The Final Curtain
Are you prepared for the inevitable?
The Final Curtain was a satirical concept that depicted the death care industry in an over-the-top and humorous way, hoping to provoking individuals to think about their feelings about life, death and burial in a new light -- before it's personally too late.
To Joey Skaggs, the death care industry is a giant corporate scam, exquisitely successful at commercializing death. Pre-need insurance, embalming services, open coffins, headstones, ground space, religious sanctity, and ancillary products are merchandized to con people into spending money under the premise that this is the right thing to do.
Using calculated public relations and marketing tactics, death care providers have elevated spiritual reverence in the funeral parlor to a high art. Their ploy is to appear to pay appropriate tribute to the dead, making a good show for the mourners. Ultimately, it's a waste of space and resources, and a burden to the natural environment at the financial and emotional expense of their clients.
In 1998, Skaggs put together an international team of volunteer writers, artists, and designers to create The Final Curtain , a Web site purporting to represent a voracious real estate development company, featuring a Disney-like memorial theme park and mall which included a traveling time share program for the deceased.
The Final Curtain catered to creative individuals (visual artists, poets, performers, etc.) who wanted to construct their own iconoclastic, irreverent, and/or humorous monuments, mausoleums, and urns.
Planned to be franchised in major metropolitan cities around the world and open to the public, the parks would be a haven for those who wished to be free of the shackles of the current death-care industry's morbid grip on life's passing.
The Final Curtain memorial theme park concept was so outrageous, yet so plausible, that it was widely reported in newspapers, magazines, on television, radio, and on the Internet. It was immediately accepted by the public as a reality without question. People both embraced and attacked it.
Venture capitalists expressed interest in investing. A corporation threatened legal action for trademark infringement. The States of Colorado and New Jersey threatened investigation into the illegal sales of securities on the Internet. Television and Hollywood movies were proposed. And artists submitted burial concepts hoping to be selected by the company for a free grave site.
Joey Skaggs perpetuated the virtual burial business by setting up a bogus office with a telephone and an answering machine and responding to the barrage of requests for interviews. The fact that he played all the parts of the company's executives, i.e., Michael Varley, Managing Director; Stuart MacLelland, Marketing Director; and Paul Corey, Associate Marketing Director, during interviews, never crossed a single journalist's mind.
When he talked about the artist-designed adventure rides such as the "roller coaster of life and death," or the interactive playgrounds where children could frolic on artists' gravesites, or the shops that sold mausoleum replica key chains and coffee mugs, they all bought it.
Funeral directors who contacted the Final Curtain were all for it. They oozed delight that at last big investment money was helping to merge the death care industry into the entertainment world.
Skaggs always leaves clues in his performances. In this case, his own monument, mounted in the Monument Gallery, under the name of Joseph Sullivan, was a screen animation of Skaggs morphing from flesh to bone, with a worm crawling in one eye and out of his mouth.
Documentation (An expanded list of news coverage can be found in the Company section of The Final Curtain )