Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon


September 27, 2007

Taryn Simon
An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar

29.9.2007 – 20.1.2008

Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main
Domstrasse 10, 60311
Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Tues.-Sun. 10 am to 5 pm
Wed. 10 am to 8 pm, Mon. closed
Tel. +49 (0)69 212 30447
Fax: +49 (0)69 212 37882

“I am always immensely grateful to people who do impossible things on my behalf and bring back the picture. It means I don’t have to do it, but at least I know what it looks like. So one’s first feeling on looking at many of these extraordinary images is gratitude (followed quickly by a momentary pang of envy: the sedentary writer’s salute to the woman of action).”
— Salman Rushdie on Taryn Simon –

Our image of America is changing. An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar is the title of a new series of works by Taryn Simon (b. 1975), which is being exhibited in full for the first time at the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst. For this project, the New York-based artist, whose works often bridge art and politics, has documented places that are integral to America’s foundation, mythology and daily functioning, but remain inaccessible or unknown to a public audience. More than sixty large-format photographs taken over the past four years often required protracted negotiations before Simon was granted access to the otherwise inaccessible. When circumstances permitted, she photographed with a large-format camera and elaborate lighting, quite explicitly not following the tradition of the journalistic snapshot. Simon explores a society by carefully documenting sites and subjects from domains including science, government, medicine, nature, and religion that remain hidden and out-of-view for natural, social, or political reasons. Her photographs include radioactive containers in a storage facility for nuclear waste, the recreational facility of a high-security prison, and the headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan with its Wizards, Night Hawks, and Kleagles. Her enormous powers of persuasion enabled her to gain access to a Scientology screening room and to visit MOUT, a simulated city in Kentucky built as a training ground for urban warfare. She was in the sealed-off halls of the CIA headquarters, in a highly protected research institute studying animal epidemics, and in an operating room in which a woman had her hymen and thus her virginity restored.

Taryn Simon gives a visible and clear form to sites with no popularly distributed visual anchor. In doing so she confronts the divide between the privileged access of the few and the limited access of the public. Making the hidden visible is linked to the task of providing information. Simon makes use of the annotated photograph’s capacity to engage and inform. One aspect of her understanding of aesthetics is expanding the limits of what we are permitted to see and know, to approach those obscure marginal areas in which physical, intellectual, and moral dangers lurk. Although An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar forces us to confront some of the excesses that a democratic society can produce, these images also convey the fascination that goes along with discovering unexplored territories. Simon captures the strange magic locked beneath the surface, at the foundation of a national identity.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, published by Steidl Verlag, which includes color reproductions of all works as well as texts by Salman Rushdie and others.
All photographs Copyright 2007, Taryn Simon, courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Image above:
Cryopreservation Unit
Cryonics Institute
Clinton Township, Michigan

This cryopreservation unit holds the bodies of Rhea and Elaine Ettinger, the mother and first wife of cryonics pioneer, Robert Ettinger. Robert, author of “The Prospect of Immortality” and “Man into Superman” is still alive.

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September 27, 2007

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