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

You Know Who You Are (Alan Singley) / CC BY-NC 3.0
Technological 4 (Cory Gray) / CC BY-NC 3.0
Just Like Starting (Over) (Josh Spacek) / CC BY-NC 3.0
Old Bernie Blues (David Szesztay) / CC BY-NC 3.0
O Cérebro do Morto (Dr. Frankenstein) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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Episode 7 Transcripts:
SOUND FX: Quick tone To introduce the showOPENING SEQUENCE(claudia.wav)CLAUDIA bicen[around 04:07] For me, this project was so much less about them being a hospice patient. It was much more about them being a human being undergoing this major sort of existential point in time.MUSIC: "HEAVEN" BY David SZESZTAYD.S. MOSSMan, am I a sucker for an accent and existential meaning. That's Claudia Bicen, a San Francisco based artist who spent two years working on a project called, "Thoughts In Passing," a series of drawn portraits, accompanied by 3-minute audio clips of people in hospice who were told that they had 6 months or less to live.CLAUDIA BICEN[around 03:00] At the time, I certainly thought that there had to be something extremely powerful about being confronted with your death. I believed that people were going to give me insight into what their meaning of life was because it was a period of time when they would be reflecting a lot on what had happened and also reflecting a lot on how to spend their last few days or weeks or months. D.S. MOSS_MONO[around 10:50] It sounds like you had a clear vision of what you wanted to capture.CLAUDIA BICEN[00:11:00] I had a clear vision of the theme. I had no idea what I was going to capture but I knew that I wanted to deeply understand people's experience of confronting their mortality. I didn't know what that was going to look like but I knew that they needed to go there with that conversation for the project to make sense.MUSIC: "Technological 4" By Cory GrayD.S. MOSSIn part 1 of Thoughts in Passing we heard the interviews of 5 people in hospice along with a verbal sketch from Claudia and her motivation for project.In part 2 we hear the interviews of the remaining four subjects and the insights Claudia learned from the experience.Grab some more tissue and please join me for episode 7 of The Adventures of Memento Mori: Part 2 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: REVIEW / OPENING MUSIC: "BEST BOY" by The SaxophonesD.S. MOSSJust listening to the 3 minute clips of the 9 subjects you can discern shared themes - I wish I hadn't worked as much - was one that stood out to me. But since Claudia has spent so much time with each one of them, I asked her what was common among them all.CLAUDIA BICEN[around 29:45] The main thing that people wanted to talk with me about was the ways in which they had created things in the world. The ways in which they had connected with the world. The ways in which they had participated in the world.D.S. MOSSShe went on to tell me that what nobody wanted to talk with her about was the things that they had accumulated, the money they had made, the status that they had achieved. Anything to do with the acquisition into self.CLAUDIA BICEN[around 30:45]That makes sense because this idea of consumption and acquiring stuff into yourself is literally the opposite of creation. This is something I have really struggled with because I think in our society we are so fixated [00:31:00] on consumption, our deepest value is consumption and our ability to consume. People's status is ordered in terms of how much they can consume.D.S. MOSSYet, there she was, speaking to all of these people on their deathbed. No one cared. No one cared what they consumed.CHAPTER 2: BERT(Claudia.wav)CLAUDIA BICEN(around 19:30) I also interviewed a man called Bert... ...Bert really affected me because I [00:20:00] after I would meet with him, I would go to the beach or I would go on a walk... He took me back to a place of really slowing down and having gratitude.BErt(Bert.m4a) the entire thingCLAUDIA BICEN...There he was in his hospital bed and all he had was this window with a tree outside. This tree became the most beautiful thing. He underwent this deep identification with the tree and with everything around him.MUSIC: ???? by ??????? CHAPTER 3: ORA(Claudia.wav)CLAUDIA BICEN(around 20:35) I met much later. Ora just died a couple of months ago. She was, I think, 99 years old when she died. She had a tough life as a kid and a huge family and lived with like 3 or 4 generations of her family who just really supported her through this project. She was a powerhouse.AURA(Aura.m4a) the entire thingMUSIC: "?????" By ??????CLAUDIA BICEN[00:21:00] Just every step of the way through her life, she just was committed. She talks about it, "Climbing this mountain. Never give up. Never give up." She was very inspirational.D.S. MOSSAnd that leads me to the ultimate question - did spending time with those who were dying inspire Claudia to live her life differently? She tells us 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 And now, back to show...MUSIC: "You know who you are" BY alan singlyCHAPTER 4: CONVERSATIOND.S. MOSSWe're back with Claudia Bicen talking about her Thoughts in Passing portrait series which you can experience on our site or thoughts in ...D.S. MOSS_MONO[around 37:55] Which, by the way, just talking about the art of it, you get so just taken by the story and [00:38:00] the audio and they work so well together......The art is so good that is understated. I mean that as an amazing compliment because you have done such a great job of capturing the soul of the person and then doing it in a way that touches and tells a greater just struck me is that you don't think of it as a drawn picture of somebody. You think of it as a person.CLAUDIA BICENThat is great. That is like the highest compliment someone could give me. Thank you.CHAPTER 5: JUDITHCLAUDIA BICEN(around 24:25) Judith, I met in Zen Hospice, actually. The most difficult thing about working with her is that she had lost her husband several years before. They both had brain cancer and she was leaving her 20-something-year-old son behind with no parents......(around 24:55) you can't help but think about your own mother.Judith(Judith.m4a) The entire thing.CHAPTER 6: OSAMUMUSIC: "????" By ???????CLAUDIA BICEN(around 23:07) The last person I interviewed was a man named Osamu and he was born to a Japanese immigrant family. He grew up here in California. He deeply denied dying and being sick. It was funny to the point where I think I believed him.OSamu(Osamu.m4a) The entire thing.CLAUDIA BICEN(around 23:30) I think I believed that maybe he wasn't sick and he just died a week ago. That was a weird thing to hear. You come to believe what people tell you, even though you know that they are in hospice and so everybody else knows that they are dying.MUSIC: "Old bernie blues" by David SzesztayD.S. MOSS_MONO[around 28:00] You spent time with these 9 people and you grew close to them. What CliffsNotes of life did you take away from it?CLAUDIA BICENThere are 2 really big themes that were present throughout the whole project that I have not been able to really stop thinking about...D.S. MOSSAnd you'll hear them after this. But before we cut to Ruthie asking you buy something or donate, I'd like to personally ask you for your help in passing the podcast along to your friends and family. The more ears the better. 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 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 7: CONVERSATIONMUSIC: "Mangata" by Jon Luc HeffermanD.S. MOSS(let the music build until around at least 9-10 seconds) Before the break you were donating and forwarding and Claudia was about to tell us the 2 big themes she took away from the project. CLAUDIA BICEN[around 28:45] The first thing really is going to stand with what constitutes a meaningful life. I always used to think that we find meaning. We find meaning in life and it is like this thing that exists out there in the world that we just have to find our meaning. [00:29:00] I don't believe that anymore at all... I think that meaning is something that we create and we construct. If you take that to be true, then this question becomes, "How do we create meaning?" That is something that my subjects really gave me a lot of insight into.D.S. MOSSThis is the fourth episode in a row where a guest's experience with death changes their view on meaning and I guess mine has too. Like them Meaning was a proper noun. Like the idea of purpose, life, my life certainly must A MEANING. But maybe it doesn't. And if I ultimately define it...thank fucking god. Now that feels a little bit enlightening...Anyway, the other thing. CLAUDIA BICEN[around 32:30] The other thing......I went into this project wanting to learn about how to live and presuming that people would undergo some fundamental transformative experience and that people on their deathbed were going to embody a wisdom that I couldn't have by virtue of not being in their situation. I think what I found instead was that there is mainly no revelation. There is no grand metamorphosis of being. There [00:33:00] is no linear progression in life. We are not on this upward progression towards some ideal state. That was also something I really struggled with in this project. I would come home at the end of the interviews and be like, "I just think we just die as ourselves." It was a difficult thing to process at first but then I found that actually it became quite freeing. If you can build in this idea into your life that actually you are not on this upward progression, you are not actually going anywhere. You are on this sort of up and down wave until it is just terminated one day.D.S. MOSS_MONOIt just stops.CLAUDIA BICENIt just stops. It was never going up. It was never going up...CHAPTER 8: CONCLUSIOND.S. MOSSOn that happy note...MUSIC: "just like starting (over)" by the losersD.S. MOSS...Actually, One more thought from Claudia.CLAUDIA BICEN...What that does is it that opens up this small gap of freedom to say to yourself, "Okay. I can't live my life in terms of what I could be or what I should be. There is just what I am. The person I am now is the only person I am ever going to be. I am going to die as this person and at best, I can sit with that and [00:35:00] I can face myself and I can confront myself and maybe if I am really lucky, I can learn to love myself too."D.S. MOSSEnlightenment sounds so much better with an accent.MUSIC: "3 in Raw" by jazzafariD.S. MOSSThanks for joining me on another episode of The Adventures of Memento Mori. Huge thanks to Claudia Bicen's for sharing her project and thoughts. Please go to our website to watch and learn more about Thoughts In Passing or go to the site Remember to follow us on the social media @remembertodie. I'm D.S. Moss. Back in two weeks for more Adventures of Memento Mori.CLOSING BUMPERMUSIC: 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.