Saturday, 29 July 2017

Arty Afternoon

Taryn Simon documented counterfeit items that were seized in New York
After lunch, my cousin and I hit some art galleries in the Pedder Building in Central.

One exhibition in Gagosian Gallery that was really interesting was Taryn Simon's Contraband (2010). It features 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.

Plants (above), drugs, and animal parts were seized too
She apparently worked for a week non-stop at the airport, photographing the constant flow of goods seized from passengers and express mail entering the United States from abroad.

The photographs are small and grouped together in certain ways -- there were lots of sausage shots, mostly in tact, some sliced up, as well as counterfeit clothing and bags like fake Hermes bags, Adidas runners (together with the boxes), and jewellery.

There were also pirated DVDs, steroids, narcotics, plants and sex stimulants. Other odd items included dead animals, cow-manure tooth powder, gold dust and overproof Jamaican rum.

It was a fascinating documentation of what people try to bring into the country, and how Simon tried to photograph them as clinically clean as possible without any frame of reference, except for a plain white background.

The flowers for the China-Pakistan agreement
Another project she did is called Paperwork and the Will of Capital. Have you ever noticed at any major agreement signed between two (usually male) leaders of two countries that there is always a flower arrangement on the table?

This is what Simon photographed -- not the actual flower arrangements, but recreated them before taking their pictures and researching where the flowers came from and how they seem to have no relationship with the countries or the agreements that are signed.

The photographs are blown up large and placed in beautiful teak frames that include a description of the arrangement and the history of the accord, treaty, or decree that was signed.

Floral arrangement for the China-Russia gas deal
That's not all -- the flowers are then pressed and dried and saved too. This is a bit much, but at the same time, the photographs don't mean much without the historical context.

Taryn Simon
Portraits and Surrogates
Until August 5
Gagosian Gallery
7/F, Pedder Building
12 Pedder Street
2151 0555

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