TA Museum tour of Taryn Simon: Paperwork and the Will of Capital

Written by Shy Zvouloun, EMIS student

In a spacious room in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, large photographs of flower bouquets hang on Spartan, white walls. These photographs, presented in heavy frames of mahogany wood, appear at first glance to be bland and unimposing; imitations of once fashionable paintings of the ‘Impossible Bouquet’, photographed against backgrounds of solid, bright color. It is not until one takes a step closer that the deeper meaning of the photographs becomes apparent.

When Taryn Simon stumbled across an image of Hitler, Mussolini and Chamberlain during the Munich conference of 1938, she was struck by a bouquet of flowers placed upon the table around which these men sat. This flower arrangement appeared to be like a fly on the wall, playing silent witness to the momentous events unfolding around it. Inspired by this image, Simon set out to find the flowers that had witnessed some of international politics’ most influential and pivotal, and sometimes ineffectual, agreements.

Upon being guided throughout the exhibit by curator Ms. Ruti Director, one is informed that every bouquet has been painstakingly recreated from each international meeting. In collaboration with a botanist, Simon identified each flower from thirty-six different international agreements and accords, sourcing them in Holland and recreating the bouquets perfectly before photographing them. The amount of effort placed into creating each bouquet and its photograph reflects the often superficial and surreal nature of politics today. All of the attention to presentation and detail in politics reveals that no substance and depth remains; actions are never carried out and agreements are often laid to rest days after the signatures are gathered for them. In this exhibition, Simon communicates the theatricality present in the current political sphere through an aesthetic essence, using color fields and decorative elements to represent the parade that politics have become.

Viewing the exhibition in person requires effort and intellectual stamina as one navigates through the room, creating their own path from one image to the other, stopping at the sculptures of pressed flowers in the center of the room. Curated by Director in a manner that allows the viewer to choose which bouquets to view in their own course, the viewer is given the freedom to navigate the exhibit at their own pace and truly comprehend the intricacies and subtleties of Simon’s thoughts.