Taryn Simon and Shohei Shigematsu’s The Pipes are coming to MASS MoCA

The Pipes Are Calling

Taryn Simon and Shohei Shigematsu’s The Pipes are coming to MASS MoCA

Installation view, Taryn Simon, An Occupation of Loss at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, 2016. The modular concrete towers will be adapted and reduced in height for The Pipes. (Naho Kubota)

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) is still open for visitors (albeit with pandemic-appropriate precautions in place), and soon the museum will gain a new permanent large-scale outdoor installation.

Today, the museum, based in the Berkshire County city of North Adams, announced that starting May 29, visitors will be able to grieve, mourn, and reflect amid The Pipes, a monumental concrete installation from artist Taryn Simon. The piece was originally deployed in 2016 at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan as An Occupation of Loss; designed and realized in partnership with OMA and Shohei Shigematsu, the 11 occupiable concrete towers were intended to visualize the intangible nature of grief and amplify the voices of those mourning within. The entire exhibition has been since broken down and will be reconstructed on the MASS MoCA campus.

Rendering of the pipes, an arrangement of 11 concrete tubes
Taryn Simon in collaboration with OMA / Shohei Shigematsu, rendering of The Pipes, 2017/2021. Once installed, the gathering space created by the piece will be used to host performances. (Courtesy the artist/MASS MoCA)

The 48-foot-tall modular towers, each standing as solemn, quiet monuments until activated by mourners, were intended to evoke the form of a well, vertically realized as structure, though the entire arrangement also resembles a pipe organ standing at attention. However, from a rendering released by the museum, it seems Simon and OMA’s adaptation of the towers for The Pipes will trim each tower’s height and remove the inclined “caps.”

“Visually and sonically, I kept gravitating toward the form of a well, but I wanted it to be superterrestrial and have height instead of depth while retaining the echo, the reflection, and the vertigo,” Simon wrote when An Occupation of Loss was first unveiled.

looking up through a concrete tube
Looking up through the concrete tubes of An Occupation of Loss at the Park Avenue Armory, 2016 (Naho Kubota)

Rather than being activated by professional mourners as a meditation on the universal lamentation of death across cultures as the installation was originally intended, the silos will be installed outdoors as a place for MASS MoCA visitors to grieve and weave their own sonic tapestries. Obviously, the architecture of remembrance is something of a hot topic right now as designers grapple with a way to memorialize the massive loss of life from the COVID pandemic—the utilitarian structure of The Pipes will allow guests to remember however they deem appropriate, whether it be quietly or through music or performances.

MASS MoCA also plans to use the staging area created by the semicircular arrangement to host performances from the museum’s musicians-in-residence, schools, and community groups.

The installation of The Pipes at MASS MoCA was, according to the museum, made possible with help from: “the Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust, Gagosian Gallery, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, and David Zicarelli and Virginia Troyer.”