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Friday 11 November 2011

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize | National Portrait Gallery | London

Text by Sophie Caldecott

"We never get tired of looking at faces," says Torben Åndahl, whose black and white photograph, Eike, is featured in this year’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition. Celebrating the fascination of the human face, the annual award has developed a prestigious international reputation since its inauguration in 2005.

The disagreement and debate that went on between the judges when narrowing over 6000 entries down to just 60 must have been heated, and something of that debate still lingers over their final choices. The portraits are diverse in tone and subject matter, and the photographers who have had their work featured range from young students and amateurs to established professionals. Jill Woodward, winner of the £12,000 First Prize, is a newcomer to the award, whereas Fifth Prize winner David Knight has been featured in the exhibition twice before. Michael Birt’s famous photograph of Keira Knightley for her role in The Children’s Hour is one of the only portraits featuring a celebrity in the exhibition; most of the subjects’ faces are unfamiliar to the viewer, leaving their expressions and body language to communicate their stories.

Eike is taken from Åndahl’s series called Those Left Behind, which explores the bereavement of the friends and family of suicide victims. Eike stands in her kitchen in Denmark, her arms hugging her body defensively and her expression desperately vulnerable and yet somehow strong and proud as she stares directly at the camera. The photograph was taken moments after she told Åndahl’s wife, a trained psychologist, the story of her father’s suicide. It is a stark emotional appeal, striking in its intensity. Åndahl sees the smile that most people automatically assume when a camera is pointed at them as a kind of mask, and works to build up a bond of trust with his subjects so that their raw emotions can be captured.

Rebecca Martinez’s Zoila With Freckles challenges us to rethink the automatic judgements we make about each other, simultaneously demanding a reaction from the viewer as well as urging empathy. It is with shock you realise that the baby cradled by the young woman with gentle brown eyes is not real. "So many of the women I photographed were reluctant to let people in, in case they were going to be judged," says Martinez of her project, The PreTenders, photographing women with artificial babies.

The best portraits in the exhibition, indeed, are the ones that force the viewer to question their own responses. Mario Marino’s striking portrait of a Surma boy from Ethiopia staring straight out at the camera with a defensive frown has unsettling undertones of the colonial era, the Enlightenment obsession with labelling, defining and controlling other cultures. Marino felt that his project was "a race against time", as the remaining pockets of traditional African culture started to disappear before his eyes.

The Embrace by Jonathan May portrays a moment of tenderness between two men, their naked skin covered in colourful patterned tattoos. They clearly see their bodies as living works of art, with the photographer noting that one of them intends to donate his skin to a museum after his death. The portrait embodies and presents both the alien and the familiar; the pair’s extraordinary skin and the mundanity of their activity. An emotionally stimulating selection of portraiture that engages the viewer with so many intensely intimate stories, it is almost a relief that the exhibition is not any larger in scale.

The question of how photography differs from other artistic media is also explored in portraits such as Julia Schestag's Maria With Child. Here, a weary mother holds her baby in a pose reminiscent of a Madonna and Child painting, with a golden disc on the wallpaper behind her head acting as a halo. There is something incredibly painterly about the translucence of her skin. In recalling the work of Leonardo Da Vinci and the old masters, Slater-Hunt highlights the responsibilities and sacrifices of parenthood. As with all of the portraits, however, something about the immediacy of photography makes the subject matter all the more poignant.

What made the winning entry stand out to the judges is indefinable and intriguing. The girl’s red hair that matches the coat of her guinea pig, the clinical white coat and bars of sunlight falling through the steel roof behind her? Her shy, adolescent unease? The five prize-winning entries are not given a particular emphasis in the arrangement of the exhibition, which seems appropriate given its message about the subjectivity of preference.

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize continues at the National Portrait Gallery, London, until 12 February 2012.


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We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Christina and Mark, 14 months (2011
Dona Schwartz © Dona Schwartz

Thursday 10 November 2011

Hedi Slimane's California Song | The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, opens a new solo exhibition of Hedi Slimane's work, on show from this weekend until 22 January 2012. California Song spans the photographer's California period and traces his explorations of cycles of urban youth culture and artistic communities, through installations of photographic essays, exhibitions, and publications.

Slimane has achieved global recognition over the past decade for his discovery and presentation of emerging musicians and artists. His publications on London youth are among the first books published about the early days of the new British punk-rock movement at the beginning of this decade, capturing the birth of the first generation of Internet users, and redefining the concept of “fans” as an indie youth imagery that has developed globally through emerging social networks. Slimaneʼs widely followed photographic diary, created in 2006, established and popularized an entirely new genre—the online photo diary.

Slimane has invented a new and oblique visual language to represent youth and reinvent the rock documentary. In his work, live performance is reduced to a minimal, photographic lexicon—a ritual black-and-white convention of signs. Still life photographs become almost liturgical—a singular, silent expression of youth.

Slimane's exhibition at MOCA will be divided into two parts. An installation and a series of black-and-white print photographs from his California years will be presented on the ground floor, and a sonic, motion-photography installation, produced specifically for MOCA, will be featured on the second floor. The installation will reference a multi-projection, cubic, architectural format, which Slimane has constructed in previous exhibitions to present his photographs, using serial construction and repetition to create an archaic form of cinematic narration.

Slimaneʼs allusive portraiture, in which photographs, portraits, and still life compositions are often signs or fragments of a portrait, will be projected in a repetitive, almost ritual, manner. The installation will also address “performance act,” as defined for the first time in Slimaneʼs photographic essay, Stage (2004), and will include a live performance space underneath the projection.

Select California bands, such as No Age, will contribute to the installation, using a fragmentary sound system, and composing panoramic scores—extended, visual song formats—which will form a dialogue with and define a sonic vocabulary for the photographs.

Hedi Slimane's California Song is on show from 12 November - 22 January.


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All courtesy the artist

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Opening Tomorrow | Roman Polanski: Actor & Director | BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts | Brussels

From 10 November to 8 January 2012, the Centre for Fine Arts will host Roman Polanski: Actor & Director curated by the Łódź Museum of Cinematography. Through photographs showing him as an actor and director, and film posters from all over the world, the show retraces the career of one of the great masters of cinema.

This exhibition at the Centre for Fine Arts, which has also shown in Poland, London, São Paulo, and at the Berlinale, is split into two parts. The first part presents photographs that illustrate the great Polish film director's career chronologically, from his first steps as an actor to images from his latest film Carnage, due for release next month. These images will be accompanied by descriptions written by Polanski himself or by internationally-renowned artists he worked with or for as an actor. Most of the photographs come from film set archives or from the private collections of Polanski's friends such as Andrzej Wajda, Lina Kostenko, Gene Gutowski and Stanley Nowak.

The second part of the exhibition shows posters of the director's films from all over the world; USA, Japan, Mexico, Argentina, Turkey, Russia, Hungary, France and Germany. Forming part of the Łódź Museum of Cinematography collection, these posters highlight the international popularity of the Polish director and his work.

The show also includes sculptures of Polanski created by Pawel Jocz and Waldemar Pokromski alongside videos that clearly recall Polanski's roles as an actor.

Roman Polanski: Actor & Director continues until 8 January 2012.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Niewinni Czrodziej Innocent Sorcerers 1960 © Archives Film Museum Lodz
Zaczarowany Rower Enchanted Bicycle 1955 © Archives Film Museum Lodz
Pokolenie (A Generation) 1955 © Archives Film Museum Lodz

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival | 3-6 November | Official Category Winners

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival - the latest addition to the British film festival circuit - threw open its doors last Thursday night. The inaugural event spanned 4 days (3-6 November) and offered both visitors and residents the opportunity to experience film in the historic city of York. With 150 short films screened in 15 diverse locations across the weekend, medieval halls, historic buildings and contemporary art spaces were transformed into one-off, site-specific venues that allowed visitors the chance to see films from the world-over in a unique setting.

Individual screenings were complemented by a rich programme of special events and discussions, including the ASFF Awards Ceremony where Festival Director, Cherie Federico and Tony Earnshaw, former head of Film Programming at National Media Museum, announced the category winners. The following films will be on the Aesthetica Shorts DVD which will be available with the December/January issue.

Best Documentary and Overall Festival Winner

River Dog (2011)
James Muir/Daniel Hunter
(Mangakuri Pictures)
New Zealand

River Dog is an intimate look into a farmer’s life, and the struggle he endures to protect the river he lives by.

Best Drama

LIN (2010)
Piers Thompson
(Hector Film Ltd)

A woman arrives at a Port Town in an unknown country as dawn turns to day. Her recounted stories begin to contradict themselves as she travels across the landscape. She is searching for something, a shape or a structure, which we are not even sure exists. Along the road she is eventually forced into initiating the process of self-reckoning. As her artifice begins to fall away she finds herself continuing her journey but now with a sense of resolution.

Best Comedy

Tooty’s Wedding (2010)
Frederic Casella
(Hoot Comedy)

A young couple’s marriage hilariously hits the rocks during a weekend wedding in the country. Co-written by Ben Willbond and Laura Solon, this is an excruciatingly funny glimpse into a marriage on the blink.

Best Thriller

Cleaning Up (2011)
The Guerrier Brothers
(Big Finish Productions/Dead Dog Films)

Mr Jackson is the perfect hitman; cold, calculating and professional, you see him and you die, don’t you? Cleaning Up stars Mark Gatiss as Mr Jackson, with Louise Jameson as Mrs Pellman and Anton Romain Thompson as James.

Best Music Video

Amatorski: Soldier (2011)
Maria de Gier
Best Animation

Best Animation

Hasan Everywhere (2009)
Andrew Kavanagh
(Kavaleer Productions)

They were young, talented and free in New York. Dorit Rabinyan was an Israeli novelist and Hasan Hourani was a Palestinian artist. Their passionate friendship, impossible at home, flourished abroad. Then, in 2003 while visiting his family, Hourani drowned in Jaffa. Inspired by Dorit’s 2003 article The Exile’s Return and Hasan’s children’s book Hasan Everywhere, this film contrasts the lonely voice of the writer with the warm, imaginative landscapes of the artist.

Best Art Film

Wall (2011)
Michael Barwise
(University for the Creative Arts, Farnham)

Wall is a short film designed for installation in a gallery space. Shot in super 16mm film, it tackles issues surrounding peace walls in Northern Ireland. Through the manifestation of feelings of paranoia, uncertainty and isolation it explores what it is like to grow up and live beside one of these walls, questioning the spaces that we consider home.

Best Experimental Film

Dogged (2011)
Jo Shaw
(Red Crow Films)

In a world where bogeymen roam freely, devouring people randomly and the only creatures they fear are dogs; Old Dog does her best to defend the family home.

People’s Choice

Dr Knowgood: Lion’s Pride (2010)
Arnold Zwanenburg
The Netherlands/Indonesia

Dr Knowgood: Lion’s Pride is a clay and stop motion animation directed by Arnold Zwanenburg. Telling the story of a lion that has lost his voice and a monkey doctor who saves the day, this is a charming piece of short film.

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Sometimes in Manchester the Brightest Light is from a Match | The Manchester Contemporary | 27-30 October

Text by Abigail Christenson

Here’s a question: is drawing a more egalitarian medium than others? Manchester is a city of draughtsmen and women, and Manchester has always been a place where hierarchies are levelled – or at least where attempts are made to level them. On the other hand, perhaps the city’s interest in drawing has as much to do with the weather, as it has to do with the political and economic climate. In this hazy, grey city the distant outline and silhouette of things is what is most often recognised; call it our first language of depicting. I know this from experience. Here we get to know the outline of things, felt first, and then seen.

Whatever the specific causes, from the evidence of The Manchester Contemporary (27 – 30 October 2011) drawing is very much alive here. Manchester artist Lee Machell (at Untitled Gallery in Manchester) is drawn to depicting the outline of things. His performative drawings consist of the lighting of matches carefully placed around the edges of objects. Machell’s work might consist simply of straight lines burnt, or more interestingly the edges of cassette tapes or reel-to-reel tapes seen only after the placement and incendiary acts of the artist’s matchsticks. Machell’s work is a testament to the power and beauty of a struck match.

Manchester artist David Mackintosh (from Works/Projects, Bristol) manages to capture whatever light is on offer - his bold, simple drawings, gouache on paper larger than A1, are nearly always placed centrally with large margins – like auras - the paper, its own field. Mackintosh explains that his drawings are made quickly, using a method of ‘free association’; they start as open marks and evolve into suggestions of objects. His technique is spontaneous and apparently effortless. If this quick and free brushstroke sounds like Impressionism, it’s not – it’s more interior than retinal, his images are not based on observation. Mackintosh’s marks match inner visions. Like cloud gazing and guessing, Mackintosh begins with something ‘empty’ and finds an inner reservoir of imagery.

Mackintosh’s drawing practice extends to animated videos, which echo the work of fellow-Manchester artist Andrew McDonald (at The International 3, Manchester). McDonald’s arresting animated drawings on screens flicker dark and light, the effect similar to that given by artificial strip lighting coming on after a morning of rest. Flicker - flicker – flickflickflick ON. McDonald’s Rockall (2011) looks to be an escape – a resting spot away from everything else. Its flickering lulls us for an extended moment. An escape from reality, that’s what his drawings are for us, and probably for the artist too.

The interiority of Mackintosh and McDonald’s drawings is found in the work of other Manchester artists, for example, the fantastical, wonderfully ornamental, ink drawings of Mit Senoj (at Bureau, Manchester). Senoj’s imagination seems unbounded – each sheet of paper showing permutations of figures from an unseen world. These figures, behind the swirling serpent and carpet-like ornament, are finely crafted, foreshortened but taken from memory or day or night dreams perhaps, rather than from observation. His colours are muted, lending a look of historical weight – as if faded and improved, like wine, through time. Turning away from the tangible world too are other Manchester artists, Sophia Crilly and Mark Kennard (at Bureau.) Crilly has been drawing portraits of pioneers of modernism in her project entitled A History of Exhibitions & Spaces. Beginning with pre-existing portraits which Crilly re-works, she’s keeping their likenesses in circulation – part homage part irony, perhaps. Kennard’s abstract paintings are also homages of sorts – not only to the tradition of abstraction but also to the effect of the city at night. His Untitled, ‘says’ Manchester – grey tonal field with heightened dripping bursts of colour. Their fluorescence screams WAKE UP, an upper coming from below, nightclub – 3 a.m. bright lights at the base.

Manchester is a city of artists turning inwards for inspiration, or at least away from their windows. Iain Andrews (at Man&Eve, London) refers to past works from the painterly tradition, his colours brightened, twice removed from nature. Andrew Bracey (at Castlefield Gallery) makes reconfigured art historical paintings also in near-fluorescent tones, like an art history slideshow gone awry. Elsewhere in the show Samantha Donnelly’s 3D sculptural collages, composite sculptures named after cocktails, stand proudly on a bar or altar-like plinth. Donnelly’s work reminds us cocktails are the new Communion wine. These are art works of the late night, commenting but also standing for über-glamourised consumption. Cosmopolitan, Death in the Afternoon, and Fashion Victim: Donnelly’s is also work of the interior, but of the interior of the nightclub. Donnelly’s colours are the unnatural colours of spray tans and garish, disposable nightclub wear. Like another accomplished Mancunian feminist, Linder, Donnelly’s collages take to task the media’s virtual-strangulation of women.

London artist Andy Holden (at Works/Projects) also refers to life spent under artificial lights. Tones designed to comfort, or seduce, or to please in their natural contexts of interior design or body ornament are found in his playful work. Holden’s use of eye shadow, lipstick shades, and Homebase emulsions show an artist refusing his limits – sweeping it all in, his frames extended beyond the beyond of an artist’s studio. Holden’s work says YES to it all.

Other highlights from The Manchester Contemporary include the pencil and watercolour drawings of Manchester artist Rachel Goodyear (at The International 3) and the Peaceable Kingdom paintings from New York artist John Finneran (from Arcade Gallery, London.) Both Goodyear and Finneran ask us to see animals in a different way, a way which bridges the divide between our realm and theirs. Witty references to contemporary social manners, by way of the greater animal kingdom, are found in Works/Projects’ artist Edwina Ashton’s makeshift figural sculptures, and her bird-beaky performance costumes. In Ashton’s work the artist’s body is absent but only just. And fool-the-eye humour is found in work by Susan Collis (from Seventeen Gallery, London) with her remarkable mimicry of the detritus of gallery spaces between de-installation and installation of the next exhibition. Collis’s clever work – for example, 18 carat white gold made to look like pencil height marks for hanging – make us guess again, and again. Hers is the ultimate case of an artist dressing down for her own show.

Later, I think of my visit the day before to see work by Pierre Adolphe Valette on show currently at The Lowry in Salford (until 29 January 2012). This 19th century Frenchman-turned-Mancunian developed a keen understanding of the aesthetics of rain. He turned Manchester’s misty vistas into something that communicates to others – like lyrics speaking, or like drawing, making and matching across divides - physical, visual, social – that is what Mancunians have learnt to do so very well.

The Manchester Contemporary ran from 27 - 30 October.
Pierre Adolphe Valette continues at The Lowry until 29 January 2012.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Samantha Donnelly
Installation Shot
Courtesy the artist and Ceri Hand Gallery

David Mackintosh Head & Thing (2010)

Andrew McDonald, Rockall (2011)
Courtesy Andrew McDonald and The International 3

Monday 7 November 2011

Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters | Tate Modern | London

It is no surprise that Tate Modern has extended the run of American artist Taryn Simon’s exhibition A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters until January 2012. This gives us time, and time is one’s ally when engaging with this exhibition where one can happily spend an afternoon probing Simon‘s intriguing investigation into genealogy and its repercussions. The exhibition consists of 18 ‘chapters’ that each documents a bloodline in an ordered, structured form. The chapters consist of 3 framed sections: portraits of family members - like a linear family tree, a supporting annotation, and a series of photographic evidence. The overarching connection between each chapter is the provocative nature of the story they each tell, a story that Simon exploits in the most delicate of ways.

In the first room we are confronted by a land dispute in India which sits across from the story of engineer Choe Janggeun, a south Korean abducted in 1977 by North Koreans when on a shipping mission to regulate illegal fishing. Janggeun was never found, and thus a blank space sits where his photograph should have been, his family members are then systematically photographed. Simon uses blank spaces to present those who, for whatever reason, could not or would not be photographed. Between these two chapters sits Latif Yahia, the Iraqi citizen who was forced to become the body double of Uday Hussein, the infamously psychopathic son of Saddam Hussein. In the third frame the photographic evidence sits - a gold-plated Iraqi AK-47 and a sniper rifle, both were seized by the Americans when storming Uday’s palace. There is also a somewhat comical sequence of Latif impersonating Uday, along with medals that Latif received for his services and a letter from Uday. In the following room sit 32 rabbits in sequence documenting the introduction of rabbits to Australia in 1859 and the subsequent introduction of RHDV, the lethal disease to control the ever increasing rabbit population. This is married with a witch Doctor; the descendants of Hitler’s legal advisor and the bloodline of Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who, at the age of 21, became the first female aircraft hijacker. Another room documents a Ukrainian orphanage, images of the children’s rooms are presented, along with 120 orphaned children’s portraits. The annotation states that children have to leave at 16, and in most cases further education is not provided and the children disappear into Ukraine’s seedy underbelly of human trafficking, prostitution and pornography. In the last room sits a Brazilian blood feud between two families, the Ferrazs and the Noraes, both families’ bloodlines are documented through the portraits and hung powerfully side by side. Opposite sits the tragic outcome of Dorothy Gallagher’s ingestion of thalidomide during pregnancy.

These are challenging and highly engaging testaments, where the body of work jumps in time and place to bridge and illustrate the universal nature of power, religion, conflict and oppression. Through displaying the stories side by side, one is not only reminded of the universalities and complexities of situations, but also that these stories (sadly) are not unique, and were seemingly selected arbitrarily so to illustrate this unfortunate fact. Countless other stories could have stood in their place and would be just as compelling in their controversy. A simple reminder that oppression exists as a universal part of the fabric of society, be it in the guise of a disastrous pharmaceutical drug, or an Iraqi dictator.

Simon has never taken the easy route, a self-confessed seeker of obstacles, she clearly thrives on challenge, and her work is a reflection of that need. This is not only expressed in the nature of what Simon documents, but also in the way it is produced. Four years in the making, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007), is a book containing photographs of the most top-secret, hush-hush places in the world, while Contraband (2009) contains1,075 photographs of items confiscated by US customs at JFK international airport. For this, Simon sacrificed her sanity, sleep and cleanliness to live in the airport for 5 days, resulting in an obscure but endlessly intriguing book that confronts us with the realities of contemporary America. Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, her most ambitious, challenging and laborious project to date, is no exception. The work was created over a four-year period (2008-11) when Simon investigated, documented and produced each thread of the work. The project required her to travel the world and ruthlessly investigate each bloodline, and then with all the raw material it became Simon’s responsibility to pare down that research to form a tight and presentable story for a gallery wall. This interest in obstacle, labour and commitment not only produced the work, but it is very much present for the audience viewing it as well.

To put it bluntly, this is an exhibition that requires time, energy and patience, not only for the content but also each chapter does require the viewer to read and consider thoroughly the relationship between the words and the images. Both elements, the photograph and the paragraph, are as important as each other and support the other in providing a rich tapestry of content. As the eye flits between the visual and the textual, it is apparent how neatly Simon ties the two together and it is this carefully sewn combination that makes Simon’s work so strong. If we were in a quiet gallery, this detailed and full exhibition would sit peacefully and contemplatively on Tate’s cream walls, allowing us freedom from obstacles to float between the walls and the chapters at our own pace. However, this is an unrealistic luxury and in the busy galleries of the 4th floor where the crowds gather round the small frames of information, views are obscured, patience is tested, and questions of ‘just skipping this one out’ (there are 18 chapters after all) are raised. Was this obstacle apparent to Simon? Previous works by Simon (as mentioned above) were books, a medium that offers an isolated experience in which to engage. While the work has been published as a book, and the exhibition itself, in some respects, is like walking through one - each wall a new page - one cannot help but ask the question, would this have been more considered as just a book? However, I tend to run from this thought as the success of this exhibition is, in part, because it bundles together a diversity of situations, people, images; they have been brought together, opposite and across from each other, not to be separate as in a book, and so the chapters remain a neatly integrated and connected series.

What I find most interesting in this body of work, which would not have been so apparent in a book, is the relationship between anxiety and calm. Clearly, the issues Simon is raising could be detrimental to our emotional states, but they are presented in such a calm, ordered, understated way that one can set aside the emotional impact and reflect in a productive, factual manner on the issues and comparisons raised. She has chosen to present the work like a cold scientific survey or index in which to present facts and figures through investigation. Simon is clearly not interested in bombarding us with the horrors of conflict, choosing words over images to describe violence, while the images remain tools to document people and objects in a sterile, studio form. The sitters are not placed in their zones of conflict, all 817 from across the 18 chapters are treated with the same timeless backdrop of studio white. This body of work, with its calm scientific aesthetic, both in its medium and display, removes the emotional attachment and anxiety, granting us space to make connections between the chapters and to think productively about the nature of the work. Simon wants to command our attention, but is not interested in doing so through emotional manipulation.

Like the work itself, boundaries are something that Simon, as an artist, is clearly interested in crossing. She is both deeply invested in contemporary art practice but also the need to dissect the current world; and the new body of work on Tate’s walls illustrates Simon’s uncanny ability to be both an artist and an investigative photojournalist when bringing the political into the gallery. She accomplishes this in the least burdensome way, not only are her works simple to comprehend but also rich enough to house all the information you need to understand the gravity of each chapter - never assuming the viewer’s prior knowledge. Simon’s work is able to grab our attention, but quietly enough to offer us space to be obsessed with it, with the unravelling and reading of the ordered genealogical sequences, their consequences, the stories they tell, and the history they document and preserve.

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters is at Tate Modern, London, to 2 January 2012. The exhibition will show at the Museum of Modern Art in the Spring of 2012.


Installation View, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters. © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Photography by Andrew Dunken and Marcus Leith; Tate Photography

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