Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters

by Daniel Haim

EXHIBITION DATES: May 02, 2012–September 03, 2012

This exhibition premieres in the United States a selection from Taryn Simon’s (b. 1975, New York) photographic project, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters. The work was produced over a four-year period (2008-11), during which the artist travelled around the world researching and documenting bloodlines and their related stories. In each of the 18 “chapters” that make up the work, nine on which will be on view at MoMA, the external forces of territory, power, circumstance or religion collide with the internal forces of psychological and physical inheritance. The subjects Simon documents 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.

Each work is comprised of three segments. On the left of each chapter are one or more large portrait panels systematically presenting individuals directly related by blood. The sequence of portraits is structured to include the living ascendants and descendants of a single individual. The portraits are followed by a central text panel in which the artist constructs narratives and collects details about the distinct genealogies. On the right are Simon’s “footnote images” representing fragmented pieces of the established narratives and providing photographic evidence.

Simon’s project A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters locates the photographic medium’s capacity to at once probe complex narratives in contemporary politics and to organize this material in classification processes characteristic of the archive, a system that connects identity, lineage, history, and memory.

The exhibition is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.