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Afterlife
2009
The Afterlife project is intended to instigate a metaphysical dialogue, examining the cultural shift from belief systems upheld by organised religion to the more factual basis of science and technology.
The project proposes the harnessing of our chemical potential after biological death through the application of a microbial fuel cell, harvesting its electrical potential in a dry cell battery. Here, technology acts to provide conclusive proof of life after death, life being contained in the battery


There are many perspectives and beliefs on what happens to us after our lives in this planet come to an end.
When faced with our own mortality or that of a loved one,
notions of what the afterlife may hold; whether it be in a spirit world such as heaven or reincarnated into another body or form, spiritual faith can offer great comfort and reassurance.
Science and reason though have started to undermine these traditional belief systems as we strive to find logic and meaning in our existence.
This scientific research has yet to offer any tangible proof of continued existence, after death.
So in terms of comfort and reassurance what then is there for the grieving atheist?
Technology has had its attempt at creating life after death with cryonics - freezing the body of the recently deceased in the hope of later restoring it to life with the help of future technological advances. But as religion demands unquestioned faith in its believers, cryonics demands a similar faith in the progression of technology.
With this in mind, Afterlife offers a technologically mediated service providing a tangible expression of life after death.
13.7 billion years before the Earth existed, the blue print and elemental makeup for this planet and all its contents were formed. The big bang is widely accepted as the event responsible for the creation of everything - The universe, its stars, it’s planets; it’s trees, animals, silicon, I-pods and humanity. Nothing, including the human body, exists that cannot be created from these basic building blocks.
Under normal circumstances after death, the human body would be assimilated back into this natural system.
The Afterlife device intervenes during this process to harness the chemical potential and convert it into usable electrical energy via a microbial fuel cell - a device that uses an electrochemical reaction to generate electricity from organic matter.

This electricity is contained within a familiar dry cell battery.

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  • Engraved Afterlife battery

  • Afterlife coffin

  • Afterlife coffin schematic

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The afterlife battery can be used to run a range of memorial products chosen to suit the needs of the individual. Utilization of the battery in a meaningful product offers both psychological and emotional benefit. Where to put the battery is an extremely personal and emotive choice. A torch provides a poignant output for the
battery, light already being associated with security and comfort. The person’s energy once converted into a beam of light can continue for eternity
One might choose to rarely use the product, preserving the potential energy for special moments such as birthdays or anniversaries.
The Afterlife batteries of couples could be combined to provide double the power or amp-hours and also suggesting an ongoing co-existence after death.
Afterlife offers a contemporary and scientifically validated service that acknowledges ourselves as chemical entities providing perhaps the only genuine guarantee of life after death.

Phase II of the project took place in 2009. We asked 15 people to propose what they would do with an afterlife battery charged either by themselves or their partner/family. (More of these to come)

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  • Matt Karau

    My basic idea stems from the deceased (myself) being an attention seeking and needy individual in life, so it follows that death should not pry his grip from the ones around him. He must be remembered by providing a useful battery for his loved ones, but one battery isn’t enough. To be remembered only twice more – when the battery is installed and when the battery dies – simply will not suffice. He wants to die many times so that his loved ones will recall, each time, how much they miss him.
    The deceased requests that a series of cells are manufactured, each with a random volume of electrolyte, so that the user of the cell never knows how long it will last. One may last a month, another a year. The deceased then, in death, continues to get the attention they so desired in life.
    The exact devices in which the cells are to be used are not specified by the deceased. Though, he does request they be used in devices that are used by his loved ones to perform banal but vital tasks in their lives. (e.g. hearing aid, pacemaker, bike lights, garage-door opener, etc.)

  • Tom O’Brien

    Why a remote controlled aeroplane? Why a Spitfire MK1?
    I don’t feel the need to be remembered as an object. I’d like my energy to create an act. Since a child flying has fascinated me, not sure why, just does. I have always wanted to fly but have never completely felt at ease enough to think I could manage it without killing myself. I still intend to fly myself in one way or another but just in case I don’t this will ensure it.
    Very rarely man creates an object that connects with the human soul, anyone who has witnessed a Spitfire and especially the MK1 in flight will have felt that connection. It looks, sounds, functions and is just ‘right’, it is perfect. The curve of the wings, it’s proportions, it’s functionality, it was also fitted with the Rolls Royce Merlin which without exception, before, after or at anytime in the future is the greatest four stroke engine ever produced.

  • Louisa Loizeau

    As our marriage trundles along at a reassuring pace, one notices that one’s approach to different aspects of it change giving it the glue and binding that hold it all together.
    Raw or sensitive subjects once treated tentatively with great seriousness, instead become treated with blunt no frills statements, perhaps due to the kids and diminishing time alone together or due to a temporary failure of the sensitivity radar.
    For example: when in the passionate throws of lovemaking at the beginning of a relationship, my reaction to a comment such as “darling your breath is terrible” could have been:
    A. An immediate extinguishing of the relationship.
    B. Hurt that could be mended with great difficulty.
    C. A self assured right hook, ensuring that any future comment regarding breath to be considered more carefully.
    However after 10 years of marriage one takes the occasional comment of “…your breath…perhaps you should brush your teeth” with mock horror, laughingly taken, with another kiss dispatched as punishment.
    I therefore feel it appropriate that on the passing away of my beloved Jimmy, the only place he be would truly happy, (being a man of action) would be in my mouth busily keeping my teeth and breath fresh as a daisy morning, noon and night in a high quality electric toothbrush.

  • Tony Dunne & Fiona Raby

    We’d use our battery for a euthanasia machine.
    As we are a couple, once one goes, we’re not sure how long the other one would be able to hang on. So, if it’s all too much, we could use the energy from the first one to go, to help the second one on their way. I’m not sure if it would be a form of conceptual murder or not, but definitely an ‘assisted’ suicide.
    Ideally we’d like to propose an object based on an existing machine, it would foreground the battery, which would be inscribed and silver-plated. We would probably replace the usual questions the machine asks you to check your state-of-mind with something more personal.
    We imagine you would set it up on a small table by your bed or a chair, insert the battery, put the mask on, then after a few minutes, insert the tube into the device which causes a green light to come on letting you know it is working and ready. Then, you can lie back on your bed, or armchair, close your eyes, and 30 seconds later the carbon dioxide will begin to flow …

  • James Auger

    My family and friends are standing on the beach of St. Pierre, Locmariaquer, Bretagne, northern France.
    The sun has just risen to reveal a flawless blue sky and there isn’t a breath of wind.
    My son Pépin fills the red balloon with helium and seals it with the camera attachment. He plugs in my 9V afterlife battery and checks the wireless signal. My Daughter Lily connects the receiver to the recorder and ensures that the camera is sending a clear picture.
    She presses record.
    Pépin lets go of the balloon.
    My final journey…the balloon rises capturing the moving image of those closest to me waving goodbye. Eventually the signal breaks and the picture turns to white noise.

  • Jack Schulze

    If my father passed away, this is how I would use his battery. I would power some kind of electrical bird warbler. To be left in the garden, a unique noise though, formed from bird sounds common to Cheshire and rural Wales. It should not warble constantly, it should be around breakfast. This is because my father – early in the morning – can often be found out in the Garden (having pissed on the compost) in pants and vest, whistling along with various birds, for extended periods. It has to be said, he is pretty good.

  • Noam Toran

    I want it observed in my will that my family (my partner Marloes, my three children Moses, Julius and Maurice) will be forced to stare at 3 illuminated bulbs in a small case placed above mantelpiece powered by my battery which reads “NO HARD FEELINGS” until said sign dies out. Only then can they receive their entitlement.

  • Onkar Kular

    I imagine, like many other people, upon my deathbed I will hold a number of small regrets relating to things I should have said and done during my lifetime. Fortunately, the Afterlife Battery offers me the opportunity, in the form of my Last Will & Testament to live out my short but rich electronically mediated future afterlife.

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Afterlife Phase II at Experimenta 09

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