Taryn Simon reveals America’s secrets
15 October 2010
Taryn Simon reveals America’s secrets at the Govett-Brewster
New York-based photographer Taryn Simon presents a fascinating series of powerful photographic images at the Govett-Brewster this summer as she unearths North America’s mythologies, hidden worlds and secret sites.
Simon’s complex and vast exhibition, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar 2005/2007, looks at secrets the public are complicit in keeping. Gauging a variety of subject matters – such as government protocols, science research, entertainment, religion and nature – images vary from a death row exercise yard to a Playboy magazine available in Braille.
Researched and produced over a period of four years, Simon assumed the position of contemporary undercover detective as she collected images of mystery and wonder through the lens of a large-format view camera.
Gallery Director Rhana Devenport says: ‘Taryn Simon’s An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar offers unimagined insights into the unseen political, scientific and sociological complexities of our everyday lives. Although the American context is the model, the questions she raises through her intensely-researched project can be transferred to multiple national and institutional contexts. The project raises important lines of thinking about visible and invisible systems of control.’
The exhibition is accompanied by a superbly illustrated hard cover catalogue that includes an essay by Salman Rushdie. The beautiful compositional structure of the photographs reference the foreboding and the cinematic, and individually engage viewers into the visual ambiguity of the image. Audiences redefine the image from its past mystery; carefully considering the relationship between image and context and between image and meaning. Alongside each photograph is a carefully worded text that offers another layer of complexity. Salman Rushdie notes: ‘Simon uses text as few photographers do, not merely as title or caption but as an integral part of the work.’
Taryn Simon was born in 1975 in New York and graduated from Brown University. Simon has exhibited internationally and her work has been collected by such museums as London’s Tate Modern, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and Paris’s Centre Pompidou. Simon has been a visiting artist at universities including Harvard and Yale.
The Govett-Brewster is the only venue in the North Island to present Taryn Simon’s exhibition that is toured by the IMA (Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia).
The exhibition will be presented from 18 December 2010 to 6 February 2011.
Image: Taryn Simon Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility Cherenkov Radiation Hanford Site, U.S. Department of Energy Southeastern Washington State 2005 / 2007