An Occupation of Loss

Taryn Simon

Corner of Islington Green, Essex Road
17 April 2018 - 28 April 2018
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “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


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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

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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.

Watch here. The videos are also available to watch on Vimeo.

Image: Nikos Menoudakis and Vangelis Kotsos, Courtesy of the artists.

About Taryn Simon

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Taryn Simon

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


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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


Selected Press

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

Video: Documentation of An Occupation of Loss in London 2018

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Video: Documentation of An Occupation of Loss in London 2018

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

Also available to view on Vimeo and YouTube.

Book: An Occupation of Loss

A detailed record of Simon's years spent researching professional mourning
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Book: An Occupation of Loss

€48.00 from Hatje Cantz

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.

  • Published by Hatje Cantz
  • 220pp
  • Illustrations colour
  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9783775743198

Vinyl: An Occupation of Loss

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Vinyl: An Occupation of Loss

£50 standard edition
Available to buy via the Vinyl Factory

£500 special edition
Available to buy via the Vinyl Factory

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:

  • Recitations of grief and mourning recorded on the occasion of the London performance of Taryn Simon’s An Occupation of Loss
  • Released as a limited, combined book and vinyl edition
  • 2 x 180g heavy weight Onyx Black vinyl records
  • 80pp hard-bound book
  • Design: Joseph Logan and Taryn Simon
  • Mastered: Finyl Tweek and Dan Green
  • Manufacturing: The Vinyl Factory

The special edition also includes:

  • 20 x silk printed photographic prints taken by the collaborating artists
  • Signed and numbered art certificate from the artist
  • Bespoke, custom-made magnetic envelope, to enclose art certificate and prints
  • All items displayed within a bespoke designed box set
  • Edition of 350

Production Credits

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Production Credits

Producer – Michael Morris
Head of Production – Sam Collins
Project Manager – Marina Doritis

Artist – Taryn Simon
Artists Producer – Curtis Wallen
Lighting designer – Urs Schoenebaum
Consultant – Ida Nicolaisen
Afua Acheampomaah, Patimat Alibekova, Busara Azimbaeva, Kalash Tossouni Boudoyan, Toktokan Chancharova, Chen Jian, Aníbal González, Lala Ismayilova, Haji Rahila Jafarova, Nota Kaltsouni, Hanna Koduah, Vangelis Kotsos. Zakhra Maldaeva, Nikos Menoudakis, Ana Luisa Montiel Fernández, Marisol Rosalía Montiel Fernández, Zamfira Ludovica Muresan, Mrike Nokaj, Aziz Tamoyan, Hu Xinglian
Hamdiyah Abdulai Enusah, Hamdiyah Abdulai Enusah, Marina Cap-Bun, Erkens Gjini, Marye Gonzalez, Ekaterina Kasimova, Amiran Sultanov, Yexin Tan, Kostas Vantzsos, Beyimkanim Verdiyeva, Nigar Verdiyeva, 
Production Manager – Ali Beale
Site Manager – Joana Penso
Technical Manager – Jonathan Samuels
Company Manager – Jenney Shamash
Stage Manager – Lucy Barter
Assistant Stage Manager – Isobel Eagle-Wilsher
Assistant Stage Manager – Amy Johnson
Wardrobe Assistant – Hannah Clare
Production Electricians  – Andrew Croft, Leon Smith, Grace Cravan, Lovisa Korling
Technicians – Mike Gittings, John Swindells, Jim Woodall, Ciaran O'Dochartaigh, Matt McQuillan
Artist Liaison – Queralt Guinot, Isabella Efstathiou, Michael Johnson, Sarah Maguire, Hannah Parsons
Front of House Manager  – Ruth Bridget Brennan
Front of House Staff – Phil Swan, Bertie Douglas, Nadia Visram, Sui Kim, Rupert Acton, Iris Brember, Dora Cruickshank, Georgie Brinkman, Mark Sedge, Antonino Barbaro, Lucy Williams, Zsofia Szonja Illes,  Sam Wolf, Alice Jacobs, Josh Leon, Sapphire Stutchbury
Production Acknowledgements
Fabrication – SquareOne Scenic Services
Rigging – Unusual Rigging
LED Lighting Suppliers – 8point3 LED


Image: Professional mourners Aziz Tamoyan and Kalash Tossouni Boudoyan in An Occupation of Loss, London, 2018. Photograph: Hugo Glendinning


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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.

Artangel is generously supported using public funding by Arts Council England, and by the private patronage of The Artangel International CircleSpecial Angels and The Company of Angels. 


Silhouettes of visitors looking over the central pit of multistorey space