The function of public rituals is a reflection of the power structures. Whether they are run by the church, the state or any other mechanism, these events could be perceived as collective performances based on the mobilization of a large number of people. However, they provide a fascinating insight into how the collective body moves and how it is being moderated and controlled.
By focusing on two specific phenomena, the applause and the cold water plunges, American multidisciplinary artist Taryn Simon released installation-based projects which were displayed at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art - MASS MoCA.
By working with a wide range of media, from sculpture, photography, book work and performance, and by focusing on socially and politically charged concepts, Taryn Simon has managed to construct a concise, thorough and astonishing body of work.
Namely, she explores various aspects of repressive systems in order to dissect the contemporary political currents. From the released death convicts, over hidden objects from American history, to the professional mourners, she examines peculiar phenomena and constructs hybrid narratives somewhere in between fiction and reality by crossing the boundaries of genre and media.
Editors’ Tip: The Innocents
Leading civil rights attorneys Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck of The Innocence Project commissioned photographer Taryn Simon to travel across the United States photographing and interviewing individuals who were convicted of heinous crimes of which they were innocent. Simon photographed these innocents at sites of particular significance to their illegitimate conviction: the scene of the crime, misidentification, arrest, or alibi. Simon’s portraits are accompanied by a commentary by Neufeld and Scheck.
The exhibition consisted of two pieces, Assembled Audience and A Cold Hole.
The first one deals with the notion of applause as a form of public admiration. It was made during the course of one year; the artist has been working with a team of local producers in Ohio in order to record various applauses from different places and events (conferences, concerts, sports events) in the capital of Columbus. Known for being called Test City, it stands as a metaphor for the social and political circumstance of the American society.
On the other hand, the second one deals with the ritual of water plunging, which served and still does as a tool for resetting both body and the mind; the installation will offer the audience a chance to dive into a single square hole cut from its center filled with ice.
These participatory and immersive installations are based on Taryn Simon's interest in how the collective gestures or rituals, which have historically functioned as a proof of worship, shape our intimate experiences and intentions.
Furthermore, with this exhibition, she creates a specific spectacle in order to explore the domains of private and public space, as well as the desire for personal satisfaction.
The two installations are followed by Simon’s book-work, which plays an important part of her production. The Assembled Audience + A Cold Hole were presented at the MASS MoCA located in North Adams on 26 May, 2018.
Featured image: Taryn Simon, 2018. Courtesy the artist and MASS MoCA