Caring for her late grandmother inspired US artist Every Ocean Hughes to take end-of-life doula training. She talks corpse kits, Covid and queer death
One Big Bag is a portrait of a young death doula: a holistic carer who tends to the wishes of a dying individual and assists their family after they die. In the film, made by US artist Every Ocean Hughes, a young woman details the contents of her “corpse kit”, while the items hang by strings from the ceiling at the respective heights of their use on the body. The list is prosaic but revelatory, comforting and unsettling: glue to seal wounds and tampons to plug orifices; snacks for the living who forget to eat; ice to chill, but – careful – not to freeze. The doula considers the items closely, but adds mysterious choreography, rhythmically pounding her fists on her body, slamming her thighs against the ground and marching around the space with spiritual fervour.
Shown alongside an installation of the suspended items, One Big Bag marks a shift into direct, material work from an artist previously known for abstraction. Hughes appears over Zoom from her home in Stockholm, a kind and effusive presence with a cropped bob and fantastic hexagonal brown glasses.