Taryn Simon's 'An Occupation of Loss' Opens Tonight

Taryn Simon's 'An Occupation of Loss' Opens Tonight

The newest installation at the Park Avenue Armory features mourners from around the world.

The newest installation at the Park Avenue Armory features mourners from around the world.

Text: Mariana Fernandez

In the wake of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, conceptual artist Taryn Simon ventures into the realm of performance art in a monumental installation at the Park Avenue Armory that explores the mechanisms of coping with loss and grief.

For An Occupation of Loss, opening tonight, Simon gathered 30 professional mourners from around the world to participate in a work of art that combines architecture, music, sculpture, and performance. The result is an immersive experience that maps the different ways that grief is experienced around the world.

As the audience first steps foot in the Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall, they are greeted by 11 monumental towers, which Simon designed in collaboration with Shohei Shigematsu (of OMA). From above, audience members watch as mourners step into their respective towers, all with a deafening silence. The audience then descends to the ground level and is free to roam through the towers, entering the highly intimate space of each mourner.

Cries and songs of lament begin to echo throughout the 48-foot dimensions of each tower and resound into the vault of the Armory. Mourners from Venezuela, Greece, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, and more fill the space with unscripted performances used in their home countries to cope with the finality of death.

Taken out of their usual context, the mourner’s performances blur the distinction between authentic and staged emotion. One mourner from Ecuador nestles an enormous accordion as he sings his traditional “yaravi” to honor the dead. Two women from Azerbaijan slap their chests and knees as a cry for fallen martyrs.

The audience’s collective and individual presence and movement through the space seem to become part of the performance as the line between audience and performer, between art and reality, disappears.

An Occupation of Loss will run through September 25. The show features nightly performances, each 30 minutes long. During the day visitors are free to explore the towers.

Credits: Banner Image rendering by OMA


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