An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar explores a dialectic of security and paranoia that is distinctly American. Offering a heart-of-darkness tour of Bush-period America, it also reflects on photography's role in revealing and concealing.

Art Exhibition previously on at Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) in Melbourne precinct, Victoria, Australia.
From Friday 15 October 2010 to Sunday 12 December 2010

Hymenoplasty, Cosmetic Surgery, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida image Cryoperservation Unit, Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan image Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility, Cherenkov Radiation, Hanford Site image

Published by CCP on Saturday 23 October 2010.
Contact the publisher.

Inspired by rumours of WMDs and secret sites in Iraq, Taryn Simon decided to address secret sites in her own country, photographing hidden places and things within America’s borders. Ranging across the realms of science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security and religion, her subjects include glowing radioactive capsules, a braille edition of Playboy, a death-row prisoners’ exercise yard, an inbred tiger, a teenage corpse rotting in a forensic research facility, and a Scientology screening room.

In his foreward,¹ Salman Rushdie writes ’In a historical period in which so many people are making such great efforts to conceal the truth from the mass of the people, an artist like Taryn Simon is an invaluable counter-force. Democracy needs visibility, accountability, light. It is in the unseen darkness that unsavoury things huddle and grow. Somehow, Simon has persuaded a good few denizens of hidden worlds not to scurry for shelter when the light is switched on, as cockroaches do, and vampires, but to pose proudly for her invading lens, brandishing their tattoos and Confederate flags.

Simon’s is not the customary aesthetic of reportage – the shaky hand-held camera, the grainy monochrome film stock of the ‘real’. Her subjects…are suffused with light, captured with a bright, hyper-realist, high-definition clarity that gives a kind of star status to these hidden worlds, whose occupants might be thought to be the opposite of stars. In her vision of them, they are dark stars brought into the light. What is not known, rarely seen, possesses a form of occult glamour, and it is that black beauty which she so brightly, and brilliantly, reveals.’

¹ Salman Rushdie, ‘Foreword’ in Taryn Simon, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Steidl Gottingen, Germany, 2007, p. 7.

An Institute of Modern Art touring exhibition presented by Melbourne International Arts Festival and Centre for Contemporary Photography