Reflections on LABA artist Tal Beery’s “in the absence of a proper mourning”

by Ronit Muszkatblit

In The Absence of a Proper Mourning is an outdoor audio visual installation that will be shown at The Jewish Museum of Maryland by LABA artist Tal Beery. This piece is a part of Dwelling in The Time of Plagues, a Jew­ish cre­ative response to real-world plagues of our time, gen­er­ous­ly sup­port­ed by CANVAS, a Jewish funders network.

Beery took the huge responsibility to respond to the most obvious, heavy plague of our time: COVID. 

Rebecca Soffer writes, “More than half a mil­lion souls have died in the Unit­ed States alone, spark­ing a grief pan­dem­ic suf­fered by at least five mil­lion griev­ers from Covid-19 deaths alone (a the­o­ry called the bereave­ment mul­ti­pli­er sug­gests that for every death from this virus, an aver­age of nine peo­ple are direct­ly affect­ed by long-last­ing emo­tion­al, health and finan­cial con­se­quences). Then think about all the oth­er mil­lions of griev­ers mourn­ing deaths from any oth­er caus­es. Mil­lions of peo­ple who have had to say their good­byes through screens — if any were able to be said at all.”

Beery interviewed 8 people from the Baltimore area who lost loved ones to COVID and needed to say goodbyes under the constraints of social distancing. He captures the raw, harsh reality of this “plague” and invites the viewer to empathize and grapple with the enormity of this pandemic, the real ways it has altered human lives, and offers a way for these survivors, who were robbed proper mourning of their loved ones, to share their stories.

Sofer continues, “Those who lis­ten to these sto­ries will sure­ly gain an enor­mous appre­ci­a­tion and empa­thy for the excru­ci­at­ing grief of these sur­vivors. But now con­sid­er the fact that one per­son absorbed all 300 min­utes of those sto­ries. What about his experience?”

In her full article in The Impor­tance of Wit­ness­es in Times of Grief , written for the Jewish Book Council, Rebecca Sofer shares with us her long text communication with Beery as he goes through the process of interviewing these mourners, and offers us a first hand view of an artist’s experience, thought process and the emotional weight he carries. 

Be sure to join us for the virtual opening event on Thursday April 1st here

Read the full article by Rebecca Soffer here