The Big Feed

During the spring of 1999, Bigert & Bergström travelled through the south of the United States and conducted interviews with prisoners on death row about the ritual of their final meal. When sentenced to death in America, the convict spends the remainder of his / her life incarcerated in a tiny cell. A week before of the execution’s date, the convict is separated from the rest of the inmates and brought to a special area of the prison called the “death watch area.” Here, the prisoner is kept under 24-hour surveillance and is forced to go through a series of rituals starting with signing off their personal belongings, shaving if being electrocuted, meeting a priest, and finally eating his/her final meal.

This tradition is an ancient ritual dating back to the Egyptians and the Greeks and Bigert & Bergström’s question was: How is this ritual approached today? Their focus was directed towards the absurd contradiction of a legal system, which keeps a human being sentenced to death for more than ten years, under inhumane conditions just to offer a small gesture of mercy shortly before the execution. Is the ritual being used to comfort the people involved in the execution, or is it a cog in the wheel of a legal machine that consciously uses rituals and aesthetics to make the punishment into a spectacle were the convict is subdued to accept his/her part?

"The Big Feed," entire film


Electric chair, Tennessee
Deathwatch cell table and chair, Tennessee
Deathwatch cell toilet, Tennessee

“The Big Feed,” 1999
11 min. DV

A film by Bigert & Bergström 
Produced for iKON, Swedish Television

Avid & Fire editing
Chimneypot, Stockholm

Sound editing
Richard Walton, VOZ
Oscid - "Balkony/Bunker" 
Ryoji Ikeda - "Headphonics," "Zero degrees [2]" 
Dump Type - "More wings for wheelers" 

Special thanks to