June 28, 2010  |  MoMA PS1
Xaviera Simmons: Image Builder

In this video, mixed-media artist Xaviera Simmons talks about her work and her striking new photo installation, Superunknown (Alive In The), currently on view in Greater New York, MoMA PS1‘s quinquennial showcase of works made in the past five years by artists and collectives living and working in the metropolitan New York area.

Xaviera Simmons. Superunknown (Alive In The). 2010. On view in the exhibition Greater New York at MoMA PS1. Photo: Matthew Septimus. Courtesy MoMA PS1

In her work Simmons investigates ideas of landscape, history, myth, and narrative mainly through photography, installation, sound, and performance. For Greater New York, she presents Superunknown (Alive In The) (2010), a wall-sized grid of over forty found photographs, appropriated from news sources and all depicting boatloads of migrants afloat in the open ocean. In this body of work Simmons is interested not only in the content of the images, but also in examining how the group of images functions as an archive or collection.


I like the way this exhibition is displayed. Visually, the multiple images of this scale give the viewer the opportunity to view a body of work as opposed to just one photograph and come to an interpretation of meaning of the subject as a whole, viewing it from one position.

I liked this piece a lot. One of the images (somewhere in the upper left quadrant) of what I think is the woman who swam from Cuba to Florida some years ago makes an interesting contrast to the people desperately trying to get across the water alive. Here she is immersed in it, surrounded by an enclosure to protect her from sharks and of course a staff of people in boats to feed her, rescue her if need be, etc. Not to find fault in any way with the swimmer, but, what a contrast!

it’s been awhile since any one photographic work has touched me like this. really appreciate it.

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