⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “the soaring song of a Yezidi man is so devastatingly beautiful it’s like a blow to the solar plexus.” – Ben Luke, Evening Standard
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Simon’s work is everything art should be, and it’s the best show of the year by far.” Eddy Frankel, Time Out
⭐⭐⭐⭐ “The small spaces for the performers are beautifully austere. Freestanding walls are positioned in such a way to create different angles of approach and carefully orchestrated degrees of intimacy.” – Adrian Searle, the Guardian
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.
Image: Professional mourner Chen Jian in An Occupation of Loss, London, 2018. Photograph: Hugo Glendinning
An audience clatters down a stairway down into a huge empty concrete space 3 levels deep. In darkness below, 20 or so performers stand ready to remember the dead. Michael Morris of Artangel said massive effort went into finding exactly the right space to celebrate an ancient art now often lost: powerful laments for those who are gone — Vincent Dowd, Today, BBC Radio 4
Image: People inside An Occupation of Loss, London, 2018. Photograph: Hugo Glendinning
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.
Image: Nikos Menoudakis and Vangelis Kotsos, Courtesy of the artists.
Taryn Simon is a multidisciplinary artist working in photography, text, sculpture and performance. Like much of her work, An Occupation of Loss considers state power, borders and the precarious nature of survival. It is the artist’s first major performance work.
Most recently she has had solo exhibitions at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen (2016 – 2017); The Albertinum, Dresden (2016); Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague (2016); Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2016); Jeu de Paume, Paris (2015); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012); Tate Modern, London (2011); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2011); and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2007).
Image: Professional mourner Zamfira Ludovica Mureşan in An Occupation of Loss, London, 2018. Photograph: Hugo Glendinning
The combined force of the outpourings reached a sustained climax then fell away again to a single voice and, eventually, a deep silence worthy of Samuel Beckett. — Sean O'Hagan, Guardian
The work casts light on the ways in which western rituals of collective mourning have increasingly been stage-managed by governments and organised religion to exclude any visceral or disruptive expressions of grief. — Sean O' Hagan, Guardian
Simon’s work is everything art should be, and it’s the best show of the year by far. — Eddy Frankel, Time Out
The most ambitious international happening of all time...I'd like to send the PM a ticket to this event. — Waldemar Januszczak, The Times
Simon returns contemporary installation to art's oldest, timeless function of memorialising and confronting loss. — Jackie Wullschlager, The Financial Times
The research and bureaucracy behind An Occupation of Loss are formidable – there is no database of traditional mourning practices, or indeed of professional mourners. Simon found herself pursuing word of mouth links over years, between anthropologists, historians and musicologists. — Hetti Judah, i
The space seems both ancient and modern, a Piranesean vault....or some chapel of an unknown faith driven deep into the Earth – Adrian Searle, Guardian
The effect is enchanting, chaotic, mysterious - and at times frightening. — Vincent Dowd, BBC
Modernity has changed the way we mourn, but it has not removed any of the performance. Grief is visceral and Taryn Simon's piece aims to convey how it's beyond description, beyond words, and is a purely sonic experience. — Symeon Brown, Channel 4 News
Here is a thoughtful, even profound artwork. — Alistair Sooke, The Telegraph
Through the act of lamentation, we find ways to process grief and to better manage our understanding of death, both our own and of our loved ones, as something inevitable, certain. — Angie Kordic, Widewalls
Artangel is pleased to present video documentation of Taryn Simon's April 2018 performance of "An Occupation of Loss" in London, captured by filmmaker Boris Bertram.
Video documentation credits:
Director - Boris Benjamin Bertram
Editor - Rikke Selin
Cinematographer - Henrik Bohn Ipsen
Colorgrading - Norman Nisbet
Soundmix - Thomas Jæger
Consultant - Ida Nicolaisen
Available to buy via Artangel at the special price of £23 (UK) and £30 (Rest of Europe). Call to buy +44 (0)20 7713 1400.
In the publication, An Occupation of Loss artist Taryn Simon creates a detailed record of her years researching professional mourning, which culminated in a performance co-commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory and Artangel.
The book leads the reader through the complicated visa application process for the mourners invited to enter the United States, revealing the underlying structures governing global exchange, the movement of bodies, and the hierarchy of art and culture.
The double album includes live and studio recordings of each lament performed by the professional mourners who collaborated on the London performance.
The accompanying 80-page book presents the laments, their English translations, and Simon’s portraits of the performers. A section documenting the performers’ visa application processes foregrounds the underlying structures of global exchange, the movement of bodies across borders, and the hierarchies of art and culture.
Both editions include:
The special edition also includes:
Producer – Michael Morris
Head of Production – Sam Collins
Project Manager – Marina Doritis
Image: Professional mourners Aziz Tamoyan and Kalash Tossouni Boudoyan in An Occupation of Loss, London, 2018. Photograph: Hugo Glendinning
Who made this possible?
Commissioned by Artangel and Park Avenue Armory. Generously supported by LUMA Foundation, Michael G. Wilson and Gagosian Gallery. The London Circle, An Occupation of Loss: The George Economou Collection, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, Alia Al-Senussi, Indoo Sella di Monteluce, Nicholas Warren and Catherine Graham-Harrison. London presentation generously supported by DoubleTree by Hilton London-Islington. With additional support from the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte and Artangel’s Guardian Angels.