In the video interview above, American photographer Taryn Simon talks about her powerful four-year project A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII (2008–11), currently on view at The Museum of Modern Art. Marking the U.S. debut of this project, the exhibition features nine of the 18 “chapters” that comprise this poignant work. To make this project, the artist traveled around the world recording bloodlines and their related stories. The stories documented 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, to name a few. Terrorism, violence, war, expropriation of one’s land, and lack of civic rights are some of the themes that this exhibition brings into play.
Simon’s work came to international attention in 2003 with The Innocents, an exhibition organized by MoMA PS1. The show consisted of a series of photographs of Americans wrongly convicted of violent crimes and later exonerated through DNA evidence. In 2007, the artist produced An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, a body of work for which she traveled from inside the C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to the Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility, Cherenkov Radiation, in southeastern Washington state, photographing America’s least visible and possibly most repressed sites. In November 2009, during a period of five days, Simon lived at John F. Kennedy International Airport, documenting a 21st-century phenomenon—worldwide traffic in counterfeit goods. The result was Contraband (2010), an archive of over 1,000 images of items that were seized from passengers entering the United States from abroad.