Taryn Simon
Con­tra­band

2nd April – 1st June 2019
Anna Schwartz Gallery

Con­tra­band com­pris­es 1,075 pho­tographs tak­en at both the U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Fed­er­al Inspec­tion Site and the U.S. Postal Ser­vice Inter­na­tion­al Mail Facil­i­ty, both locat­ed at John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tion­al Air­port in New York, and func­tion­ing as lim­i­nal spaces between the U.S. and oth­er nations. For one full work­ing week, 24 hours per day, Simon remained on site, pho­tograph­ing items detained or seized from pas­sen­gers and express mail enter­ing the U.S. from abroad.

The result­ing project cat­a­logues the expan­sive inven­to­ry of objects, pre­sent­ing the col­lect­ed items alpha­bet­i­cal­ly and under­scor­ing ran­dom pat­terns and con­nec­tions among them. Using a foren­sic pho­to­graph­ic pro­ce­dure to doc­u­ment the seized items, and a pre­sen­ta­tion strat­e­gy draw­ing upon sci­en­tif­ic and muse­o­log­i­cal method­olo­gies, Simon removes the con­fis­cat­ed items from all con­text, and instead posi­tions them as sym­bols of illic­it desire, ille­gal trade, and gov­ern­ment con­trol. Each item is labelled accord­ing to offi­cial clas­si­fi­ca­tions includ­ing aban­doned’, ille­gal’, unli­censed’, and coun­ter­feit’. Simon’s inven­to­ry includes pirat­ed movies; coun­ter­feit cashier’s checks; fat, sausages, deer blood, and duck tongue; coun­ter­feit Louis Vuit­ton hand­bags and Patek Philippe watch­es; coun­ter­feit Xanax and erec­tile dys­func­tion med­ica­tion; GBL (a com­po­nent of date rape drug); and a dead bird intend­ed for use in witch­craft rit­u­als. This glut of repet­i­tive goods yields a view of the social whole, char­ac­terised by its reflex to pro­duce, accu­mu­late, con­sume, and trans­port with­out lim­its. Simon’s pho­tographs thus cap­ture both the strict logis­ti­cal con­trol of the air­port, which adheres to legal restric­tions on cer­tain cat­e­gories of for­eign objects, as well as the chaos and dis­or­der that remain despite this con­trol – scru­ti­n­is­ing the bizarre, the for­got­ten and the banal with a cold, admin­is­tra­tive gaze.

With debates around bor­der secu­ri­ty and trade agree­ments occu­py­ing a cen­tral role in cur­rent polit­i­cal dis­course, Con­tra­band under­scores the rou­tine deten­tion and denial of the pas­sage of objects and peo­ple, as well as the delib­er­ate obscur­ing of the inno­cent or unknown in a bureau­crat­ic fog. Tap­ping into the dif­fuse anx­i­ety of the present moment, where­in mun­dane objects like bananas, bulbs and nest­ing dolls can be seen as threats, the seized objects in Con­tra­band func­tion as sur­ro­gate por­traits of their own­ers, deper­son­alised and processed by the machine’.

Con­tra­band is accom­pa­nied by a ful­ly illus­trat­ed cat­a­logue – now in its sec­ond edi­tion – with a text by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artis­tic Direc­tor, Ser­pen­tine Gal­leries, London.

Images

Taryn Simon

Ani­mal Corpses (Pro­hib­it­ed), Ani­mal Parts (Pro­hib­it­ed), Ani­mal Skele­tons (Pro­hib­it­ed), But­ter­flies (Pro­hib­it­ed), Snails (Pro­hib­it­ed), 2010
15 archival inkjet prints in 6 Plex­i­glas boxes
Box 1: 23.557.86.4 cm; Box 2: 23.576.26.4 cm; Box 3, 4: 23.557.86.4 cm; Box 5, 6: 23.5216.4 cm

Taryn Simon

Cashier’s Checks (Coun­ter­feit), Checks (Coun­ter­feit), Mon­ey Orders (Coun­ter­feit), Traveler’s Cheques (Coun­ter­feit), 2010
27 archival inkjet prints in 5 Plex­i­glas boxes
Box 1: 23.557.8 cm; Box 2: 23.576.2 cm; Box 3, 5: 23.5131.4 cm; Box 4: 23.5113 cm

Taryn Simon

Deer Antlers (Pro­hib­it­ed), Deer Penis (Pro­hib­it­ed), Deer Tongue (Pro­hib­it­ed), 2010
8 archival inkjet prints in 4 Plex­i­glas boxes
Box 1: 23.576.26.4 cm; Box 2: 23.520.956.4 cm; Box 3: 23.539.46.4 cm; Box 4: 23.520.956.4 cm

Taryn Simon

Duck Tongue (Pro­hib­it­ed), Duck Misc. (Pro­hib­it­ed), 2010
11 archival inkjet prints in 3 Plex­i­glas boxes
Box 1, 2: 23.576.26.4 cm; Box 3: 23.557.86.4 cm

Taryn Simon

Erec­tile Dis­func­tion Medication/​Cialis & Via­gra (Coun­ter­feit), 2010
12 archival inkjet prints in 2 Plex­i­glas boxes
Box 1, 2: 23.51136.4 cm

Taryn Simon

Fat (Pro­hib­it­ed), 2010
5 archival inkjet prints in 1 Plex­i­glas box
23.594.66.4 cm

Taryn Simon

Footwear (Nike, Counterfeit), 2010
6 archival inkjet prints in 1 Plex­i­glas box
23.51136.4 cm

Taryn Simon

GBL, Com­po­nent of Date Rape Drug (Ille­gal), 2010
3 archival inkjet prints in 1 Plex­i­glas box
23.557.86.4 cm

Taryn Simon

Khat (Ille­gal), 2010
40 archival inkjet prints in 7 Plex­i­glas boxes
Box 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6: 23.51136.4 cm; Box 7: 23.576.26.4 cm

Taryn Simon

Movies, Ani­mat­ed (Pirat­ed), 2010
12 archival inkjet prints in 2 Plex­i­glas boxes
Box 1, 2: 23.51136.4 cm

Taryn Simon

Sausages (Pro­hib­it­ed), 2010
27 archival inkjet prints in 5 Plex­i­glas boxes
Box 1: 23.576.26.4 cm; Box 2: 23.594.66.4 cm; Box 3, 4, 5: 23.51136.4 cm

Taryn Simon

Watch­es (Coun­ter­feit), 2010
17 archival inkjet prints in 3 Plex­i­glas boxes
Box 1, 2: 23.51136.4 cm; Box 3: 23.594.76.4 cm