A series of time lapse photographs shot in yellow, feverish light and steep shadows, against a black background:

Series 1:
Whole and bisected pomegranates rest on a scratched steel table. The halved fruits bleed red, transparent seeds onto the metal. Next to the pomegranates gleam three ripe strawberries with the calyces still intact. Their skins are taut and dimpled. One of the strawberries is bitten in half and has moist teeth marks. A handful of raspberries have been peeled open, a tiny, green caterpillar visible in one of them. In the background are white ramsons flowers with green lancet leaves in a narrow clay jug. Pale ivy curls around the earthenware. Two chestnuts, a lemon and a jagged piece of honeycomb colour the foreground. Golden liquid seeps out from the hexagonal wax and slowly drowns a bee.

The skins of the pomegranates, strawberries, raspberries and lemon lose their lustre and cloud over like aging corneae. The soft barriers wrinkle and fold as the flesh beneath them grows heavy with gravity. Blotches of mould appear on the surfaces, icebergs of the liquefaction underneath. Mildew dresses both the hard and the soft bodies with a fuzz that makes them darker and more droopy. In the final stages of decomposition, the skins of the fruits rupture and reveal their battered flesh. It is quickly invaded by green mould. What little remains after that, shrinks and dries up in concentric rings on the scarred steel. Red-eyed fruit flies, black houseflies, golden wasps, shivering harvestmen and long-legged mosquito flit among the decay.

Series 2:
A dark-haired, slender man in white shirt and black trousers appears in the frame. He carries a large bouquet of long-stemmed plants; roses, lilies, tulips, orchids, hyacinths, honeysuckle, pea flowers and apple blossoms. He places them one by one in a large vase on the steel table. In the bright light the veins of the petals are soft labyrinths. When the work is done, the man retreats.

The flowers open slowly, tremble in the flow of time like the lips of a shy lover. Finally, they reveal themselves fully, in many-hued splendour. This state lasts for less than twelve hours. Gradually, the flowers sag, crumple and lose their petals. Long stamen bow to dust the steel with pollen in one last attempt at procreating before death. The flowers wilt in individual tempo, but the end point is always the same. The denuded stalks and leaves brown and collapse, not unlike the fruit. Bees, wasps, hoverflies, butterflies and moths visit the flowers in the course of the series.

Series 3:
Insects of the kind that can be bought in pet stores as prey for larger animals, or found in the garden, crowd the table: hissing cockroaches, iridescent beetles, green caterpillars, brown larvae, stick insects, leaf insects, a glistening millipede, black garden slugs, red garden slugs, snails with yellow houses, and an uncooked lobster the colour of old bruises, antennae smoothed back along the carapace. The animals are still.

Series 4:
Small mammals and reptiles decay together on the steel surface. They are placed gently on the metal by the dark-haired man: A mouse, rat, gerbil, hamster, rabbit, a yellow snake and a grey iguana. The animals disintegrate in ways similar to the fruit and flowers, but with less sagging and wrinkling. Instead, they discolour and remain still for days. It seems that nothing is happening, until a white clump of maggots appears at the mouth of each animal. The pale, eager forms devour the lips first, then the rest of the face, slough the flesh off the bone and continue backwards along the skull. The rest of the body bloats a little, then spills its guts in a pool of larvae. They slowly eat the belly of the animal, consume the flesh and skin in concert with moulds, fungi and insects. The pools of fluid from the ruptured bodies are lapped up by a thousand white mouths.

The final sequence shows a pig carcass rotting under strings of sausages, newspapers draped over wires in the background. The pig shares the table with potted potato plants, earth-crusted potatoes, yellow onions, grey shallots and a whole garlic. A transparent mug of milk and a rectangle of butter sit in the front. This series is several weeks long. The pig darkens, bloats and loses its flesh from the mouth backwards, like the small animals. The plants and vegetables rot similarly to the fruit and flowers in the earlier series. The corpses are covered with green flies, white maggots, brown maggots and black beetles as they go through the inevitable steps of decomposition.

At the end of this series, the dark-haired man returns to the frame. He is discussing with the blond man from earlier. Their bodies are taut with tension and their faces are pale. The dark-haired man thrusts a brown envelope into the hands of the other. The blond man pulls out the content, a single sheet of paper, and reads it slowly. When he is done he faces the dark-haired man stiffly and shakes his head. The dark-haired man pleads, agitated. The blond man yells and leaves. The dark-haired man hits the table with his fist, then stands still, his right hand in a thin V over his mouth, eyes moving restlessly back and forth.

Series 5:
Now animals and plants rot together, exhibiting the countless ways of returning to the earth, in a symphony of decay. Mouldy cantaloupes, a split sheep's head, dead horseshoe crabs, wilted roses and bright fireweed fill the table. The dark-haired man sleeps among them, nude. This time series covers weeks. At regular intervals, the man vanishes from the images before he reappears on the table. Other times he sits up, massages a shoulder or a leg, genitals limp against his thighs, before he lies down again amongst the dissolving corpses.

Towards the end of the sequence, the man puts a palm to his mouth, drinks from a cloudy glass and lies down. Slowly, his shoulders, arms and hands lose their tension and his head lolls away from the camera. The rest of the tableaux decomposes. This view persists for one hour.

Two policemen in dark uniforms and peaked caps appear. They shout at the man on the table, push their fingers against his neck and shine beams to emulate the dawn into his eyes. Shortly thereafter paramedics in red and reflective yellow arrive. They unpack electrical pads and press them against the dark-haired man's chest a number of times. He obediently arches his back and tilts his head, but his face remains still. Finally, the paramedics spread dark plastic on the table, billow the bag shut over the man and take him with them.

Eighteen hours later the blond man appears in the photos, alone, wearing a dust mask and goggles. He clears and cleans the table. Then he puts a large plastic rectangle on the steel surface and drills into it with an electrical tool.

Series 6:
A large box of transparent plastic perforated with rows of circular openings sits on the steel under the bright studio lights. Six white fans, three on each side, flank the table.

The blond man enters the frame. He is carrying the dark-haired man. He holds him up in front of the camera, like Pietà, then places him gently in the box. He pulls a dark wool blanket around the dark-haired man and sprinkles him with white, pink and purple petals. The blond man covers the box with a transparent lid and seals it with an electrical screwdriver. He puts clay bowls with the heads of roses, orchids, magnolia, honeysuckle and lily-of-the-valley around the box, taking care not to obscure the camera's view.

The series continues. The man in the see-through coffin doesn't rot like the fruit and the plants and the animals in the previous sequences. Instead, he dries and shrinks in temporal rhythm with the flowers and petals around him, his white smile broadening with time.
Berit Ellingsen