Jae Rhim Lee

The first time Jae Rhim went to the National Funeral Director’s Association convention, she put on her most conservative black outfit and got an all-access pass — but still got kicked out of a workshop on formaldehyde. Several years later, she was invited by the same group to present The Infinity Burial Project, her proposal for postmortem alternatives that challenge cultural death denial. Such is the nature of Jae Rhim’s provocative approach, which includes the MIT FEMA Trailer project she launched after helping the City of New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina. Jae Rhim is a visual artist and researcher who designs unorthodox relationships between the mind/body/self and the built and natural environment. To develop her Mushroom Death Suit for The Infinity Burial Project, she cultivated a mushroom that decomposes and remediates toxins in human bodies. The suit was made to address the more than 200 environmental toxins that bodies release into the soil after burial and to reject the industry-standard use of formaldehyde embalming fluid. When her TED talk on the suit brought widespread attention, including a mention on "The Colbert Report", Jae Rhim was inspired to expand her work beyond art and cultural provocation to social venture. She will spend her fellowship year prototyping alternatives to the funeral industry, to promote “death care” and the natural acceptance of our inevitable end.