Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII
May 2–September 3, 2012
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Robert and Joyce Menschel Photography Gallery, third floor
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
212 708 9400
The Museum of Modern Art presents the first U.S. exhibition of Taryn Simon’s photographic project A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII. The exhibition is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
This powerful, elaborately constructed photographic work was produced over a four-year period (2008–11), during which the artist travelled around the world researching and recording bloodlines and their related stories. In each of the “chapters” that make up the work, the external forces of territory, power, circumstance, or religion collide with the internal forces of psychological and physical inheritance. The subjects Simon documents include victims of genocide in Bosnia, test rabbits infected with a lethal disease in Australia, the first woman to hijack an aircraft, and the living dead in India.
A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII is divided into 18 chapters, nine of which are featured at MoMA. Each work is comprised of three segments: the first is a large portrait series systematically presenting individuals directly related by blood. The portraits are structured to include the living ascendants and descendants of a single individual. Simon also shows empty portraits, representing living members of a bloodline who could not be photographed. The second segment, following the portraits, is a text panel, in which the artist constructs narratives and collects details about the distinct bloodlines. She also notes the reasons for the absences in the portrait panel, which include imprisonment, military service, dengue fever, women not being granted permission to be photographed, and the like. The last segment is Simon’s “footnote” panel, which is comprised of images that expand and locate the stories in each of the chapters.
Simon’s presentation explores the struggle to determine codes and patterns embedded in the narratives she documents, making them recognizable as variations (versions, renderings, adaptations) of archetypal episodes from the present, past, and future. In contrast to the methodical ordering of a bloodline, the central elements of the stories—violence, resilience, corruption, and survival—disorient the highly structured appearance of the work. A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII highlights the space between text and image, absence and presence, and order and disorder.
Generous support for the exhibition is provided by Robert B. Menschel and by Aaron and Barbara Levine.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a website that features an in-depth presentation of all nine “chapters” of A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII on view at MoMA. The site, MoMA.org/tarynsimon, will launch on May 2, 2012.
About the Artist
Taryn Simon was born in 1975 in New York, where she lives and works. Her previous projects include Contraband (2010), an archive of images of items that were detained or seized from passengers and mail entering the United States from abroad; An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007), which reveals objects, sites, and spaces that are integral to America’s foundation, mythology, or daily functioning but remain inaccessible or unknown to a public audience; and The Innocents (2003), which documents cases of wrongful conviction in the United States, calling into question photography’s function as a credible witness and arbiter of justice. Simon’s work has been the subject of monographic exhibitions at Tate Modern, London; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; and MoMA PS1, New York. A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII was shown in its entirety at Tate Modern, London (May 25, 2011–January 2, 2012), and Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (September 21, 2011–January 1, 2012).
Collection Michael and Jane Wilson, copyright 2012 Taryn Simon.