Curator, Roxana Marcoci: This major and complex project, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, has been done over a period of four years, from 2008 to 2011, during which the artist traveled around the globe, recording and researching bloodlines and their related stories. The stories that Taryn has documented involve everything from the first woman to hijack an aircraft to the living dead in India.
Artist, Taryn Simon: My medium is photography, text, and graphic design, and all are equally important. My process involves an enormous amount of research to get to the point of actually taking the photograph. The title, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, refers to Chapter One, in which I documented the descendants of a man who died and had four children who were going to inherit his land, and other family members had those four children declared dead so that they could seize the family's ancestral farmland in Uttar Pradesh, India. I photographed the members of this bloodline, four of whom are officially listed in the village registry as dead—they do not exist on paper—and have been fighting to be reinstated as living. This quandary led to the title of the project, which considers that were all the living dead, representing ghosts of the past and future.
One of the things the current work explores is different forms of translation and transmission. It consists of three components: a portrait panel, in which I systematically order the members of a given bloodline; a text panel, in which I construct the narrative at stake; and a footnote panel, in which I present photographic fragments of the story in a more intuitive, abstract, and disordered form. These three parts keep turning on each other and building different stories and readings, depending on the way in which one chooses to navigate through them.