• Duration of the Exhibition22. September 2011 - 01. January 2012
  • VenueNeue Nationalgalerie
  • The exhibition was made possible by the Freunde der Nationalgalerie.

I try to keep a clear distance from the subject. I never want to say that I understand or somehow know the subject. In fact, it’s more that I don’t know.” Taryn Simon

Neue Nationalgalerie will present A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, a powerful and elaborately constructed new body of photographic work by the artist Taryn Simon (b. 1975). Over a four-year period, Simon travelled around the world recording bloodlines and their related stories. In each chapter, the external forces of territory, power, circumstance or religion collide with the internal forces of psychological and physical inheritance. The subjects Simon documents 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. Her collection is at once cohesive and arbitrary, mapping the relationships among chance, blood and other components of fate.

A Living Man Declared Dead is divided into eighteen chapters, all of which will be presented at Neue Nationalgalerie. Each chapter is comprised of three segments: one of a large portrait series depicting bloodline members (portrait panel); a second containing photographic evidence (footnote panel) and a third featuring text (annotation panel). 817 portraits are systematically arranged in panels that are over 7 ft. high and range from 3 to 23 ft in width. Simon includes empty portraits, representing living members of a bloodline who could not be photographed. The reasons for these absences are provided in supplementary lists and include imprisonment, military service, dengue fever and women not granted permission to be photographed. A number of footnote images in accompanying panels expand and locate the stories in each of Simon’s chapters.

Simon’s presentation explores the struggle to determine codes and patterns embedded in the narratives she documents, making them recognizable as variations (versions, renderings, adaptations) of archetypal episodes from the present, past, and future. In contrast to the methodical ordering of a bloodline, the central elements of the stories – violence, resilience, corruption, and survival – disorient the highly structured appearance of the work. A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters highlights the space between text and image, absence and presence, and order and disorder.