MASS MoCA expands outdoor art offerings with Taryn Simon's The Pipes

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MASS MoCA expands outdoor art offerings with Taryn Simon's The Pipes
Installation view of Taryn Simon, The Pipes, 2016 | 2021. As installed at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA. Designed in collaboration with Shohei Shigematsu, OMA. Courtesy of the artist.

NORTH ADAMS, MASS.- The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has announced that a large-scale outdoor sculpture by Taryn Simon, titled The Pipes, will be on long-term view on the museum’s campus. What began as an oversized concrete instrument for a cacophony of global mourning in Simon’s work An Occupation of Loss has been populated by the sounds, collective call and response, and movements of a living public. The 11 structures that make up the installation – which Simon originally designed in collaboration with Shohei Shigematsu of architecture firm OMA – are modular, and have been adapted by Simon and Shigematsu for the MASS MoCA campus.

The Pipes joins MASS MoCA’s growing constellation of long-term outdoor artworks sited throughout the museum’s campus and downtown North Adams, including works by Jenny Holzer, Martin Puryear, James Turrell, and Franz West. This is Simon’s second project at MASS MoCA, following her acclaimed 2018 solo exhibition A Cold Hole + Assembled Audience.

The Pipes are an immersive experience, offered to the public as a sacred space for reflection, impromptu performance, and stargazing. The form and function of The Pipes simultaneously conjures the futuristic and the ancient. As Simon noted in a public conversation with Homi K. Bhabha: “The concrete, modular, installation has a monumental appearance but was inspired by the subterranean form of the well. I was initially drawn to their sonic properties, and by inverting their structure – literally flipping it upright – I was able to reference their invisible scale.”

The sculpture was commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory and Artangel for the 2016 exhibition An Occupation of Loss, where the pipes were activated by both professional mourners and the larger public. The mourners’ sonic rituals included northern Albanian laments, which seek to excavate “uncried words”; Wayyu 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. By day, Simon’s sculpture was occupied by the living, who projected different soundscapes and cacophonies by interacting with each other and the pipes themselves. Simon’s installation considered the anatomy of grief and the intricate systems we use to manage contingencies of fate and the certainty of death.

Reconceptualized at MASS MoCA, The Pipes has been installed outdoors, where it generates a sonic community over time. Resonating with MASS MoCA’s commitment to contemporary visual and performing art, this reimagining of The Pipes offers a space for visitors to quietly contemplate or to fill with the sounds of their own instruments, vocals, and accidental and intentional performances. The sculpture has been sited adjacent to Joe’s Field, the museum’s largest performing arts venue. Visitors including local school and community groups and musicians-in-residence will be welcomed to use the space during festivals and throughout the year. The installation of The Pipes at MASS MoCA overlays the sculptures’ sonic memory of loss with the spontaneity of life.

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