>American Index by Taryn Simon

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Taryn Simon’s website American Index – worth a look. All extracts below from Taryn Simon’s website:


An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar
For this project, artist Taryn Simon assumes the dual role of shrewd informant and collector of curiosities, compiling an inventory of what lies hidden and out-of-view within the borders of the United States. She examines a culture through careful documentation of diverse subjects from the realms of science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security, and religion. Transforming the unknown into a seductive and intelligible form, Simon confronts the divide between those with and without the privilege of access. Simon makes use of the annotated-photograph’s capacity to engage and inform the public. Through text and image, the work underscores the complicated relationship between a photograph and its context. The visual is processed aesthetically and then re-defined by its text. Her sometimes ethereal, sometimes foreboding compositions, shot with a large-format view camera over a four year period, vary as much as her subject matter, which ranges from radioactive capsules at a nuclear waste storage facility to a black bear in hibernation. In examining that which is integral to America’s foundation, mythology and daily functioning, Simon creates a collection of works that reflect and reveal a national identity. 

White Tiger (Kenny)
Selective Inbreeding, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Foundation
Eureka Springs, Arkansas

In the United States, all living white tigers are the result of selective inbreeding to artificially create the genetic conditions that lead to white fur, ice-blue eyes and a pink nose. Kenny was born to a breeder in Bentonville, Arkansas on February 3, 1999. As a result of inbreeding, Kenny is mentally retarded and has significant physical limitations. Due to his deep-set nose, he has difficulty breathing and closing his jaw, his teeth are severely malformed and he limps from abnormal bone structure in his forearms. The three other tigers in Kenny’s litter are not considered to be quality white tigers as they are yellow-coated, cross-eyed, and knock-kneed.
Chromogenic print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113 cm), Edition of 7
© Taryn Simon

Death Row Outdoor Recreational Facility, “The Cage”
Mansfield Correctional Institution
Mansfield, Ohio

At Mansfield Correctional Institution, death row inmates are permitted one hour of outdoor recreation per day in individual or group containment areas known as cages or bullpens. Inside segregated cages there is only a chin-up bar and inmates are not permitted to bring any items with them. In non-segregated cages there is a stationary basketball net and they are permitted to bring with them items including a basketball, radio, deck of cards, and cigarettes.
All death row inmates at Mansfield are classified as having “mental health issues.” In Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the execution of persons with mental retardation to be unconstitutional. Defining mental retardation is a controversial issue currently being addressed as part of the proposed Death Penalty Reform Act of 2006. 38 of the 50 U.S. states provide for the death penalty in law.
Chromogenic print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113 cm), Edition of 7
© Taryn Simon


U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Queens, New York

African cane rats infested with maggots, African yams (dioscorea), Andean potatoes, Bangladeshi cucurbit plants, bush meat, cherimoya fruit, curry leaves (murraya), dried orange peels, fresh eggs, giant African snail, impala skull cap, jackfruit seeds, June plum, kola nuts, mango, okra, passion fruit, pig nose, pig mouths, pork, raw poultry (chicken), South American pig head, South American tree tomatoes, South Asian lime infected with citrus canker, sugar cane (poaceae), uncooked meats, unidentified sub tropical plant in soil.
All items in the photograph were seized from the baggage of passengers arriving in the U.S. at JFK Terminal 4 from abroad over a 48-hour period. All seized items are identified, dissected, and then either ground up or incinerated. JFK processes more international passengers than any other airport in the United States.
Chromogenic print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113 cm), Edition of 7
© Taryn Simon

Hymenoplasty
Cosmetic Surgery, P.A.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The patient in this photograph is 21 years old. She is of Palestinian descent and living in the United States. In order to adhere to cultural and familial expectations regarding her virginity and marriage, she underwent hymenoplasty. Without it she feared she would be rejected by her future husband and bring shame upon her family. She flew in secret to Florida where the operation was performed by Dr. Bernard Stern, a plastic surgeon she located on the internet.
The purpose of hymenoplasty is to reconstruct a ruptured hymen, the membrane which partially covers the opening of the vagina. It is an outpatient procedure which takes approximately 30 minutes and can be done under local or intravenous anesthesia. Dr. Stern charges $3,500 for hymenoplasty. He also performs labiaplasty and vaginal rejuvenation.
Chromogenic print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113 cm), Edition of 7
© Taryn Simon

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