Posts Tagged ‘Taryn Simon

08
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Animalia’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 26th May – 18th October 2015

 

Some of the photographs in this postings are sad, others are just gruesome.

One animal’s in/humanity to many others.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Taryn Simon. 'White Tiger (Kenny)' 2007

 

Taryn Simon
White Tiger (Kenny), Selective Inbreeding Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Foundation Eureka Springs, Arkansas
2007
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Taryn Simon

 

In the United States, all living white tigers are the result of selective inbreeding to artificially create the genetic conditions that lead to white fur, ice-blue eyes and a pink nose. Kenny was born to a breeder in Bentonville, Arkansas on February 3, 1999. As a result of inbreeding, Kenny is mentally retarded and has significant physical limitations. Due to his deep-set nose, he has difficulty breathing and closing his jaw, his teeth are severely malformed and he limps from abnormal bone structure in his forearms. The three other tigers in Kenny’s litter are not considered to be quality white tigers as they are yellow-coated, crosseyed, and knock-kneed.

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.) c. 1865

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.) c. 1865 (detail)

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.) (detail)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Zebra, Burchell's, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.)' c. 1865

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Zebra, Burchell’s, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.3 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Zebra, Burchell's, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.)' c. 1865 (detail)

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Zebra, Burchell’s, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.) (detail)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.3 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.)' c. 1865

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.1 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.)' c. 1865 (detail)

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.) (detail)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.1 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Daniel Naudé (South African, born 1984) 'Africanis 17. Danielskuil, Northern Cape, 25 February 2010' 2010

 

Daniel Naudé (South African, born 1984)
Africanis 17. Danielskuil, Northern Cape, 25 February 2010
2010
Chromogenic print
60 x 60 cm (23 5/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Daniel Naudé

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886) '[Dead stag in a sling]' c. 1850s - 1860s

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886)
[Dead stag in a sling]
c. 1850s – 1860s
Albumen silver print
27.9 x 33.2 cm (11 x 13 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886) '[Dead stag in a sling]' (detail) c. 1850s - 1860s

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886)
[Dead stag in a sling] (detail)
c. 1850s – 1860s
Albumen silver print
27.9 x 33.2 cm (11 x 13 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

“Animals have never been camera shy – almost since the introduction of the medium in 1839, they have appeared in photographs. While early photographs typically depicted animals that were tame, captive, or dead, modern and contemporary artists have delved into the interdependent relationship between man and beast.

Drawn entirely from the J. Paul Getty Museum’s photographs collection, In Focus: Animalia, on view May 26-October 18, 2015 at the Getty Center, illustrates some of the complex relationships between people and animals. From an intimate studio portrait with dog and owner to the calculated cruelty of inbreeding practices, these photographs offer nuanced views of the animal kingdom.

“It is easy to understand why artists choose animals for their subject matter – their lives are profoundly intertwined with our own, often eliciting powerful emotions,” says Timothy Potts, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Whether seen as beloved pets, kept in zoos, or threatened by human activity, animals continue to fascinate and act as catalysts for artistic creativity. This exhibition highlights the many different ways in which animals as subject matter have served as an endearing theme for photographers throughout history right up to the present day.”

Photographs of pets, working animals, taxidermied game, and exotic beasts in newly opened zoos circulated widely during the second half of the 19th century. Early daguerreotypes required a subject to remain still for several minutes to ensure that the image would not blur, so photographing moving animals posed a problem. In Study of a White Foal (about 1845) the Swiss nobleman and amateur daguerreotypist Jean-Gabriel Eynard (1775-1863), focused the lens of his camera on a foal at rest, a moment when its movements were limited, in order to make a successful picture.

By the early 1850s most major cities in Europe and America could boast studios specializing in daguerreotype photography. Customers sat for portraits in order to preserve their own images, and also commissioned photographs of their family members and loved ones, including pets. In Dog Sitting on a Table (about 1854; artist unknown) an eager dog is photographed sitting on a tasseled pedestal. The slight blurring of the head, indicating movement during exposure, betrays the barely contained energy of this otherwise well-trained animal.

The mid-19th century saw increasing demand for stereoscopic photographs – two nearly identical prints made with a double lens camera that created a three-dimensional image when viewed in a stereoscope viewer. Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) made a reputation for himself by photographing animals at the London Zoo, much to the delight of those fascinated by hippos, lions, zebras, and other exotic beasts. Eadweard J. Muybridge’s (American, born England, 1830-1904) pioneering work in motion studies are best remembered for his depictions of animals. Devising a system for successively tripping the shutters of up to 24 cameras, Muybridge created the illusion of movement in a galloping horse.

Artists have also relied on animals to convey symbolism and to represent fantastical worlds. A photograph by Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) of a harnessed and castrated horse serves as a critical metaphor for American identity in the early 1920s, which Stieglitz viewed as materialist and culturally bankrupt. An elaborately staged photograph by Sandy Skoglund (American, born 1946) presents a dreamlike atmosphere filled with handmade, larger-than-life sculptures of goldfish that create a scene at once playful and disturbing. Recently-acquired works by Daniel Naudé (South African, born 1984) depict portraits of wild dogs the photographer found on the arid plains of South Africa. Made from a low vantage point, individual dogs are cast against broad views of the landscape, and the photographs harken back to the equestrian portrait tradition popular during the 17th century. Taryn Simon’s photograph of a caged white tiger (American, born 1975) demonstrates the oftentimes debilitating results of the inbreeding practices utilized to obtain highly desired traits such as a white coat. This work illuminates the mistakes and failures of human intervention into a territory governed by natural selection.

In Focus: Animalia is on view May 26-October 18, 2015 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition will be accompanied by the publication of Animals in Photographs (Getty Publications) by Arpad Kovacs.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Sandy Skoglund. 'Revenge of the Goldfish' 1981

 

Sandy Skoglund
Revenge of the Goldfish
1981
Color photograph
27 1/2″ x 35″
Individually hand-made ceramic goldfish by the artist, with live models in painted set
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 1981 Sandy Skoglund

 

Like many of her other works, such as Radioactive Cats and Fox Games, the piece is a set composed of props and human models, which Skoglund poses and then photographs. In the piece, a child sits on the edge of a bed while an adult sleeps next to him. The set of the scene is a monochromatic blue, with contrasting bright orange goldfish floating through the room. The goldfish in the piece were sculpted by Skoglund out of terracotta and bring an element of fantasy to an otherwise normal scene. According to Skoglund, “If the fish are eliminated the image shows nothing unusual; just a room with two people in bed.” The piece was first on display at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1981. Since then, the piece has been in several collections at various museums, including Smith College Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Akron Art Museum, and Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Smith College Museum of Art also owns the original installation. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830-1904) 'Running (Galloping)' 1878 - 1881

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830-1904)
Running (Galloping)
1878 – 1881
Iron salt process
18.9 x 22.6 cm (7 7/16 x 8 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker, American. 'Portrait of a Girl with her Deer' c. 1854

 

Unknown maker, American
Portrait of a Girl with her Deer
c. 1854
Daguerreotype 1/4 plate
Image: 6.9 x 9 cm (2 11/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
Plate: 8.1 x 10.7 cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
Mat: 8.2 x 10.6 cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker, American. 'Portrait of a Girl with her Deer' c. 1854 (detail)

 

Unknown maker, American
Portrait of a Girl with her Deer (detail)
c. 1854
Daguerreotype 1/4 plate
Image: 6.9 x 9 cm (2 11/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
Plate: 8.1 x 10.7 cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
Mat: 8.2 x 10.6 cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

William Eggleston (American, born 1939) 'Memphis' Negative 1971; print 1974

 

William Eggleston (American, born 1939)
Memphis
Negative 1971; print 1974
Dye imbibition print
32.9 x 47.9 cm (12 15/16 x 18 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

Keith Carter (American, born 1948) 'Goodbye to a Horse' 1993

 

Keith Carter (American, born 1948)
Goodbye to a Horse
1993
Gelatin silver print
39 x 39.2 cm (15 3/8 x 15 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Keith Carter

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) '[Wooden Mouse and Duck]' 1929

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985)
[Wooden Mouse and Duck]
1929
Gelatin silver print
20.9 x 16.7 cm (8 1/4 x 6 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of André Kertész

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Spiritual America'
 1923

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Spiritual America

1923
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker, American. '[Dog sitting on a table]' c. 1854

 

Unknown maker, American
[Dog sitting on a table]
c. 1854
Hand-colored daguerreotype 1/6 plate
Image: 6.8 x 5.7 cm (2 11/16 x 2 1/4 in.)
Mat: 8.3 x 7 cm (3 1/4 x 2 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Hiro (American, born China, born 1930) 'David Webb, Jeweled Toad, New York, 1963' 1963

 

Hiro (American, born China, born 1930)
David Webb, Jeweled Toad, New York, 1963
1963
Dye imbibition print
50.2 x 39.1 cm (19 3/4 x 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiro

 

Soon Tae (Tai) Hong (South Korean, born 1934) 'Chong Ju' 1970

 

 

Soon Tae (Tai) Hong (South Korean, born 1934)
Chong Ju
1970
Gelatin silver print
24.8 x 20 cm (9 3/4 x 7 7/8 in.)
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Hong Soon Tae (Tai)

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943) 'In the Box/Out of the Box [right]' 1971

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943)
In the Box/Out of the Box [right]
1971
Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 27.7 cm (13 15/16 x 10 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943) 'In the Box/Out of the Box [left]' 1971

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943)
In the Box/Out of the Box [left]
1971
Gelatin silver print
35.5 x 27.7 cm (14 x 10 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© William Wegman

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
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Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 9 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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09
Nov
10

Review: ‘An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar’ by Taryn Simon at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 15th October – 12th December 2010

 

Taryn Simon. 'U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room, John F. Kendedy International Airport, Queens, New York' 2005/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room, John F. Kendedy International Airport, Queens, New York
2005/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl

 

 

African cane rats infested with maggots, African yams (dioscorea), Andean potatoes, Bangladeshi cucurbit plants, bush meat, cherimoya fruit, curry leaves (murraya), dried orange peels, fresh eggs, giant African snail, impala skull cap, jackfruit seeds, June plum, kola nuts, mango, okra, passion fruit, pig nose, pig mouths, pork, raw poultry (chicken), South American pig head, South American tree tomatoes, South Asian lime infected with citrus canker, sugar cane (poaceae), uncooked meats, unidentified sub tropical plant in soil. All items in the photograph were seized from baggage of passengers arriving in the U.S. at JFK Terminal 4 from abroad over a 48-hour period. All seized items are identified, dissected, and then either ground up or incinerated. JFK processes more international passengers than any other airport in the Unites States.

2005/2007 Chromogenic color print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

 

This is an exhibition of large format colour photographs by Taryn Simon which features a body of work titled An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2006). The work investigates the hidden spaces, places, artefacts and rituals of American cultural warfare (here I mean warfare in the sense of good vs bad, natural vs unnatural (or mutated), safety vs danger, death vs life for example). The photographs are very much like opening a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ where the photographer is attempting to challenge the categorical boundaries of environments and objects, things that are yet to be defined and fixed in place. Some of the photographs work very well in their attempts to categorise, to index; others are far less successful.

Dan Rule in The Age sees the photographs as “slick, high-definition visuals … photographs [that] defy their gritty, documentarian sensibilities. Capturing an ominous vision of Bush-era America, her expansive series … doesn’t merely unearth a sinister vantage of the nation’s underbelly, but renders it in shocking clarity and detail … it ‘s a fascinating and troubling portrait. However, it’s not so much the subject matter but the luminous, hyper-realistic orientation that gives these images such resonance.”1

I see things differently. Where Rule sees luminous photographs I see photographs that are very formal and dull, photographs that are rather lifeless and maudlin. Printed on grey pearlised paper (meaning that the base colour of the photographic paper is not white) and placed in pale grey frames, these A3 high definition, large depth of field photographs possess limited photographic insight into the condition of the spaces and objects being photographed. My friend rather cuttingly, but correctly, noted that they were very National Geographic drained of colour (note: the images in this online posting have far more life and colour than the actual prints!).

This is photography as documentation used to disseminate information, documentation that reinforces the indexical nature of photography (the link between referent and reality) as a form of ‘truth’ – hence the ‘Index’ in the title of the body of work, a taxonomic ordering of reality. Even then some of the photographs have to be validated by text for them to have any meaning. “The visual is processed aesthetically and then redefined by its text” trumpets the wall text. Yes sure, but here the photographs are formalistically visualised, some to very limited effect, and what the text is really doing is semiotically decoding an image that has little meaning (until we are told) through words, words that are about memory, reminders of what we call and know of a thing.
When the photograph tells us very little in the first place, when we do not have knowledge of a thing and cannot construct memories from the photograph but rely solely on words for meaning this can lead to photographs that are intrinsically and inherently poor. An example of a poor photograph in this series is the image of the captured Great white shark. Another example is the photograph of a decomposing body at the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (see photograph above). Compare this to Sally Mann’s photograph of the same subject matter: the resonance of Mann’s photograph is powerful, confronting yet ambiguous with an amorphous aura surrounding the body, that of Simon’s almost as though the artist was afraid to really approach the subject; there seems to be an obsequiousness to the subject matter. Hidden is hidden and this photograph is definitely not “transforming the unknown into a seductive and intelligible form” (wall text).

Simon’s photographs are not visual enigmas that approach Atget’s The Marvellous in the Everyday, where he experimented with “the variable play between nature and art through minute changes in the camera’s angle, or as functions of the effects of light and time of day.” Nor do they possess that quality that I noted in my review of the work of Carol Jerrems – spaces that make some room for you in front – some room that would allow you to look forward, and maybe even walk into that space. Despite their ‘hidden’ and ‘unfamiliar’ context these photographs are very dull spaces. Simon’s camera angles are by the book. So are most of the photographs. Of course, I understand the revealing of meaning in the photograph by the text and the surprise this entails but this simply does not dismiss the fact that some of these works are just poor. In fact I would say only about 50% of these photographs could stand alone without the validation of the text. Does this matter? Is this important? Yes I think it is, for some of these works are just deadpan photographs of entropic spaces that are only given meaning because the photographer says they are important things to photograph (see my paper ‘Spaces That Matter: Awareness and Entropia in the Imaging of Place’, 2002). Even with text some of the photographs still have no resonance.

When the photographs do work they are astounding. There is delicious irony in the depiction of a Recreational Basketball Court in Cheyenne Mountains Directorate, Chamber D, Colorado Springs, Colorado (2006) a dark, oppressive print of a nuclear bunker with basketball court or the incongruous nature of Death Row, Outdoor Recreational Facility “The Cage” (2006), a barred metal cage situated inside another building for the recreation of death row inmates. Shocking, disorientating. My personal favourite in this human built, human-less world of Simon’s was one of the simplest photographs in the exhibition, a photograph that cuts away the surroundings to picture a labelled flask sitting on a non-descript background. A concise visualisation of a labelled flask given extra meaning when you read the accompanying text: Live HIV, HIV Research Laboratory (2006). Pause for thought. The photographs when understood aesthetically are like snapshots of an alien culture, almost mundane but disturbing. I believe the best photographs in the series combine the presence of the space or object, an understanding of the condition of that space or object without having to read the text. The text then supplements the visual interpretation not overrides it.

Human beings are secretive, unstable, paranoid creatures that are exclusory and fearful of Others. Fear is palpable in these photographs. Here is evidence of the human need for control (through the surveillance of photography) over conduct – control of contamination, death, disease, threat and Other. We investigate and document something in order to control it, in order that science can control it (think Foucault’s disciplinary systems of the prison and the madhouse). These photographs excavate meaning by bringing the shadow into the light in order to index our existence, to make the hidden less frightening and more controllable.

Personally, I prefer my world to remain the mutation that is the catastrophe in the pattern / randomness dialectic. I like the chthonic darkness of difference and the rupture of pattern, the dislocation of identity and the challenge of mutation. Even though these photographs address the context of the hidden and unfamiliar there is nothing in the least unusual about them. Here is the paradox of these works: their (ab)normality vs their lack of humanity. The photographs in this exhibition all too easily confirm our prejudices and limit our understanding of difference through their need to document, label, order and exhibit the fear of (in)difference, all the better to control the mutations of disturbance.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Rule, Dan. “Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” in The Age newspaper A2. Melbourne: Saturday, October 23rd 2010

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Many thankx to the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Institute of Modern Art and the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © 2007 Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

Taryn Simon. 'Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, Decomposing Corpse, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee' 2003/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, Decomposing Corpse, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee
2003/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl

 

 

The decomposing body of a young boy is studied by researchers who have re-created a crime scene.

The Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, popularly known as The Body Farm, is the world’s chief research center for the study of corpse decomposition. Its six-acre plot hosts approximately 75 cadavers in various stage of decomposition. The farm uses physical anthropology (skeletal analysis of human remains) to help solve criminal cases, especially murder cases. Forensic anthropologists work to establish profiles for deceased persons. These profiles can include sex, age, ethnic ancestry, stature, time elapsed since death, and sometimes, the nature of trauma on the bones.

2005/2007 Chromogenic color print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled WR Pa 59' 2001 from the series 'What Remains'

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled WR Pa 59
2001
from the series What Remains
© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Taryn Simon. 'White Tiger (Kenny), Selective Inbreeding, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Foundation, Eureka Springs, Arkansas' 2006/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
White Tiger (Kenny), Selective Inbreeding, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Foundation, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
2006/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

 

In the United States, all living white tigers are the result of selective inbreeding to artificially create the genetic conditions that lead to white fur, ice-blue eyes and a pink nose. Kenny was born to a breeder in Bentonville, Arkansas, on February 3, 1999. As a result of inbreeding, Kenny is mentally retarded and has significant physical limitations. Due to this deep-set nose, he has difficulty breathing and closing his jaw, his teeth are severely malformed and he limps from abnormal bone structure in his forearms. The three other tigers in Kenny’s litter are not considered to be quality white tigers as they are yellow-coated, cross-eyed, and knock-kneed.

2006/2007 Chromogenic colour print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

Taryn Simon. 'Hymenoplasty, Cosmetic Surgery, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida' 2005/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
Hymenoplasty, Cosmetic Surgery, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida
2005/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

 

The patient in this photograph is 21 years old. She is of Palestinian descent and living in the United States. In order to adhere to cultural and familial expectations regarding her virginity and marriage, she underwent hymenoplasty. Without it she feared she would be rejected by her future husband and bring shame upon her family. She flew in secret to Florida where the operation was performed by Dr. Bernard Stern, a plastic surgeon she located on the internet. The purpose of hymenoplasty is to reconstruct a ruptured hymen, the membrane which partially covers the opening of the vagina. It is an outpatient procedure which takes approximately 30 minutes and can be done under local or intravenous anesthesia. Dr. Stern charges $3,500 for hymenoplasty. He also performs labiaplasty and vaginal rejuvenation.

2005/2007 Chromogenic color print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

 

“Inspired by rumours of weapons of mass destruction and secret sites in Iraq, American photographic artist Taryn Simon focuses her lens on the hidden and inaccessible places in her own country.

An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2006) takes the viewer behind closed doors to uncover some extraordinary things inside places usually hidden from the public’s view. Ranging across the realms of science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security, and religion, Simon’s photographic subjects include glowing radioactive capsules in an underwater nuclear-waste storage facility, a Braille edition of Playboy, a deathrow prisoners’ exercise yard, an inbred tiger, corpses rotting in a Forensic Research Facility, and a Scientology screening room.

Shot over four years, mostly with a large-format view camera, the images in this fascinating exhibition are in turn ethereal, foreboding, deadpan and cinematic. In examining what is integral to America’s foundation, mythology and daily functioning, the Index provides a surprising map of the American mindset and creates a vivid portrayal of the contemporary United States.

Inspired by rumours of WMDs and secret sites in Iraq, Taryn Simon decided to address secret sites in her own country, photographing hidden places and things within America’s borders. Ranging across the realms of science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security and religion, her subjects include glowing radioactive capsules, a braille edition of Playboy, a death-row prisoners’ exercise yard, an inbred tiger, a teenage corpse rotting in a forensic research facility, and a Scientology screening room. An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar explores a dialectic of security and paranoia that is distinctly American. Offering a heart-of-darkness tour of Bush-period America, it also reflects on photography’s role in revealing and concealing.

In his foreword,1 Salman Rushdie writes ‘In a historical period in which so many people are making such great efforts to conceal the truth from the mass of the people, an artist like Taryn Simon is an invaluable counter-force. Democracy needs visibility, accountability, light. It is in the unseen darkness that unsavoury things huddle and grow. Somehow, Simon has persuaded a good few denizens of hidden worlds not to scurry for shelter when the light is switched on, as cockroaches do, and vampires, but to pose proudly for her invading lens, brandishing their tattoos and Confederate flags.

Simon’s is not the customary aesthetic of reportage – the shaky hand-held camera, the grainy monochrome film stock of the ‘real’. Her subjects… are suffused with light, captured with a bright, hyper-realist, high-definition clarity that gives a kind of star status to these hidden worlds, whose occupants might be thought to be the opposite of stars. In her vision of them, they are dark stars brought into the light. What is not known, rarely seen, possesses a form of occult glamour, and it is that black beauty which she so brightly, and brilliantly, reveals.’

  1. Salman Rushdie, ‘Foreword’ in Taryn Simon, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Steidl Gottingen, Germany, 2007, p. 7.

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Text from the Melbourne International Art Festival and the Centre for Contemporary Photography websites

 

Taryn Simon. 'Cryopreservation Unit, Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan' 2004/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
Cryopreservation Unit, Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan
2004/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

 

This cryopreservation unit holds the bodies of Rhea and Elaine Ettinger, the mother and fist wife of cryonics pioneer, Robert Ettinger. Robert, author of The Prospect of Immortality and Man into Superman is still alive. The Cryogenics Institute offers cryostasis (freezing) services for individuals and pets upon death. Cryostasis is practiced with the hope that lives will ultimately be extended through future developments in science, technology, and medicine. When, and if, these developments occur, Institute members hope to awake to an extended life in good health, free from disease or

the aging process. Cryostasis must begin immediately upon legal death. A person or pet is infused with ice-preventive substances and quickly cooled to a temperature where physical decay virtually stops. The Cryonics Institute charges $28,000 for cryostasis if it is planned well in advance of legal death and $35,000 on shorter notice.

2004/2007 Chromogenic colour print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

Taryn Simon. 'Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility, Chernekov Radiation, Hanford Site, U.S. Department of Energy, Southeastern Washington State' 2005/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility, Chernekov Radiation, Hanford Site, U.S. Department of Energy, Southeastern
Washington State
2005/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

 

Submerged in a pool of water at Hanford Site are 1,936 stainless-steel nuclear-waste capsules containing cesium and strontium. Combined, they contain over 120 million curies of radioactivity. It is estimated to be the most curies under one roof in the United States. The blue glow is created by the Cherenkov Effect which describes the electromagnetic radiation emitted when a charged particle, giving off energy, moves faster than light through a transparent medium. The temperatures of the capsules are as high as 330 degrees Fahrenheit. The pool of water serves as a shield against radiation; a human standing one foot from an unshielded capsule would receive a lethal dose of radiation in less than 10 seconds. Hanford is among the most contaminated sites in the United States.

2005/2007 Chromogenic color print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Friday 11am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 12 – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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