Now they can request to come back as a toaster.
Dutch artist Wieki Somers has unveiled an exhibit in which human ashes are repurposed as more practical items: a bathroom scale, a vacuum cleaner, a toaster. It's part of the "In Progress" exhibit at Grand Hornu in Belgium.
The pieces blend functional and familiar technology with organic parts in nature. The bathroom scale has a bee honeycomb on it. Beetles roll a ball of dung up the elegant slope of the hand-held vacuum. A pair of birds -- one living and one dead -- adorn the toaster.
"Honeycombs have been used in allegories as an attribute of the personificated golden age, diligence and labor," explains Somers. "Here the scales weigh the value of this attribute, while the bee questions the meaning of a single life.
"Seen as waste by some, [dung] is used by dung beetles for either food storage or a fertile ball to submit their eggs in, thus maintaining and producing life. The vacuum cleaner tells us about dust and waste in a repetitive process.
"The birds represent life and death as it's reborn out of its own ashes. The toaster symbolizes this incineration."
Somers told AOL News that human ashes are the most unusual media she's ever worked with. "The ashes we used for the still lives shown in Grand Hornu aren't human ashes. It was impossible to realize that in such a short time, we would only use them if the people concerned would be open for that. If the still lives were made of human ashes, we would be very discreet to give any information about these persons."
Somers is no stranger to unusual concepts or materials. Inspired by a once-in-a-decade ice storm that hit the Netherlands, she created an entire line of furniture and flowers draped in a thick shell of faux ice, the flowers heavy and drooping and unnatural, but frozen in temporary perfection.
Somers says that the human ash artwork is not intended to create a new product. "The still lives are meant to be a statement which moves our senses and thoughts, and let us think about our [striving] for progress that ignores ideology. It questions the value of products and our relationship with them.
"We don't want to discard the many benefits of technological innovation and its inherent mentality, the sheer energy and will to create. But progress shouldn't be the goal itself; nowadays, more often it overshoots the mark; we miss the ideology.
"Our project is a statement which questions uncriticized innovation."
The artwork will remain on display at Grand Hornu through this September.