Taryn Simon ‘An Occupation of Loss’: The New Yorker

‘An Occupation of Loss’ was the first performance piece done by artist Taryn Simon, as her usual media consists of the use of photography and text. She created 11 concrete towers, alongside OMA architect Shohei Shigematsu, that are meant to resemble the pipes of an organ piano. The performance piece is titled ‘An impossibility of knowing what’s actually going to happen’, where performer sit within the cement towers and perform dirges, songs and various forms of weeping/whaling. The purpose of the professional mourners is meant to help Americans confront and deal with the idea of mourning as well as loss. It’s also another way for Americans to see how other cultures deal with the same subject.

The article comments on how mourning is implied in our culture, and that it is meant to be a more private and concealed matter. Those who express their pain emotionally in public settings become causes for concern and make others uncomfortable. At the same time, Simon not only breaks these stereotypes with her work, she allows a kind of openness to express loss and mourning. Simon also shows us how mourning can take multiple forms, by the variance of performances that takes place within the towers. One performer expressed their mourning by slapping their chest and knees, sobbing and waling within their designated pillar, while another from Ecuador plays an sound that is festive and speaks of the dead.

The space begins to create a contrast between the living and the dead, and presents a kind of sanctuary or idea of one for those who feel ashamed or judged by their ongoing need to mourn, or lack of being able to express it. For me the piece speaks to diversity of culture, as well as religion and reminds Americans how impactful death is and how we as a society react to the overall idea of it, especially those of us who are unfamiliar with it.

“An Occupation of Loss,” Taryn Simon’s performance piece at the Park Avenue Armory, draws on themes of government bureaucracy and social realism.




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