In an article based on an interview with artist Taryn Simon, journalist Julia Felsenthal discusses Simon’s performance and installation in the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. She describes the experience of entering the building with voices and sounds emerging from several large concrete towers, eerie. The installation was designed with monuments in mind. Simon is interested in how we erect architecture in order to mark a loss and make it visible. Although she finds this theme of making loss visible in America she also thinks that the US lacks the skill and practice of mourning.
In response to this Felsenthal points out examples form our leadership where mournful responses have been displayed and at other times they have not. She argues that rather than feel or react on our own to loss, we look to others in power to guide us.
I suppose this is no different than the mourning rituals guided by the hired performers from other cultures that were included in this installation. Simon gathered several “professional mourners” to bring culture and mourning practice to Americans. They were there as a performance but also to actually grieve for losses that American did not properly grieve for. Felsenthal said their presence and role was ambiguous and questions whether or not they actually grieve or if it is just a performance and a job.
I wonder this too, based on the fact that many witnessed their “mourner” dry their tears almost instantly while back stage. But Simon has had many visitors approach her and say that if you spend time with just one mourner, watching one performance, it will effect you deeply in a very real way.