The culmination of seven years' work with professional mourners, anthropologists, and historians, Taryn Simon's first major performance explored the relationship between life and death, grief and performance.
Each night audiences visiting An Occupation of Loss descended from the busy Essex Road into a half-built, subterranean, concrete opera-house where professional mourners simultaneously broadcast their lamentations, enacting rituals of grief from around the world.
Their sonic mourning is performed in recitations that include northern Albanian laments, which seek to excavate “uncried words”; Venezuelan laments, which safeguard the soul’s passage to the Milky Way; Greek Epirotic laments, which bind the story of a life with its afterlife; and Yezidi laments, which map a topography of displacement and exile.
Laments from Quarantine
Laments from Quarantine is a collection of recent recordings compiled by artist Taryn Simon from collaborating artists in her 2018 performance An Occupation of Loss. Many of the artists are unable to mourn at funerals due to coronavirus restrictions, while some continue to attend funerals despite social distancing recommendations.
In An Occupation of Loss, professional mourners enact sonic rituals of grief, mapping the intricate systems devised to manage the abstract certainty of death. Their recitations include northern Albanian laments, which seek to excavate “uncried words”; Wayuu laments, which safeguard the soul’s passage to the Milky Way; Greek Epirotic laments, which bind the story of a life with its afterlife; and Yazidi laments, which trace a topography of displacement and exile.
Co-commissioned by Artangel and Park Avenue Armory, An Occupation of Loss was first presented in September 2016 at Park Avenue Armory, New York. The London performance took place below Islington Green in a cavernous concrete space selected for its unusual sonic properties.