These flowers sat between powerful men as they signed agreements designed to influence the fate of the world.
Gagosian is pleased to present large-scale photographs from the series Paperwork and the Will of Capital by Taryn Simon.
Simon is a multidisciplinary conceptual artist whose work spans photography, sculpture, and performance. Her research-driven approach has produced such impactful bodies of work as The Innocents (2002); An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007); Contraband (2010); and the web-basedImage Atlas (2012); as well as The Picture Collection (2013); Birds of the West Indies (2013–14); and Black Square (2006–), an ongoing project about the consequences of human inventions. For Simon, photography has always been a vehicle for larger conceptual ideas. Paired with text, her photographs reveal the structures behind controlling systems, from ancestry and borders to botany and diplomacy. Between text and image, a blur occurs and each is altered by the other, again and again, back and forth.
In Paperwork and the Will of Capital (2015), Simon considers the stagecraft of power via the accords, treaties, and decrees drafted to influence systems of governance and economics, from nuclear armament to banking conventions and diamond trading. All involve the countries present at the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which addressed the globalization of economics after World War II, leading to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. In archival images of the signings of these documents, powerful men flank flower arrangements; Simon recreated and photographed these arrangements, pairing them with texts that explain each event, underscoring the ways in which power is created, performed, marketed, and maintained.
From overflowing arrangements to more minimalist designs, each bouquet is placed in front of a striking, bicolored background, creating compelling still lifes that occupy several layers of symbolism at once: they refer to the “impossible bouquet,” the concept from the Flemish Enlightenment that brought together flowers of different climates and seasons in still life paintings; their bold use of line and color is a nod to Pop and hard-edge abstraction; and their custom-made mahogany frames emulate the bombast of certain post-war interior design, both corporate and governmental. With Paperwork and the Will of Capital, Simon addresses the instability of executive decision-making and the reliability and endurance of records, as a reflection on the precarious nature of survival. As time advances, so do these artifacts transform, revealing mutable versions of themselves.
Taryn Simon, Finance package for the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Baku, Azerbaijan, February 3, 2004, Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015 © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian
Taryn Simon, Source image with botanist’s identifications, Contract to rehabilitate the Lebanese postal system. Beirut, Lebanon, July 22, 1998, Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015 © Photo -/AFP/Getty Images