeared in the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

"The social scientific and journalist Jan Philipp Reemtsma once described what it means to loose: "Defeats are intolerable. A business bankrupt, a foot stuck at the crossbar, a catcall on stage, being thrashed out of the ring, defeated in love, all that makes one want to roar with pain..."

(The article's general topic was Oliver Kahn. And that Lehmann was nominated keeper in the 06 World Championships.)

Usually all that pain becomes vehemently locked away. Everybody is always only showing his/her successes, brushes everything else under the carpet... and gradually feels very alone and powerless.


VELORITO is a work of art that can be experienced only by doing and that ideally obliterates the divide between player and public. The spectator should and must be included in the artistic action so that art and daily life can merge.

VELORITO is a concept, a collection of attitudes, definitions and rules, out of which I intentionally created a quite open draft whose final format always will strongly depend on the participants. Explicitly VELORITO is not bound to me as the exclusive performer.

VELORITO is open source, with the same rules applicable as to software: the work exists in readable and intelligible format, it may be copied, passed on and used, it may be modified as desired, and may also be passed on in modified form- however, I'd really appreciate some feed-back

My language is vibrant color and line. by Karin Ulrike Soika
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