title: My Favorite Funeral
format: Reality show
Staged reality show about true fictions and false realities in mass media.
Project completed.

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My Favorite Funeral Debate, Arminius Rotterdam, The Netherlands
My Favorite Funeral questions and exposes reality shows, formats and journalism in a unique way.

For one year, people were asked to submit their favorite funeral wishes to a dedicated website ( Following, three episodes of the TV show My Favorite Funeral were broadcasted on Dutch TV in May and October 2008. In these episodes, young candidates share with us how and why they want to end their lives.

The TV show got wide media coverage. The candidates (performed by actors) and their stories came to live during interviews in magazines, newspapers and radio programs.
Anuska Oosterhuis’ multimedia project My Favorite Funeral is presented as a research into how we deal with mortality: How do we want our funeral? The MMF website calls upon viewers to react and vote for their most appealing funeral. In short video clips candidates are interviewed about their personal dream funeral. As a whole it appears highly entertaining. Funerals are Fun!

Yet another work of art lies beneath. A research on a meta-level. A search for how media function. For the way a topic, having appeared in newspapers, on websites or TV, is accepted almost immediately as part of reality by reader, surfer or viewer. Which words are used, which visual language is put to use that makes a person believe the thing he watches and reads are ‘real’? And how does this ‘sense of realness’ effects a persons opinion?

Being well read is no longer sufficient in this contemporary visual culture. Visual literacy became a concept during the last 10 years. It describes the fact that the image is just as much a language that needs to be understood, analyzed and unraveled. Only since the last few years, with the expansion of Internet markets as YouTube and filming mobile telephones, we start to grasp the power of the image and the way images can be put to use rhetorically. My Favorite Funeral is shocking, not because of the inappropriate approach of an existential theme, but because of the ease with which we consider the whole project to be real, to be a reality documentary, while in fact it is a hoax.

In a way Oosterhuis gives us ample clues to demonstrate that the project is not real. The cheerfulness of the website is over the top, and not just a little. The concept of a cheerful election of best ideas seems to fit a dream wedding better than a dream funeral. The people being interviewed (all actors) look very healthy and none of them shed a single tear while informing us about their detailed plans to end their lives. But yet, website, TV-shows, the debate: the project is very comprehensive and its technical quality is superior.
It is accessible as well: both website and TV clips are cut to a format appealing to a wide audience.

How does a project like this relate to visual arts, to art fairs and their exhibition rooms, to galleries and their sales mechanisms? It doesn’t fit in there, it manages to wrest from those institutions. To me Oosterhuis’ project is a strong example of what has come to be called, somewhat awkwardly, ‘art in public space’. Public space, the arena where the interests, convictions and expectations of societal groups are exchanged. This is an arena in which right and wrong, real and unreal, come to battle. Did a factory for weapons of mass destruction really exist in Iraq? Did Georgina Verbaan really kiss the wrong guy in a Leiden café? Is Obama an alien? For quite some time public space is no longer just a physical experience of walking on the tarmac of streets. Public space is to be found on television and the Internet. Here, on discussion platforms and in YouTube clips, is where our view of actual reality is shaped, adjusted, feigned, stored and transformed to what we hope it could be.
All these are aspects, which My Favorite Funeral addresses.

Mariette Dölle, curator TENT gallery Rotterdam
Anuska Oosterhuis has dedicated the past years not as much creating works of art which reflect on world dominating media culture, but has actually, in her own unique style, shaped media herself, put it to work, thereby creating controversy and discussion engagement.

The results hereof, such as the My Favorite Funeral TV-shows, the accompanying website, the taping of the closing debate and the ruffles it created in the Dutch media pond, indicate this was more than successful.

Anuska managed very professionally to kick-start discussions and debates by infiltrating Rijnmond Broadcasting and to play a cunning game with media parties responding to the initiatives (for example by embodying a spokes person).

My Favorite Funeral resulted because of this in a highly a-typical media performance, casting shadows on the entire media landscape.

Bart Rutten, Conservator Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam