It has been a terrible year for goodbyes: final FaceTime calls with loved ones in the hospital; no hugs at the graveside funeral; memorial services over Zoom. The mourning rituals we rely on for comfort and support as we grieve are not possible right now. The loss and isolation so many of us are feeling is immense.
in the absence of a proper mourning is an outdoor installation and online space to gather testimonials from Maryland residents who have had to say goodbye or memorialize their loved ones under conditions of social distancing. Audio excerpts from interviews play on loop from speakers hidden at the base of two large 15-foot decorative arches on the facade of the Jewish Museum of Maryland in the historic Jonestown in Baltimore City. The arches themselves will frame large prints of Zoom background images gathered from the recordings. Thus, the arches, and the museum’s facade overall, will offer pixelated portals into the homes of grieving neighbors.
in the absence of a proper mourning asks us to confront numerous difficult questions related to our connections to one another and transforms the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s public-facing facade into a site for collective mourning and communal care..
Tal Beery is an artist, educator, and arts administrator. His work considers the links between aesthetics, institutional design, and political imaginations. A serial institution-maker, Beery is co-founder of Eco Practicum, an artist-run school for ecological justice; founding faculty at School of Apocalypse, examining the connections between creative practice and notions of survival; and founding member of Educational Ecologies Collective, a consulting firm generating tools for institutions of higher education to promote climate justice. He is also a core member of Occupy Museums, an artist collective whose projects have exposed corrupt links between high art and high finance. His written work and interviews have appeared in numerous publications, and his personal and collaborative works have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States and Europe, including the 2012 Berlin Biennale, Brooklyn Museum, and the 2017 Whitney Biennial. His current curatorial project, “Owning Earth,” considers the relationship between art and epochal change.
The Importance of witnesses in Times of grief
This project is a collaboration between artist Tal Beery and Modern Loss’ Rebecca Soffer as they document Tal’s creative process through a rolling WhatsApp conversation with Rebecca, in which she provides ideas, guidance, and good old-fashioned moral support throughout the production of “In the Absence of a Proper Mourning.”
The final written product is a piece that provides context to and reflection on the conversation, followed by the visuals from the WhatsApp discussion, shedding light both on the creative process and the specific sensitives and nuances of collecting and translating personal testimonials around the subject of loss, grief, and mourning.
For the full written response please see “The Importance of Witnesses in Times of Grief”.
Rebecca Soffer is co-founder of Modern Loss, which offers creative, meaningful, and encouraging content and community addressing the long arc of grief. She is also co-author of the book “Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome” (Harper Wave, 2018), which The Strategist named a best book on loss for a younger generation, and the author of the forthcoming “The Modern Loss Handbook” (Running Press, 2021), an interactive guide through loss and resilience. She has been featured on “CBS Sunday Morning,” led retreats at Kripalu, and spoken nationally on loss and resilience at Chicago Ideas Week, on HBO, and on Amazon. Her writing has appeared in outlets such as The New York Times, Marie Claire, and NBC. Rebecca is a former producer for “The Colbert Report” and a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism alumna.