Taryn Simon has a new exhibition currently showing at Park Avenue Armory in New York. It's called An Occupation of Loss and gathers 30 professional mourners from around the world who perform their rituals inside large towers set up in the museum space. It raises issues of public mourning, the ways in which different cultures express grief, and the role of the state in mourning. The New York Times has a review of the installation:
Traditionally, professional mourners are hired by families of the deceased to mark the occasion and to guide the dead to the place where they will lead their afterlife. Mourners are called upon to mark larger losses within their communities, like displacement or exile, in a cultural role that is part witness, part historian and part poet.
Ms. Simon’s mourners, with 13 companions, arrived, by somber happenstance, on the eve of the 15th anniversary of 9/11. They came from Azerbaijan, which banned mourners when the country was a part of the Soviet Union; Cambodia, where mourners were targeted by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s; and Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia, where mourners are heard on radio and television announcing tragedies and the deaths of well-known people.
Ms. Simon collaborated with Shohei Shigematsu, director of the New York office of OMA, an architectural firm, on the installation: a cluster of 11 concrete towers, open at the top and 48 feet tall, that houses the mourners by nationality as they perform. It resembles a large pipe organ and operates acoustically as an instrument, giving harmony to the cacophonic language of loss.