CLAUDIA BIÇEN

Claudia Biçen is a self-taught British-American artist. Her work has been selected for exhibitions including the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters at the Mall Galleries in London and the Pastel Society of America at the National Arts Club in New York. Her most recent project, Thoughts in Passing, has been featured in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and The Boston Globe's STAT News. Claudia holds a BA in Philosophy & Psychology from the University of Oxford and an MSc in Social Anthropology from University College London.

 

Music Attribution

If You're on the Water (The Saxophones) / CC BY-NC 3.0
NewYorican (Máscaras) / CC BY-NC 3.0
An Uneven Lie (Robin Allender) / CC BY-NC 3.0
Highway 101 (Josh Spacek) / CC BY-NC 3.0
O Cérebro do Morto (Dr. Frankenstein) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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Episode 6 Transcripts:
SOUND FX: Quick tone To introduce the showMUSIC: "Gold Beach" by The LosersOPENING SEQUENCE(claudia.wav)CLAUDIA BICENMy name is Claudia Bicen and I have spent the last 2 years working on a project called, "Thoughts In Passing," which is a series of...graphite pencil portraits, accompanied by 3-minute audio clips of people in hospice. Everybody that I interviewed and worked [00:01:00] with were told that they had 6 months or less to live.D.S. MOSSI met Claudia recently in San Francisco at an event called You're Going to Die: Poetry, Prose and Everything Goes. I had planned to have her project "Thoughts in Passing" as part of an upcoming episode on the Death Positive movement but after seeing it live, it was pretty clear that it deserved not only an entire episode, but two. (fade out music around here)D.S. MOSS_MONO[around 01:05] What in God's name prompted you to even want to do this project?CLAUDIA BICENThere wasn't anything specific. I have just always been fixated on this question of, "How should I live my life,".........[around 01:50] Every since I was young, this was the question that was most important to me. I have tried to understand it from so many different perspectives and studied many different things from [00:02:00] my degree in philosophy and psychology. Then, I did a graduate degree in anthropology. I studied a lot of meditation and different spiritual traditions. This was sort of a natural progression to be like, "Okay. What would people tell me about how to live when they're on their deathbed? D.S. MOSS_MONOFinally, I found someone that thinks exactly like I think. It is amazing and you are not crazy. You said you were looking for maybe an answer?CLAUDIA BICENDefinitely. I am always looking for the answers.D.S. MOSS_MONOI guess let me rephrase it. You were going and thinking that people that were terminal that had 6 months or less to live would have the insight that they could share with you.CLAUDIA BICENYes. I definitely had made that presumption, which now looking back, may or may not have been the correct presumption. [00:03:00]MUSIC: "Maiscaras" By New YoricanD.S. MOSSLike Claudia, I'm always searching for the answers. And interviewing people in hospice would seem like the perfect prolific short cut to becoming more enlightened. But from the sounds of it, maybe not?This adventure begins in San Francisco and takes us into to the lives and final thoughts of 9 people dying in hospice. Grab some tissue and please join me for episode 6 of The Adventures of Memento Mori: Part 1 of Thoughts in Passing.  OPENING BUMPERMUSIC:  "Memento mori" by Mikey ballouFemale announcerFrom The Jones Story Company, this is: THE ADVENTURES OF MEMENTO MORI, A Cynic's Guide for Learning to Live by Remembering to Die - the podcast that explores mortality. Here's your host D.S. Moss.CHAPTER 1: ILLUSTRATING THE PROJECTMUSIC: "If you're on the water" BY The SaxophonesD.S. MOSSSo, I need to set up the project a bit more. The intended way to experience it is to see the art in tandem with listening to the audio and you can do so by going to our site remembertodie.com or the project site thoughtsinpassing.comBut before you do that...play along with me here in the podcast. In lieu her drawn portraits, I've asked Claudia to illustrate her subjects by describing something about them that impacted her the most.  As you listen, imagine what they look like, what their lives may have been like, and if, maybe, they sound familiar.  CHAPTER 2: RANDY(Claudia.wav)CLAUDIA BICEN(around 15:30)My first subject was Randy...Randy had been in and out of AA throughout his life. He grew up in Tennessee and he was gay. He had moved because he was gay, and really, I think struggled with the shame around that his entire life, which was an important experience for me to see as having my brother is gay, my closest friend is gay, and so see that one generation behind and the shame that came with that. So much of the work that we did together was about him learning to forgive [00:16:00] himself and...love himself. Randy(Randy.m4a) the entire thingCHAPTER 3: ENA(Claudia.wav)CLAUDIA BICEN(around 21:25)I interviewed a woman named Ena who I met in an elderly people's home in the Outer Sunset in San Francisco. She was like the quintessential beautiful old lady who would come in and she would be like, "Hey Sweetie, how is your day? How is your day, Sweetie? You look beautiful today." Her nails were always painted and she always had her jewelry on. She was just so delightful but when you got speaking to her, you saw [00:22:00] there was so much regret in her life...Ena(Ena.m4a) the entire thing.MUSIC: "PARK" by Time to Pretend (let this play until commercial)CLAUDIA BICEN[around 22:00]...Hers is the only portrait where she is smiling......You sort of very quickly see this sadness beneath this veil of......Hers, I cry every time. Every time. I think she reminds me of my grandmother, so that is a hard one.D.S. MOSSMore Thoughts in Passing, after this...CALL TO ACTION 1MUSIC: Emergency exit by Dr. frankenstein FEMALE ANNOUNCEREver wonder what Elvis's last words were or the most outrageous methods of living forever? Discover titillating titbits about mortality by visiting "The Adventures of Memento Mori" YouTube channel and be the slightly odd yet endlessly fascinating conversationalist at your next party.And be sure to stay up to date with the quest for enlightenment on Instagram and Twitter by following @remembertodie.All of this, and more, can be found on our site remembertodie.com. And now, back to show...CHAPTER 4: CONVERSATIONMUSIC: "Dream 1" By Tonality StarD.S. MOSSWe're back with Claudia Bicen who spent over two years working on a project called Thoughts in Passing where she interviewed and drew the portraits of 9 people in hospice who were told they had 6 months or less to live.   CLAUDIA BICEN[around 07:30] I contacted almost every hospice in the Bay area. I ended up working with about 10 hospices. I started with the Zen Hospice Project and BJ Miller. He was the first person that I connected with. He said yes straight away. I was extremely lucky that he said yes.D.S. MOSSThis is a total side note, but one of the unexpected things to come out of the podcast so far is the community around the topic of death. For lack of a better term, there are leaders in the space and BJ Miller of Zen Hospice in certainly one of them. I highly highly recommend checking out his TED talk What Really Matters at the End of Life.Anyway...CLAUDIA BICENI contacted so many others, Coming Home Hospice, Hospice by the Bay, Gentiva Hospice......Over time, they started getting back to me and every single hospice said yes. "Yes, we want you to work on this project with us." I think they said that because if you work within that field, you are all too aware of how much people in hospice are really pushed to the side of society and pushed out of society. To be able to do something for them, where they are creating a kind of legacy that we can then share with the community, I think was something that really resonated with people.CHAPTER 5: HARLANCLAUDIA BICEN(around 16:40) One of the next people I interviewed was Harlan. He was a truck driver for 25 years....He had actually been in hospital and hospice for [00:17:00] about 5 years, I think in total. He had a long time to really reflect on his life.Harlan(Harlan.m4a) The entire thing.MUSIC: "An Uneven lie" by Robin AllenderCLAUDIA BICEN...(around 16:43)Harlan was an amazing person...(around 17:30) He probably impacted me one of the most. He was very soulful. He did undergo, I think, a transformative experience. He put down a lot of the ... There is a line in his audio about, "I don't have time for the B.S. anymore. I don't have time for that." I think it hit him. That time hit him.CLAUDIA BICEN(around 17:50) Then, I met with a woman called Jenny, who became huge in my life. She was there at the show, if you saw her.D.S. MOSS_MONOI did. [00:18:00] I did. I actually was walking up the hill when they came and then the woman that was pushing the wheelchair and I was like, "Please let me push this up the hill." She was like, "No. I've got it. I want to do it." I'm like, "Okay."CLAUDIA BICENYeah. Jenny-D.S. MOSS_MONOJenny is like, "Why [didn't 00:18:16] you let him do it?"CLAUDIA BICENI think at the end of her video on Friday night, she just shouts out, "Son-of-a-bitch." I'm like, "Oh Jenny, I love you." She has been a big role in my life...Jenny(Jenny.m4a)The entire thing.CLAUDIA BICEN(around 18:30) What I love most about Jenny and which you cannot see in the video or hear in her audio is she is one of the most phenomenal, beautiful artists I have ever met. She was in low-income housing in an SRO building in the [Tangelone 00:18:49]. When I met with her, she was surrounded by hundreds of pieces of artwork in this tiny apartment. We would sit at her table and she would [00:19:00] slurp on this grape soda with ice and crunch on her ice and just chain smoke cigarettes and just monologue for an hour. Then, at the end of the hour, she would be like, "Okay. We are done here." That was it. Yeah. She is amazing.MUSIC: "Highway 101" By the Losers(Somewhere towards the beginning this Jenny segment  and now we need to add the music.)D.S. MOSSLuckily, we are not done here. There's more Thoughts in Passing after this.SOUND: SFX record scratch abrubpt stop But before we cut to Ruthie asking you buy something or donate, I'd like to ask you for your help us by passing the podcast along to your friends and family. If you feel talking about death is a conversation worth having we'd love your support. The more ears the better. Ok, now here's Ruthie.CALL TO ACTION 2MUSIC: "O Cerebro do Morto" by Dr. Frankenstein FEMALE ANNOUNCERThe Adventures of Memento Mori is an independent podcast and we could use your support. Shop with us. Go to remembertodie.com/shop and buy some merchandise. Get your entire family a "This could be my last cup of coffee" mug or be the first one on your block to sport a Mori "Death! Yo." baby tee.   CHAPTER 6: DANIELMUSIC: "Dream 5" BY Tonality starCLAUDIA BICEN(around 25:30) What is interesting about Daniel which you can't tell from the audio but on the Friday night, everybody kind of cheered and claps at the end of Daniel's audio because he talks about death not being a big deal... What nobody knew from that is actually right at the end of his life, I was passing by his hospice...[around 00:26:07]... and I went in to see him and he was terrified. He had transitioned into this different state. He was kind of delirious. He was sobbing and he was on his own. I sat with him and I held him for like 20 minutes and he just broke down and cried. I just held him and it was I think one of the hardest things I have ever done......[00:27:03] I knew he knew he was dying, like really dying.Daniel(Daniel.m4a) The entire thing.CLAUDIA BICEN[00:27:03] The next day, I had a call from my friend, who actually worked in hospice who referred me to him, telling me that he had died. I went back to the room and I stood with her and we stood in the room together with his body in the room and that shook me a lot. Not being with his dead body but being there just the day before and seeing this person ... I do believe him. I don't think he was terrified. I think his mechanism for getting through what he was getting through was so powerful and so strong that he just hadn't really looked into the abyss and on that day, the abyss was there, very present.MUSIC: Continuation of "If you're on the water" BY "The Saxophones"(You can let this song breathe a bit.)CHAPTER 8: PART 1 CONCLUSIOND.S. MOSS_MONO[around 04:00] What do you think ......You were referring to once you were going back and listening to your questions in the interview, there was one particular question that had the word "dying" in it and your voice quivered when you said it. Why do you think that we have such a hard [00:05:00] time even saying the word?CLAUDIA BICEN...The exact question that I really struggled with and I didn't even know I struggled with it at the time, it was only when I was listening back to the recordings that I felt the fear in my voice. The exact question was, "What does it feel like to be dying?" Now, having asked lots of people that question, everybody says the same thing to me. "Nobody is asking me that question." I think we don't ask that question. Maybe we don't want to know the answer. Maybe it feels way too personal to ask people of that question. It is a very demanding question. It is also admitting that this person is dying and I think often we want to maintain a framework of hope maybe and actually sort of saying, "All right. You're dying, let's talk about that." It brings in a whole other set [00:06:00] of things that I think we are not willing to accept at that point in time. Maybe it is like giving up.D.S. MOSS_MONO[06:07] It's funny and I don't know if it is a Western thing or just a dying thing, but at what point do you fight and what point is the fight then over and you live with acceptance?CLAUDIA BICENThat is part of our cultural rhetoric is this fight. The battle. We are going to battle cancer. We are going to fight cancer. Therefore, anybody that dies from X malady or illness has lost the fight and almost like they failed. They failed and we lost the battle. That is bound up with a whole other set of feelings, I think, around that. Winning the battle is getting better but the reality is we are all dying.D.S. MOSS_MONOWe are all going to lose the battle.CLAUDIA BICENYeah. Everyone is going to lose the battle.(beat)D.S. MOSSOn that happy note...MUSIC: "3 in raw" by jazzafari CLOSING BUMPERD.S. MOSSThanks for joining me on another episode of The Adventures of Memento Mori. I've been incredibly moved by the Claudia Bicen's Thoughts in Passing project and I hope you have too. Hear the insights that Claudia learned about living in Episode 7 Part 2 of Thoughts in Passing. Please visit our website remembertodie.com for more information on thoughts in passing and follow us on the social media @remembertodie. I'm D.S. Moss. Back immediately for the next episode with more Adventures of Memento Mori.MUSIC: End with our theme musicFEMALE ANNOUNCERThe episode was produced by Josh Heilbronner and D.S. Moss Theme music composed by Mikey Ballou. This has been a production of The Jones Story Company. Until the next time... remember to die.