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First Thursdays Exhibition: Terror Management Theory at Beers London

Terror Management Theory

Beers London

31 August - 6 October

For his first solo show at Beers London, Canadian artist Kim Dorland presents ‘Terror Management Theory’.

With recent works, Dorland has been exploring the concept of Memento Mori, which, when translated from Latin, means ‘remember that you have to die’.

Despite the morbid overtones, Memento Mori, when viewed in its traditional Christian Theological context, is somewhat more hopeful; it is meant to remind one of the need to eschew vain earthly pursuits, and instead work towards living a Godly life in order to enter Heaven upon death.

Earlier in history, Romans of the Stoic school of Philosophy pronounced the need to face death in a steadfast manner – reminding oneself of their own mortality and that of those around them. ‘Death smiles at us all,’ wrote Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in his book ‘Meditations’, ‘all we can do is smile back.’

It is a way of thinking that seems to have been lost on most western cultures in recent times. Death is a hushed topic. Victorian Memento Mori photographs, which depicted living people posing next to the bodies of deceased family members, are seen as morbid curios of a bygone era. For the Victorians, death was something to prepare for; the body merely a shell for the soul that would pass onto a new plane of existence once its corporeal existence had ended.

For Kim Dorland, ‘Terror Management Theory’ is a contemporary reimagining of Memento Mori: ‘a psychological theory,’ he states, ‘about being confronted with the knowledge of our death, and how that makes us act and think… it has been very much on my mind these days that the state we’re in on so many different fronts (environment, politics) is pretty ominous.’

Perhaps we humans have always thought we were living in the end times. The Great War, World War II, the Cold War – all modern-world examples where humanity seemed to lie under a proverbial Sword of Damocles, its future tentative and uncertain.

This tendency towards normalisation in the face of such world-changing events – is it testament to mankind’s resilience or naivety? Is inaction necessarily fatalistic?

‘The show is my imagined extrapolation of that theme – obvious portentous signs that are a bit more dramatic – but not that far off,’ says Dorland, ‘an imagined “how far do things have to go before we notice or act?” It’s not meant to be an overtly political or “statement” show, but it’s definitely what’s on my mind these days. I don’t think there’s any way to avoid it.’


1 Baldwin Street, EC1V 9NU

Getting to: Beers London

The gallery is a 3 minute walk from Old Street station (exit 8). Alternatively Shoreditch High Street and Moorgate stations are approximately 15 minutes walk from the Gallery.

Buses: The 43, 205 and 214 stop close by on City Road.

Please contact Transport for London for detailed travel advice


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