I listen, I respond, I echo

by Louise Ma

From where we stood, on a metal balcony many yards away from the installation, the silos appeared like a monolithic set from Star Wars. As our audience of thirty to forty people filed down the steps and towards the columns, I silently repeated to myself, I hope they don't ask me what I'd like to mourn. I'd checked in with myself as thoroughly as I could, and felt a rather superficial contentment that, for now, I had nothing to mourn.

It was actually two women from among our audience who encouraged me to go deeper into the experience. I had been crouching by the small entryway of the right-most silo, peering into the compact space where a trio of mourners had already begun performing. The women waved me in, smiling without smiling.

I was immediately gripped by the scene--the austerity that is distinctly Taryn Simon. A single, narrow strip of fluorescent light snaking up the wall cast the performers in a cold and unforgiving vision. Their song was brilliantly alive, naked, beating and thrashing with emotion--less than two feet away from me.

I sensed an eggshell-thin membrane of fear and discomfort around me crumble silently, giving way to the strange warmth pulsing out of the mourners' song.

I felt at home. I was carried back to a place I'd been before, and then there I was. I looked up towards the opening of the cement silo, and felt all at once trapped and protected under the watch of an indifferent, yet gently attentive eye.

I visited each silo in succession, each time sensing deeply into a belonging, a familiarity, no matter how distant the mourners' culture may have been from my own. Whether they held mourning in sorrow, in reverence, or in celebration, I saw in each of them some aspect of my own family--its members, their stories, some casual remark or solemn observation they had made about each other's lives and deaths.

There are countless facets to the experience and retelling of loss, and Taryn Simon has somehow aligned the macro- and microcosms of these facets towards one single, breathtaking experience.

Louise Ma is an artist, designer, teacher and student from Brooklyn, NY.  Her most recent collage series was ceremonially destroyed in a burning ritual. See her work here: http://love.seebytouch.com/tagged/collage