Book of the Week

Taryn Simon

Birds of the West Indies

I see them as these interchangeable elements that construct this idealized, powerful Western male figure who is invincible and ageless and seductive.



Working with a large format camera, Taryn Simon, an American artist (b.1975) captures images both clinical and mythical that by themselves are open to wide interpretation.  She then joins images with texts of such exacting and lengthy detail that, as she said in a recent TED talk , “ text tethers the ethereality of the image to a very particular reality.” The point of her artistic exploration focuses on the space between text and image and what new realities that might bring to light. Simon is known for her 2003 photography project involving death row inmates released through DNA evidence, and her visually unsettling project she initiated in the days following 9/11.  Titled “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” , it catalogued unheard of events and objects that make up the American discourse. Her latest project is a series of photographs and videos of the women and weaponry  that constitute the successful and long-lived  James Bond Formula.  While living in Jamaica, Ian Fleming came across a book, “Birds of the West Indies” written in 1936 by a James Bond. Fleming named his suave British agent the same.  Asked about the name later, Fleming said it was “brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and very masculine”. The many components of this construct (beyond the actors who played Bond), the vehicles and gadgetry now found in private collections, auction houses and museums, and the Bond girls themselves,  now living in London, Paris, New York and Rome  are the basis for Simon’s latest work. “Birds of the West Indies” explores the interchangeable nature of these variables that went on to generate an enduring economic and emotional value through repetition in a series of films that still go on.

Taryn Simon: Birds of the West Indies

440 pp., 210 ills. Hatje Cantz

20.50 x 29.60 cm?, clothbound, 74.00 euro


On sale at 10 Corso Como Bookshop

Posted on: Thursday, December 19th, 2013

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