Simon, Taryn, 'An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar', exhibition catalogue published by Steidl on the occasion of an exhibition at The Whitney Museum of American Art, March-June 2007 and the Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main, September 2007-February 2008, p. 21.
Purchased through the generosity of Jane and Michael Wilson
Photograph, colour, of a barren interior with three glass bird cages on tables, each with at least one bird in it, Taryn Simon, New York, 2005-2007.
Height: 37 1/4 in, Length: 44 1/2 in, Height: 94.6 cm, Length: 113 cm
A History of Photography (Victoria & Albert Museum 01/04/2009-30/04/2010)
In the series An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Simon documents normally unseen places and things in a clinical, straightforward style. She accompanies the images with equally detailed, deadpan captions. In this photograph of birds in quarantine, the animals seem suspended in an artificial setting. Only the bright specks of the parrots' tails, toys and feeding dishes stand out against the washed-out palette and institutional, fluorescent-lit dreariness. [April 2009-April 2010]
'Avian Quarantine Facility, The New York Animal Import Center, Newburgh, New York' depicts three cages of birds in the corner of a sterile-looking room. The photograph’s extended caption informs us that the birds are 'European Finches seized upon illegal importation to into the U.S. and African Gray Parrots in quarantine.' The birds are dwarfed by their artificial, scientific surroundings. The photograph's limited, almost washed-out palette is in keeping with the institutional, fluorescent-lit dreariness of the location and the only specks of bright colours are the parrots' tails, their toys and their feeding dishes.
The photograph is from 'An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar', a series of photographs that reveal a range of remarkable places and things. Some are things whose very existence is surprising, such as a Braille edition of Playboy magazine. We may be aware of the existence of some of her other subjects, such as a vial of live HIV virus, or a cryopreservation unit (in which dead bodies are frozen in the hope of someday being brought back to life), but most of us would only be able to imagine what such things look like. In a straightforward, almost clinical style, Taryn Simon's photographs show that these things do exist and document their appearance.