Heraklion, Greece

Grief Is a Beast That Will Never Be Tamed

Displays of mourning and the contemplation of death were once critical components of public life, yet much of modern society has swept these elements from view. Today fewer people belong to a particular faith and many of us are left to confront death alone without the rituals and reassurances of community. How can our public spaces better address our relationship with grief?

Heraklion, Greece
Candy Chang installing the mural in Heraklion, Greece
Heraklion, Greece
James Reeves installing the mural in Heraklion, Greece
Temporary installation in Skagaströnd, Iceland
Projection in an old Icelandic fish factory
Heraklion, Greece

Grief is one of the most universal yet isolating of emotions. After losing people they loved, Candy Chang and James Reeves felt unmoored and unequipped to deal with the existential questions that followed. Grief Is a Beast That Will Never Be Tamed is a public art project that offers a meditation on loss and invites people to share the rituals, practices, and texts which have provided solace. Inspired by the myth of the Minotaur, which originated in Crete, the first installation was created in Heraklion, Greece in 2017.

A Meditation on Grief

Grief is a beast that will never be tamed, a creature born from broken promises and mistakes. We will always be together. I will never leave you. Everything will be okay. No matter how heartfelt these vows might be, one day they will collapse and leave us pacing the floors in shock, half-thinking we might enter a room to find the departed returned, sitting in a favorite chair. Instead we discover a new companion, a shadow in the corner.

Although experienced by everyone, grief remains fiercely private. Only we know the textures missing from our lives. The sound of a loved one’s feet padding down the hall, the heat and history pulsing beneath the way they said good morning—a voice never to be heard again. The shadow howls for answers. Infected by phrases like moving on and overcoming, we push this creature back into the darkness where it grows deformed, torturing us with dreams of running through unfamiliar rooms.

Our psyches are such elaborate labyrinths of defensive architecture, cluttered with alleys and walls that prevent grief from baring its teeth. But cracks always emerge. Grief might arrive on a gust of wind or a glimpse at a calendar, but it seems to prefer the night when silence allows it to be heard most clearly. Nails skitter across memories and regret burns like a fever. We try to fight but there is no battle here, no prize to be won. This creature cannot be buried or slain by a hero. One night it comes to you on its knees, asking for mercy, demanding to be seen. Perhaps grief cannot be tamed, but it can be loved.

Selected Responses

Share Your Experience

We hope sharing our experiences in public—both the darkness as well as the light—might offer reassurance to others or at least help someone feel less alone. The two questions below are difficult ones, so please take your time and feel free to fill out only one of them.

Who or what have you lost? Where were you? How does grief feel to you today?
Are there certain rituals, memories, texts, or beliefs that have offered comfort?

Tell us about yourself

This is optional, but we would like to credit you if your response appears on the website or future projects. Enter your information as you would like it to appear. Comments may be edited for clarity.

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