Based upon two performances / installations of James Lee Byars: ‘The Death of James Lee Byars’ and ‘The White Mass’. In ‘The Death of James Lee Byars’, the artist acts out his own death on 1 July 1994.
Wearing a mask and dressed in gold, Byars lies in the ‘golden room’ of the Marie-Puck Broodthaers Art Gallery in Brussels. The window of the gallery shows reflections of the outside world – the city, the audience, both belonging to the world of the living. Byars: “Socrates stated that philosophy consists of practicing death. Today, I started practicing death. I hope that people will experience my way of practicing death as something meaningful for themselves.
In ‘The White Mass’ James Lee Byars reduces a gothic church to its pure essence: large white clothes cover the stained windows, the crucifix, the altar. The priest, fully dressed in white, leads the ritual: a synthesis between a classic celebration of the Eucharist and of Byars’s concept. The Mass as a performance, as a piece of art.
Together with Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and Marcel Broodthaers is James Lee Byars (Detroit, 1932) one of the leading personalities of the postwar avant-garde generation. Byars is best known as a performance artist: "The perfect performance is to stand still." Or, the act of performing as a piece of art.
‘The Death of James Lee Byars / The White Mass’ is one of the few existing documentaries about James Lee Byars." (Source:

This work has been digitised in the frame of DCA Project