Excerpt from Chapter XV of Taryn Simon’s “A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII” (2012), on view through September 3 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
“Well, in my latest work ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII,’ I’ve tried to do that, in a way: to articulate certain systems, patterns, and codes through design and narrative. I traveled around the world researching and recording eighteen bloodlines and their related stories. There are several empty portraits representing living members of a bloodline who could not be photographed for reasons including dengue fever, imprisonment, army service, and religious and cultural restrictions on gender. Some just refused because they didn’t want to be part of the narrative. The blanks establish a code of absence and presence. The stories themselves function as archetypal episodes from the past tht are occurring bow and will happen again. I was thinking about evolution and if we are in fact unfolding, or if we’re more like a skipping record—ghosts of the past and future.”