New York artist Taryn Simon (*1975) creates elaborate classifications of obscurities that sometimes hide in plain sight. In a time when we increasingly define ourselves by things, it is mostly objects, not people
or situations that feature in her photographs. If they ever inhabit her art, humans usually succumb to the role of variables in larger, dominating frameworks. Simon’s work questions the modes of representation – by asking how to depict complex notions like taxation, injustice, or power; by examining the forms and value of information, be it DNA or travel catalogues of places soon to be bombarded; and eventually shows seemingly neutral systems as inescapably constructed, predetermined and controlling, but still subject to chance.
Simon’s methods, cultivated by investigation as well as critical theory, often involve years of research, intense travel, and the laborious collection of material. The conceptual approach is, however, not accompanied by a repudiation of the visual, the formal, or of storytelling—their seductiveness is part of the plan. The images, taken mostly by large format cameras, always aim at the beautiful and together with the texts conjure topics from the 20th and 21st century mythologies: the twists of international affairs, the historic ironies, the what-if magnetism of conspiracy theories, and combine them with the charms of cabinets of curiosities or the exponents of the Kafkaesque structures that we pass on the way from the airport.
Simon considers photography, writing, graphic design, performance, sculpture, and film all part of her medium. The synchronization and consistency for which her capabilities and resources in these fields allow, the sheer amount of information, the persuasiveness of the images, the impersonal tone of the anchoring texts, the seriousness of the designs and exquisiteness of the materials used for making these into desirable artifacts, all present a face of objective and unquestionable authority. But what they are actually here to do is obscure, and by that ultimately highlight, the necessarily manipulative nature of the organization of information and the ever more elusive line between reality and fiction, the trustworthy and unbelievable, essential and arbitrary, order and chaos.
The exhibition brings together six projects produced between 2007 and 2014.
TARYN SIMON (*1975) is a multidisciplinary artist who has worked in photography, text, sculpture and performance. Her practice involves extensive research, guided by an interest in systems of categorization and classification. Simon’s works have been the subject of exhibitions at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2016), Jeu de Paume, Paris (2015), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012); Tate Modern, London (2011); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2011); and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2007). Permanent collections include Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, the Guggenheim Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her work is included in the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). She is a graduate of Brown University and a Guggenheim Fellow. Simon lives and works in New York.