An Occupation of Loss: 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.

The quarantine, a social lock-in resembling a divine act, created an almost religious context where people, like monks, must stay still ... and face themselves, their lives, their truth. – Nikos Menoudakis and Vangelis Kotsos, Athens, Greece
In Quito Ecuador, we have been affected in all areas — economy, society, and, in my case, in music. We have no work. Our artistic activities have been zeroed. – Aníbal González, Quito, Ecuador
During quarantine we continue ... our duty and attend funerals but there are very few people in the homes of the departed ... It is strange to perform in these conditions, with everyone wearing masks and keeping their distance. – Haji Rahila Jafarova and Lala Ismayilova, Ganja, Azerbaijan
We are Yazidi people who are already without freedom, under occupation, and without our own independent country. Now we are also dying from this virus. – Aziz Tamoyan, Laon, France
Due to the virus, it is very challenging for professional mourners to get job opportunities as mass gatherings have been strictly controlled by the government. Only in the most remote villages would they hire mourners to express their loss. It has taken a huge toll on our community. Everyone is having a hard time coping. – Ding Ding Mao and Chen Jian, Chongqing, China
In Guajira we are so afraid to get the virus. I am quarantined at home all day, all the time. It is very dangerous for me because of my age. I think God will help us and will stop the virus. The Wayuu people are against the cremation order imposed by the government. Cremating a body is against our culture and prevents the soul’s journey through the Milky Way to Jepira. The soul is lost. It is terrible for us, but we cannot do anything about it because we live under a dictatorship. – Ana Luisa Montiel Fernández, Maracaibo, Venezuela
If the wall of a house or a wooden beam cracks it means misfortune is approaching. Now death comes in a flash. People do not have time to take care of the soul. – Zamfira Mursean, Satu Nou de Sus, Romania