Michelle Atherton’s ‘The Invite, The Impetus, & The Chat’ featured in art.earth Borrowed Time: Death, Dying and Change

Borrowed Time book cover

image by art.earth


A new piece of writing by Michelle Atherton has been published in Matt Osmond & Richard (Eds.) Borrowed Time: Death, Dying and Change art.earth, Kingsbridge, Devon, England 2022.

The book’s overall premise is that:

we’re all of us living on borrowed time: the brevity of our personal span of existence now mirrored by a biosphere under intolerable pressure, its every life system beginning to fray and unravel under civilisation’s weight. We witness its collapse every day now, in new stories of cataclysmic weather events, of lives lost, of flora and fauna weirded, disrupted, gone. However incipiently or unconsciously, we live at a time of collective grieving – no life exempt from the consequences of this relentless devastation and what it has set loose.

‘Borrowed Time, on death dying & change’ is nevertheless a celebration: a gathering of disparate voices from across the globe coming together online from October 31 to November 3, 2021. These voices use many registers and tones to delve into the depths of living with and dealing with death and dying with joy as well as with sadness. Borrowed Time is a space to explore questions pertaining to death, dying and change, and to ask what dying has to teach us about living well, and living sustainably.’ 

This unusual and extraordinary book has contributions from 43 authors, across continents. 


Michelle’s contribution explores how a gut-response to a friend’s off-hand comment and a very personal experience of the unexpected death of her mother at home led to a virtual gathering of strangers, an event hosted by art.earth, to celebrate those no longer living. The detailing of this sequence of events though a partial, fragmented structure – The Invite, The Impetus and The Chat –  is an attempt to be less bounded, to not follow a neat linear, rational trajectory. To explore, by way of Bayo Akomolafe’s comment that ‘death is not monolithic’[1], how private experiences of death might transect with a current moment of an intensified sensitivity to death, of humans (the pandemic, social injustices, war) and across other species (environment changes and other impacts). This time seems to highlight the permeability between private and public experiences of death registered across the human and the non-human.

In the difficulties of experiencing a death and in celebrating lives there is also the kernel of a gift, an invitation to think and act differently, to reimagine possibilities for now, possibilities that were unsought, but that might be begun through an assembly, a communal sharing of tributes to the dead through a gathering.

[1] Bayo Akomolafe A Certain Kind of Dying in Keynote Borrowed Time Symposium 31.10.21



The Borrowed Time book can be found on the art.earth website