An Occupation of Loss is a multimedia installation created by artist Taryn Simon. The installation consists of 11 concrete towers designed in collaboration with architect Shohei Shigematsu. The performance consists of “professional mourners” from fifteen countries who sit in the half circle of concrete towers. As the name occupation suggests, Simon wanted to deal with mourning as a job, and to examine different rituals of mourning.
The piece involved bringing 30 mourners from 15 different countries to the US, which involved intense paperwork and securing visas for the mourners. The bureaucracy of the endeavor served as an accompaniment to the installation, and commentary on the administration that goes along with death. Applying for these visas involved documenting the work of these mourners, resulting in absurdly trying to translate foreign spiritual processes of mourning into governmental language.
The author of the New Yorker article describes the haunting experience of listening and witnessing the various mourning rituals. The professional mourners came from countries around the world such as Ghana, Cambodia, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Bhutan and Burkina Faso. The mourning rituals lasted in a cycle of fifteen minutes. The visitor describes the silence in the aftermath in a haunting way, and that mourning is a distraction from loss because once the rituals stop and the body is buried there is only silence.