Fake Viagra, Louis Vuitton and Disney DVD’s: or what we all want, according to Taryn Simon

It certainly is an intriguing project, but in one way or another that abundance of small photographs in plexiglass boxes fails to really make an impression, on those white walls of that huge space. Contraband, at Almine Rech Gallery (Brussels; through December 18), by lauded  American photographer Taryn Simon (35) is the sort of exhibition that you visit rather quickly, but that nevertheless makes you want to know more about the artist and his (in this case: her) projects.

For Contraband Taryn Simon stayed at JFK Airport (NY) from November 16 through November 20 2009, at both the US Customs and Border Protection Federal Inspection Site and the US Postal Service International Mail Facility. She remained on site and continuously (night and day) photographed items detained or seized from passengers and express mail entering the United States from abroad. Contraband comprises 1.075 photographs: fake Louis Vuitton handbags, counterfeit boxes of Viagra, cigarettes, Disney DVD’s and even two dead guinea pigs.

‘This is a look at an attempt to control what is considered threatening to economies, to personal safety and to a nation’, Ms. Simon explains in an interview with New York Times photography blog Lens. ‘It’s a depressing reflection of what everyone is chasing – all these forms of escape that create quite a flat representation of human desire in all corners of the world.’

Can’t make it to Almine Rech? You’ll find all of the Contraband photographs in a new book, published by Steidl (info here). Do visit Taryn Simon’s site as well, for plenty of images and info. Simon is currently working on a new project which will be exhibited next year at Tate Modern (London) and the Neue Nationale Galerie (Berlin). And you’ll find an interview with Taryn Simon in the latest issue of Flash Art.

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