Taryn Simon’s emerging bouquets

At the Gagosian Gallery’s Chelsea location, opened a new exhibition around a theme of ‘impossible bouquet’.  Known for her challenging multidisciplinary photography, artist Taryn Simon has conducted extensive research for her current project Paperwork and the Will of Capital. The idea of ‘impossible bouquet’ refers to the Dutch 17th-century economy during which the market was booming. Simultaneously the birth of modern capitalism was reflected through the rich fauna of the era’s still-life paintings. The impossible bouquet is also an imagined bouquet. It includes flower pairings that cannot coexist in the natural world; the flowers are not blooming at the same time or they originate in different geographical locations. Today this economy has changed completely, when the global supply keeps bringing diverse specimen to the consumer’s market. The exhibition includes photographs of 36 bouquets formed as centerpiece and still-life. They gather thematically around 12 unique columnal sculptures, which also trace back to the fauna accumulated in the photography.  Next to the large photographs are their textual references connecting the arrangements to their sources.  The flower typologies in the artworks suggest real events that create the context for the exhibition.

These flowers sat between powerful men as they signed agreements designed to influence the fate of the world. —Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon

Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Government of Australia Relating to the Settlement of Refugees in Cambodia. Ministry of Interior, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, September 26, 2014, From the series Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015. Archival inkjet print in mahogany frames with text in windowed compartment on archival herbarium paper 85 × 73 1/4 × 2 3/4 inches framed. © Taryn Simon

The exhibition is Taryn Simon’s first at the New York gallery. The sculptures displayed in the exhibition were previewed at the 56th Biennale di Venezia in 2015.  Now they appear  together with large-scale photographs that culminate as a complete body of work for the first time. During the process of making the photographs and sculptures, which navigate layered meanings, Taryn Simon worked together with a botanist, investigated archives, and benefited from 4000 different specimen to structure the process. Each specimen coming to the process was dried, pressed, and sewed into the herbarium paper. The artworks engage a level of communication as botanical collages, in a photographic form, and as pressed and preserved subject in the sculptures. The artist utilized George Sinclair’s nineteenth century horticultural study, which contains actual dried grass specimens.

As much as the flowers have decorative power, the art speaks with full textual meaning. The textual references attached to the photographs and sculptures, describe diverse political agreements that semantically ground the ‘flower fantasies’ into realities, which touch lives. In the past, the bouquets staged world dramas. In their present artful context they contribute to breathing new air into the archives. The level of ignorance on the agreement’s impact on actual realities is communicated through the floral that is now taken care of. In the art it represents the colorful, palpable, and vivid side of the reality. Among the textual references, there are themes of global trading of goods, and examples of the attempts to access natural resources over national boundaries and geopolitical territories. There are strategic negotiations, where commercial value has weight over human capital, or it entirely suppresses environmental viewpoint. Often the signing table puts a full stop to development projects, social welfare and economic aid. For the artistic series, Simon studied archival photographs of official signings. She examined accords, treaties, and decrees that were drafted to influence systems of governance and economics. The subjects include nuclear armament, oil deals and diamond trading.

The environmental challenge of the global flower distribution connects intimately to the exhibition narrative. Paperwork and the Will of Capital, implies the complications behind the global consumption. The underlying political themes communicate about environmental fragility. One of the flower narratives introduce a plan that was created around the Caspian Sea oil reserves, known as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline. As an outcome of this plan, Western nations would have more ideal access to the area’s natural resources and allude strategic presence in Central Asia.  The February 3, 2004 flower bouquet, testifying the signing of the finance package for constructing the BTC pipeline in Baku Azerbaijan, included: Baby’s Breath from Kenya; Dutch Iris from Netherlands; Israeli Ruscus; and Hybrid Tea Rose from Kenya.

Another environmental flower arrangement relates to the 2014 agreement to conduct studies on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Damn, bringing in parties from Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt to negotiations. The construction of the damn contests the neighboring countries, because the negotiations handle the water rights to the Nile. While still in the construction process, the dam will be Africa’s largest hydropower project taking massive segment of its infrastructure. The discussion challenges larger schemes linking back to the colonial history, which places Egypt as majority holder of the Nile’s water, when in reality Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and five other African states share access to its waters. The flowers present at the negotiations were: Gerbera from Netherlands; and Hybrid Tea Rose from Ethiopia.

Can flowers change attitudes toward things and ideas? At least, the commerce between flowers from different territories and geographical locations stretches boundaries as we know them. Sometimes flowers travel further than people. Anthurium, Netherlands; Dendrobium, Thailand; Orchid Venezuela; and Hybrid Tea Rose, Kenya, were at present in the memorandum held to negotiate the status of refugees and asylum seekers to Australia. The negotiations took place in Cambodia on September 26, 2014. Australian refugees from the refugee center located on the Pacific Island of Nauru were to be transferred to Cambodia into a permanent resettlement. By shifting their refugee responsibilities elsewhere, the economically advantaged Australia signed to exploit one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia.

Highly conceptual thoughts embed the large photographic prints and their similarly intentional sculptures within a frame of time that scopes past and attains to preserve some for the future. It seems that the fragility of flowers echo past remnants, but more forcibly introduce newly fluid forms. The photographs speak through large canvas. They accumulate painterly softness through the backdrops, and the archival feel responds to the dimensionality of the bouquets. The floral appears as richly layered; the bouquets were photographed multiple times. Sometimes the setting stands still as if being part of a funeral setting, then the collage screams out from the mahogany frames. The bouquets are in a state of being and emerging.

Artist website: http://tarynsimon.com/

Taryn Simon: Paperwork and the Will of Capital

February 18 – March 26, 2016

Gagosian Gallery

555 West 24th Street,

New York

http://www.gagosian.com/

Hours: Tue–Sat 10-6

IC-98 art duo from Finland

Firstindigo&Lifestyle interviewed artist duo IC-98 from Finland, who are Patrik Söderlund and Visa Suonpää, respectively. Their recent site-specific installation ‘Hours, Years, Aeons’, was produced for the Pavilion of Finland at the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. IC-98 projects scale with in-depth research; being abstract and taking form in installations and in publications. Their animation language draws from the collective history of nature and culture. As the duo says:

Our work is post-historical, it is set in a distant future after the age of man. It’s about nature, which still has to deal with the consequences of the human era. It’s not natural nature, but a twisted one.

 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did IC-98 get started, what was your thesis during the first few years?

IC-98 (artist duo Patrik Söderlund and Visa Suonpää): We met at the University of Turku, majoring in Cultural History and Art History. We wanted to broaden the scope of academic writing by bringing our “writing” into public space. This idea became our program: to make site-specific interventions in public space, be they installations or anonymously distributed booklets.

How do your art works communicate with theoretical thinking, do you consider to be conceptual artists?

IC-98: The works start with conceptual and/or contextual analysis. This depends on the project at hand. Site-specific works start from research; animations are amalgamations of conceptual thinking, adjusted storytelling and handcraft. But if we should characterize ourselves shortly, we’d say we are conceptualists first.

Can you name some of the most important theoretical premises that could be your guidelines? How about your artistic influences?

IC-98: Our theory comes mostly from the left-leaning French poststructuralism: Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Michel Serres, with an important German addition: the work of Walter Benjamin. Artistically we do not have many modern or contemporary influences. Visually we lean towards 19th Century and the history of depicting landscape: Claude Lorrain, Gianbattista Piranesi, Caspar David Friedrich, and William Turner. The important thing about 19th Century is the fact that it is often at the same time the prehistory and a mirror image of our own time: in many respects, the world was the same but the underlying processes are still more visible (think Jacquard loom vs. laptop: they share the same binary logic but where laptop is a black box, in the loom we still see how the thing actually works).

Could you tell more about the process itself, in what ways do your concepts or visual process evolve, are there any common or repeating parameters in the making? For example, how do you choose your visual atmospheres, like create the sets, lighting, how does the process unravel itself?

IC-98: The style is based on the fact that the animations visually start with pencil drawing. From this stems the fact that the animations are black and white. So it is a material, not a stylistic element. The different atmospheres and recurring elements, our visual vocabulary (fog, mist, stars, water) is functions of the scripts, which often deal with multi-rhythmic time and transformations of energy and matter. The script always comes first; even lighting should carry parts of the story. If we cannot justify a visual element, we omit it from the final work. Technically the “scene” is fashioned after 18th century theatre: the image is composed of flat layers and digital effects between these layers. We try to keep it simple, not to be too much carried away by the limitless possibilities of cgi (Computer-generated imagery). When we compose a scene, the pencil drawings are first scanned, then composed into layered scenes and lastly animated.

What do you want to say about your idea of ‘Events’, and about the ‘possibilities’ that can be found in your artworks?

IC-98: The idea of a moment being pregnant with possibilities – or situationistically speaking “constructed situations” – comes from our earlier practice. We combined situationist thinking with Deleuze’s idea of the actual and the virtual and Benjamin’s Theses on History to conceive an idea of an intervention/work as an event making the user/viewer aware of the interconnectedness of past and future possibilities. As Deleuze beautifully writes, the present moment is surrounded by a cloud of virtualities, the unactualized past events, which maybe did not take place but can still happen. This we still consider the political element of our work even when the animations might at first sights appear visually anachronistic.

Is it relevant to always question time and space as elements in you work-in-process?

IC-98: Coming from the background of both visual arts and history, the complex nature of time is elemental in our work. Animation enables us to show multiple temporal rhythms in one image frame. Sometimes it is about the passage of time as such, then again it might be about a certain time in history.

What are the three things you would tell about yourself to North American audience today as an introduction?

IC-98: We have worked over multiple media for almost 20 years now. During this time, we have developed a visual language – be it artist publications, installations or animated films –, which combines the theoretical and the political with the visual and emotional. And important element here is the combination of old school (drawing) craft and the new digital media.

You have participated in Art Fairs in New York City, in fact at the VOLTA Art Fair couple of years ago, how was the reception from the audience and organization, how about other experiences from local scene?

IC-98: The reception has been good, though ours are relatively difficult works in the fast paced fair circuit. You need to be able to give time to the work. Then again, even a quick glance of the “surface” communicates the classical quality of crafting the artwork – though it’s in digital form.

IC-98 installation at VOLTA NY-2013 with Galleria Heino. photo: Firstindigo&Lifestyle

Some time has passed since the opening of the 56th Venice Biennale, what are your most important remarks from the art biennale so far, did the location and site change the actual process? How do you feel, are you able to follow up what takes place during the art exhibition?

IC-98: Working on site-specific projects has taught us that it’s always about communication between the site and us, the hermeneutics of place. In Venice we realized, that we had mostly done the research over the years already (the questions of territory, public space, wood and woods, the history of the Finnish welfare state, the relations of humanity, architecture and nature as a whole). The challenge then was to find the best way to tell the story in a framework of very strict regulations. We were first working on a more ephemeral and performative format, but had to recur to our most well known medium in the end: the animated film.

During the biennale we have mostly received comments from visitors now and then. But, the perception of our own work hasn’t changed during the process. We have always done a lot of thinking and tried to take into account all the possible permutations of a given site or situation.

It seems that ‘Hours, Years, Aeons’ has duration and layers, what does the work narrate about? It starts forming in the cave, and goes through time in history? Does it deal with today’s hot topics, such as climate change?

IC-98: It’s very much about climate change, the much talked about questions of the Anthropocene (note: Wickipedia defines this as: proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s ecosystems). But our work is post-historical, it is set in a distant future after the age of man. It’s about nature, which still has to deal with the consequences of the human era. It’s not natural nature, but a twisted one. The work exists both as a spatial multi-screen installation and the linear film shown in Venice. The Venice version let’s us experience long, geological stretches of time – the aeons.

Specifically, the work has a background in the nuclear waste repositories, how something is buried deep into the ground. But as we all know, what is buried, will once surface again.

Did you find time-based media works as your medium from the very beginning of your artistic career? How about your sculptural works, and the ways different media communicate with each other?

IC-98: We considered our free distribution books already time-based in a sense. The installations often include an interactive element, which means that they work in space but also as a part of lived time. We have liked the idea of the viewer as a user. But formally we entered the temporal realm when we wanted to make animations. The main idea was to be able to show the chains of cause and effect and use certain cinematic techniques to speak not only to the intellect but also the senses.

Time-based media has a different nature than other art works. What is your opinion about it, how do you see your art from the point of view of the future, what could be the time-span?

IC-98: In all probability our works will seem as anachronistic or as nostalgic as any other cultural product of our time. The paradoxical thing is, we always try to conceal the technological or digital basis of our works. We try to make our works look like they could have been made in any era. It would be nice, if in the future it would be impossible to say from the outset when watching our work: “That’s so 2010’s!” Then again, the animations are all about the resolution, the bit-depth, the ratio, and the available digital effects…

Finally, what are your ongoing and new propositions for the future?

IC-98: We are in the preproduction phase of our first feature film, ‘The Kingdom of Birds. It’s loosely based on the life’s work of Finnish deep ecologist, eco-fundamentalist, ornithologist and fisherman Pentti Linkola. The film imagines an old fisherman’s last day on earth in a future where all of mankind has perished. It is time for other species.

The 56th La Biennale di Venezia is open until November 2015, where IC-98 is represented.

Check out the artist websites following the links below:

IC-98 homepage: www.socialtoolbox.com

IC-98 animations: https://vimeo.com/ic98

IC-98 monograph: http://issuu.com/framefinland/docs/ic98_hoursyearsaeons_1_