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Taryn Simon

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Cold Hole, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, May 26, 2018–March 25, 2019 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: David Dashiell, courtesy MASS MoCA

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Cold Hole, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, May 26, 2018–March 25, 2019

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: David Dashiell, courtesy MASS MoCA

Installation view, Taryn Simon: An Occupation of Loss, Islington Green and Essex Road, London, April 17–28, 2018. Produced by Artangel. A co-commission by Artangel and Park Avenue Armory Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Hugo Glendinning/Taryn Simon Projects, courtesy the artist

Installation view, Taryn Simon: An Occupation of Loss, Islington Green and Essex Road, London, April 17–28, 2018. Produced by Artangel. A co-commission by Artangel and Park Avenue Armory

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Hugo Glendinning/Taryn Simon Projects, courtesy the artist

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Paperwork and the Will of Capital, MOMENTA | Biennale de l’image at Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Quebec, September 8–November 19, 2017 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay, courtesy MAC Montréal

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Paperwork and the Will of Capital, MOMENTA | Biennale de l’image at Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Quebec, September 8–November 19, 2017

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay, courtesy MAC Montréal

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Birds of the West Indies, Carnegie International 56th Edition, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, October 5, 2013–March 16, 2014 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Greenhouse Media, courtesy Carnegie Museum of Art and Gagosian

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Birds of the West Indies, Carnegie International 56th Edition, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, October 5, 2013–March 16, 2014

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Greenhouse Media, courtesy Carnegie Museum of Art and Gagosian

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Soldier Is Taught to Bayonet the Enemy and Not Some Undefined Abstraction, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic, April 27–July 10, 2016 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Martin Polák, courtesy Galerie Rudolfinum

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Soldier Is Taught to Bayonet the Enemy and Not Some Undefined Abstraction, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic, April 27–July 10, 2016

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Martin Polák, courtesy Galerie Rudolfinum

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 2–September 3, 2012 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar, courtesy Museum of Modern Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 2–September 3, 2012

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar, courtesy Museum of Modern Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon, Helsinki Art Museum, Finland, March 9–May 13, 2012 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Hanna Kukorelli, courtesy Helsinki Art Museum

Installation view, Taryn Simon, Helsinki Art Museum, Finland, March 9–May 13, 2012

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Hanna Kukorelli, courtesy Helsinki Art Museum

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Action Research/The Stagecraft of Power, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, March 17–May 22, 2016 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Naroditskiy Alexey, courtesy Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Action Research/The Stagecraft of Power, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, March 17–May 22, 2016

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Naroditskiy Alexey, courtesy Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, March 9–June 24, 2007 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Sheldan Collins, courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, March 9–June 24, 2007

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Sheldan Collins, courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: The Innocents, Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2003 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: courtesy KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: The Innocents, Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2003

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: courtesy KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: An Occupation of Loss, Park Avenue Armory, New York, September 13–25, 2016 © Taryn Simon. Photo: Naho Kubota, courtesy the artist and Gagosian

Installation view, Taryn Simon: An Occupation of Loss, Park Avenue Armory, New York, September 13–25, 2016

© Taryn Simon. Photo: Naho Kubota, courtesy the artist and Gagosian

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Action Research/The Stagecraft of Power, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, March 17–May 22, 2016 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Naroditskiy Alexey, courtesy Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Action Research/The Stagecraft of Power, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, March 17–May 22, 2016

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Naroditskiy Alexey, courtesy Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Shouting Is under Calling , Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland, February 24–June 16, 2018 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Annik Wetter Photographie, courtesy Gagosian

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Shouting Is under Calling , Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland, February 24–June 16, 2018

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Annik Wetter Photographie, courtesy Gagosian

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Rear Views, a Star-Forming Nebula, and the Office of Foreign Propaganda, Jeu de Paume, Paris, February 24–May 17, 2015 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Romain Darnaud, courtesy Jeu de Paume

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Rear Views, a Star-Forming Nebula, and the Office of Foreign Propaganda, Jeu de Paume, Paris, February 24–May 17, 2015

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Romain Darnaud, courtesy Jeu de Paume

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, September 21, 2011–January 1, 2012 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: David von Becker, courtesy Neue Nationalgalerie

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, September 21, 2011–January 1, 2012

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: David von Becker, courtesy Neue Nationalgalerie

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Soldier Is Taught to Bayonet the Enemy and Not Some Undefined Abstraction, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, Germany, October 27, 2016–January 15, 2017 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: David Pinzer, courtesy Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Soldier Is Taught to Bayonet the Enemy and Not Some Undefined Abstraction, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, Germany, October 27, 2016–January 15, 2017

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: David Pinzer, courtesy Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Soldier Is Taught to Bayonet the Enemy and Not Some Undefined Abstraction, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, Germany, October 27, 2016–January 15, 2017 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: David Pinzer, courtesy Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Soldier Is Taught to Bayonet the Enemy and Not Some Undefined Abstraction, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, Germany, October 27, 2016–January 15, 2017

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: David Pinzer, courtesy Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden

Installation view, Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, October 29, 2016–January 15, 2017 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Poul Buchard/Broendum & Co, courtesy Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, October 29, 2016–January 15, 2017

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Poul Buchard/Broendum & Co, courtesy Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Rear Views, a Star-Forming Nebula, and the Office of Foreign Propaganda, Jeu de Paume, Paris, February 24–May 17, 2015 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Romain Darnaud, courtesy Jeu de Paume

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Rear Views, a Star-Forming Nebula, and the Office of Foreign Propaganda, Jeu de Paume, Paris, February 24–May 17, 2015

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Romain Darnaud, courtesy Jeu de Paume

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Paperwork and the Will of Capital, United Nations, 2016 Treaty Event, New York, 2016 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: courtesy the artist and Gagosian

Installation view, Taryn Simon: Paperwork and the Will of Capital, United Nations, 2016 Treaty Event, New York, 2016

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: courtesy the artist and Gagosian

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, October 15, 2013–January 5, 2014 Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Peter Lo, courtesy Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

Installation view, Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, October 15, 2013–January 5, 2014

Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Peter Lo, courtesy Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

About

Archives exist because there’s something that can’t necessarily be articulated. Something is said in the gaps between all the information.
—Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon directs our attention to familiar systems of organization—bloodlines, criminal investigations, flower arrangements—making visible the contours of power and authority hidden within. Incorporating mediums ranging from photography and sculpture to text, sound, and performance, each of her projects is shaped by years of rigorous research and planning, including obtaining access from institutions as varied as the US Department of Homeland Security and Playboy Enterprises, Inc.

Born in New York, where she lives and works, Simon received a BA in semiotics from Brown University in 1997. In 2001 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for what would become her first major photographic and textual work: The Innocents (2002), which was exhibited at MoMA PS 1. Documenting cases of wrongful conviction in the United States, The Innocents calls into question photography’s function as a credible eyewitness and arbiter of justice.

In 2007 Simon’s series An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007) was presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The photographs depict objects, sites, and spaces that are integral to America’s foundation, mythology, and daily functioning, but that remain inaccessible or unknown. These subjects include radioactive capsules at a nuclear waste storage facility, a black bear in hibernation, and the art collection of the CIA. The following year Simon began A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII (2011), for which she traveled the world researching and recording bloodlines and their related stories. In each of the work’s twenty-eight “chapters,” the external forces of territory, power, circumstance, and religion collide with the internal forces of psychological and physical inheritance. The subjects documented by Simon 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. Her collection is at once cohesive and arbitrary, mapping the relationships among chance, blood, and other components of fate. For Contraband (2010), Simon spent a week at JFK International Airport in New York, photographing the goods that were seized as they entered the US from abroad. An archive of global desires and perceived threats, Contraband encompasses 1,075 images of items set against crisp pale gray backgrounds. A formal inverse of these works can be found in Black Square (2006–), in which Simon isolates objects, documents, and individuals within a black field with precisely the same measurements as Kazimir Malevich’s 1915 Suprematist work of the same name.

In 2012–13 Simon began work on Image Atlas (2012–) and The Picture Collection (2013–), projects that bridge physical and digital archives. The former, created with computer programmer Aaron Swartz, investigates cultural differences and similarities by indexing top image results for given search terms across local search engines throughout the world. The latter was inspired by the New York Public Library’s picture archive, whose 1.2 million printed images, organized under more than 12,000 subject headings, comprise the largest circulating picture library in the world. In 2013 Simon also produced Birds of the West Indies, a two-part series that takes its title from a taxonomy by American ornithologist James Bond. Part I is a visual inventory of the women, weapons, and vehicles appearing in the film franchise featuring the fictional British spy James Bond; this visual database of interchangeable variables used in the production of fantasy examines the economic and emotional value generated by their repetition.  In Part II, Simon identifies, photographs, and classifies every bird that appears in the first twenty-four James Bond films. Simon pored over every scene to discover these moments of chance, training her eye away from the agents of seduction—glamour, luxury, power, violence, sex—to look only in the margins.

In Paperwork and the Will of Capital (2015), Simon re-created centerpieces from official photographs of international political signings, underscoring how the stagecraft of power is created, performed, marketed, and maintained. The signings that inform the series involve the countries that were present at the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which addressed the globalization of economies after World War II and led to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The concrete flower presses comprising the series’ sculptural component were included in the 2015 Venice Biennale. The following year Simon presented her first performance work, An Occupation of Loss (2016), in which professional mourners enact rituals of grief, broadcasting their lamentations from within a sculptural installation. Their sonic mourning is performed in recitations that include northern Albanian laments, which seek to excavate “uncried words”; Wayuu laments, which safeguard the soul’s passage to the Milky Way; Greek Epirotic laments, which bind the story of a life with its afterlife; and Yezidi laments, which map a topography of displacement and exile. Performed in New York in 2016 and in London in 2018, An Occupation of Loss probes the anatomy of loss and the intricate systems used to manage contingencies of fate and the uncertain universe.

Performance continues to intersect with Simon’s photographic work. Her 2018 exhibition at MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, included two performance-based works, A Cold Hole (2018) and Assembled Audience (2018). In the former, Simon transports the ancient ritual of cold water immersion into the museum, inviting the public to seek the uncertain opportunity for a quick fix. Cold-water plunges’ long history of notable participants includes Apache leader Geronimo, who employed cold-water immersion to prepare boys for manhood and battle; biologist Charles Darwin; and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The shock of plunging into freezing water overrides thought and elicits from participants a gasp like that experienced during sudden death, sleep arrhythmia, and birth. Assembled Audience probes the phenomenon of engineered applause. Over a one-year period, Simon recorded the claps of individuals attending events at the three largest venues in Columbus, Ohio, a city nicknamed “Test City, USA" because its demographics so closely mirror those of the nation as a whole. She layered these recordings into a dense soundscape that plays in a darkened space, gathering individuals with divergent political, corporate, and ideological allegiances into a single crowd that surrounds the viewer. The MASS MoCA exhibition also featured the first major museum installation of Simon’s bookwork, a central aspect of her carefully researched multimedia work.

Taryn Simon

Photo: courtesy the artist and MASS MoCA

Website

tarynsimon.com

Fairs, Events & Announcements

Jeff Wall, Pawnshop, 2009 © Jeff Wall

Talk

In Focus
Duane Hanson, Taryn Simon, Jeff Wall

Thursday, August 20, 2020, 5pm EDT

Join Gagosian for a trio of online presentations to learn about the ways Duane Hanson, Taryn Simon, and Jeff Wall approach photography as a generative practice and notions of truth and reality. Andy Avini will explain how Hanson’s figures take on new meaning in a photographic context, Louise Neri will speak about the intersection of photography in Simon’s multidisciplinary practice, and Graham Dalik will discuss how Wall changes photography’s relationship to truth through influence from other art forms. To join, register at zoom.us.

Jeff Wall, Pawnshop, 2009 © Jeff Wall

Taryn Simon, Brazil, from the series Birds of the West Indies, 2014 © Taryn Simon

Support

All for the Hall

August 8–December 31, 2020
Guild Hall, East Hampton, New York
www.guildhall.org

Renowned American artist Robert Longo has mobilized sixty artists to donate artworks for a special benefit exhibition with all proceeds supporting Guild Hall, the historic multidisciplinary center that has for decades served the artist community of Long Island’s East End. In response to the ongoing impact of the covid-19 pandemic, All for the Hall includes painting, sculpture, photography, and new site-responsive installations. Work by Cindy Sherman and Taryn Simon is included

Taryn Simon, Brazil, from the series Birds of the West Indies, 2014 © Taryn Simon

Creative direction: Sable Elyse Smith. Graphic: Nicole Killian

Benefit

MoMA PS1 Benefit
Online AF

Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 8:30–10pm EDT

MoMA PS1 is hosting an internet variety show to honor Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood and Taryn Simon for their support of the museum. Fleetwood curated the exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, and Simon recently joined the museum’s board of directors. The online party will feature live performances, music, and more. The event is free, but donations are encouraged. To join, register at moma.org.

Creative direction: Sable Elyse Smith. Graphic: Nicole Killian

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Museum Exhibitions

Taryn Simon, Hymenoplasty, Cosmetic Surgery, P. A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 2005/2007, from the series An Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2007 © Taryn Simon

Just Opened

Time for Outrage!
Art in Times of Social Anger

Through January 10, 2021
Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Germany
www.kunstpalast.de

Based on a 2010 manifesto of the same title by former French resistance fighter Stéphane Hessel, the exhibition Time for Outrage! brings together more than forty international artists who visualize, reflect on, and comment on various facets of anger and rage in our society during this era of political turmoil and democratic crisis. Work by Taryn Simon and Adriana Varejão is included.

Taryn Simon, Hymenoplasty, Cosmetic Surgery, P. A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 2005/2007, from the series An Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2007 © Taryn Simon

Photo © Taryn Simon

On View

Taryn Simon
Assembled Audience

Through December 27, 2020
Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus
wexarts.org

Taryn Simon’s Assembled Audience (2018) draws on the notion of engineered applause, gathering individuals with varying political, corporate, and ideological allegiances into a single crowd. Simon assimilated recordings of single attendees applauding at local concerts, sporting events, and political rallies at three of the largest venues in the capital city of the bellwether state of Ohio. Her experiential installation wholly immerses the visitor in a darkened space punctuated only by the sound of randomized individual applause tracks; the same crowd never comes together twice. Presented for the first time in the city of its creation, Assembled Audience proves prescient in the isolation that it forecasted as these same gathering spaces, once crowd-filled, are now quieted by covid-19, the spaces respectively repurposed for eviction trials, police trainings, and a field hospital.

Photo © Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Queens, New York, 2007, from the series An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2007 © Taryn Simon

On View

Taryn Simon in
Spaces of No Control

Through January 10, 2021
Austrian Cultural Forum New York
www.acfny.org

Spaces of No Control is an international group exhibition that explores the notions of the modern city and its signifying dystopias of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This multifaceted show unites contemporary artists based in Austria and the United States to comment on current definitions of citizenship and public space. Work by Taryn Simon is included.

Taryn Simon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Queens, New York, 2007, from the series An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2007 © Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon, Transatlantic Sub-Marine Cables Reaching Land, VSNL International, Avon, New Jersey, 2006–07, from the series An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2007 © Taryn Simon

On View

Taryn Simon in
We Never Sleep

Through January 10, 2021
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany
www.schirn.de

This exhibition explores the “golden age” of espionage during the Cold War in the context of media super-exposure through the works of more than forty international artists. On view are a multitude of artistic strategies and unexpected objects: Paintings, photographs, videos, sculptures, and installations address the topic from a contemporary perspective. The works in the show touch on aspects of spy culture such as surveillance, paranoia, conspiracy, threat, camouflage, cryptography, manipulation, and propaganda. Work by Taryn Simon is included.

Taryn Simon, Transatlantic Sub-Marine Cables Reaching Land, VSNL International, Avon, New Jersey, 2006–07, from the series An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2007 © Taryn Simon

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Press

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