My works continually mutate under different politics, economies, cultures and times. . . . These disruptions and time’s passage are part of the work.
Gagosian is pleased to present Portraits and Surrogates, Taryn Simon’s first exhibition in Hong Kong. Simon draws from three key bodies of recent work, as well as a video self-portrait made in collaboration with a Russian news program, to examine the reciprocity between portraits and their surrogates. The technical, physical, and aesthetic realization of Simon’s projects often reflects the control and authority that form the grist of her work.
Simon is a multidisciplinary conceptual artist whose work has been the subject of many museum exhibitions around the world since her prescient debut with The Innocents in 2002 at MoMA PS1, New York. In 2013, her ambitious taxonomic series A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII (2008–11) was presented at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Simon’s research-driven approach has produced other such impactful series as An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007); Contraband (2010); and the web-based Image Atlas (2012); as well as The Picture Collection (2013); Birds of the West Indies (2013–14); Paperwork and the Will of Capital (2015); and Black Square (2006–), an ongoing project about the consequences of human inventions. For Simon, photography has always been a vehicle for larger conceptual ideas. Paired with text, her photographs reveal the structures behind controlling systems, from ancestry and borders to botany and diplomacy. Between text and image, a blur occurs and each is altered by the other, again and again, back and forth.
Portraits and Surrogates suggests the transformative power of the subject and its photograph, examining how even the most banal object becomes freighted with new significance when exposed to different cultural and political circumstances. Contraband (2010) is an archive of desire and control, comprising 1,075 photographs taken at the US Customs and Border Protection Federal Inspection Site and the US Postal Service International Mail Facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. With performative intent, Simon lived a full working week at the airport without pause, photographing the flow of generic goods seized from passengers and express mail entering the United States from abroad—from fashion items and foodstuffs to exotic creatures and pirate videos.
A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII documents bloodlines and their related stories, including albinos under threat of physical attack in Tanzania for their purported magical powers, the abduction of South Koreans by North Korea, and the nineteenth-century European rabbit that became a modern Australian pest. Each “chapter” is the product of rigorous research, travel, and data collection, resulting in an index of identity, memory, and heredity.
In Paperwork and the Will of Capital, Simon considers the stagecraft of power via the accords, treaties, and decrees drafted to influence systems of governance and economics, from nuclear armament to banking conventions and diamond trading. In original archival images of the signings of these documents, powerful men flank floral arrangements; Simon recreated and photographed these arrangements, pairing them with expository texts that underscore not only the instability of fact but the fragility of history itself. Each arrangement, placed in front of striking bicolored backgrounds, occupies several layers of symbolism at once: it references the Flemish Enlightenment idea of the “impossible bouquet”; bears witness to the formalities of governance; and, displayed in sculptural concrete presses alongside the preserved botanical specimens, attests to the inevitable effects of time.
Cutaways (2012) is both a portrait and a surrogate of the artist herself. At the close of a video interview on Prime Time Russia, Simon was asked to sit silently and stare at the newscasters for several minutes; she was informed that this was standard practice, and that the footage would be used in the editing process. Simon thus finds herself at the center and as the subject of the very systems of orchestrated authority that her own work examines.
我的作品在不同政治、經濟、文化及時代中持續變異 。. . . 這些紛擾和時間的流逝也是作品的一部分。
西蒙是一位涉獵不同界別的觀念藝術家，2002年於紐約PS1當代藝術中心首次展出《無辜者》(The Innocents)後，其作品先後於全球各地的多間博物館展出。2013年，她於北京尤倫斯當代藝術中心展出意念創新的分類學系列《一個被宣告死亡的活人及其他章節一至十八》(A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII，2008–11年)。西蒙亦按照以研究為主導的方式，創作其他極具感染力的作品，包括《美國之隱匿及陌生物索引》(An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar，2007年)、《違禁品》(Contraband，2010年)、網絡作品《影像地圖集》(Image Atlas，2012年)、《圖片集》(The Picture Collection，2013年)、《西印度群島雀鳥》(Birds of the West Indies，2013–14年)、《文本及資本的意志》(2015年作)，以及仍在持續創作過程中的《黑方塊》(Black Square，2006年至今)，後者探究人類發明的成果。西蒙視攝影為盛載宏大槪念的工具，配以文字說明，能揭示操控制度背後的架構，包括世系、邊境、植物學及外交等。文字與圖像之間的界線模糊，兩者不斷互相影響。
《剪接鏡頭》(Cutaways，2012年)既是這位藝術家的自畫像，也是她的替代品。她在接受《Russia Prime Time》錄影訪問時，工作人員要求她沉默地凝望新聞主播數分鐘，並指這是慣常的做法，這個鏡頭將於剪接時使用。這時，西蒙發現自己處於精心編排的權力系統中心，成為其作品探討的主題對象。
Taryn Simon and Teju Cole
This spring, as part of the Lambert Family Lecture Series at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Taryn Simon joined Teju Cole for an online conversation about her artistic practice and creative process.
Taryn Simon: An Occupation of Loss
In Taryn Simon’s performance work An Occupation of Loss (2016), professional mourners enact rituals of grief, simultaneously broadcasting their lamentations from within a sculptural installation. This video by filmmaker Boris B. Bertram documents the April 2018 performance of this work with Artangel in Islington, London.
The New York Public Library’s Picture Collection
Joshua Chuang, the Robert B. Menschel Senior Curator of Photography at the New York Public Library, discusses the institution’s singular Picture Collection, the artist Taryn Simon’s rigorous engagement with it, and four instances of its little-known role in the history of art making.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2021
The Summer 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Carrie Mae Weems’s The Louvre (2006) on its cover.
Cast of Characters
James Lawrence explores how contemporary artists have grappled with the subject of the library.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019
The Summer 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Afrylic by Ellen Gallagher on its cover.
The Color of a Flea’s Eye: The Picture Collection
July 14–September 11, 2021
976 Madison Avenue, New York