DETROIT — As humans we undergo wildly divergent experiences — some so radically different from each other as to create a complete lack of understanding or empathy — but there is one guarantee. We are all born, and so will we all die. In a sense, death is the greatest shared human experience, and for a subset of caregivers, loved ones, or even sometimes simply bystanders to a dying person’s moment of passing, there is a literal and deeply profound shared death experience. Internationally renowned artist Caledonia “Swoon” Curry glimpsed the afterlife when her mother died in 2013, following a protracted struggle with lung cancer. But it took years of research for Swoon to connect this visceral event — a literal visual and emotional experience of passing between the material world and a realm beyond — with several others, and time beyond that to process her findings into an immersive three-room installation, The Light After, at the Library Street Collective.
“When my mom passed away, I had this incredible experience, but I’ve always wondered what it was,” said Swoon, sitting down for a brief interview with Hyperallergic in the midst of installing the second of two public murals during her whirlwind stay in Detroit. “And I was researching all kinds of things, because I was like, how did that happen? Am I crazy? I don’t feel crazy; I feel that that was an event. I wanted to hear other people talk about it.” Swoon’s research led her to Dr. Sam Parnia, a specialist in the field of resuscitation medicine who has written on the subject of near-death experiences as reported by patients.