90 Minutes with the Machine
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Cremation, or the incineration of human remains, unites two fundamental elements of human existence: fire and death. This unity is today facilitated by the cremator, a machine that burns bodies as efficiently as modern engineering allows. In the cremator, an average corpse takes only 90 minutes to transform into ash and bone fragments. However, as the machine hums away, we come to realize that we are forced to reckon with a 90-minute void. We are forced to wait - to experience time that is unwanted. Waiting brings discomfort in a variety of forms, from grief to irritation to fidgeting, but it also invites honesty. The vulnerability and expectation of waiting allow us to simply be, even if we are seated in a drab witnessing room waiting for the ashes of a loved one. We face time, and, in turn, face ourselves. This thesis, through a series of essays in a range of media, explores what it's like to spend 90 minutes with the machine.
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Victoria Ngai (2019). 90 Minutes with the Machine. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14329