Friday, May 30, 2008

Access All Areas

By Christy Lange @ FRIEZE

Taryn Simon’s photographs of restricted locations reveal an unsettling side to the American Dream

‘It’s 3am and something is happening in the world […] There’s a phone in the White House, and it’s ringing.’ So began the narration of a recent television advertisement for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, unleashing a flurry of discussion about the White House telephone and the candidate best suited to answer it in case of a global emergency. The folklore of the White House ‘red phone’ was, in fact, first exploited during the 1984 presidential campaign, when it represented the tenuous hotline between Washington and Moscow. It’s telling that the Clinton campaign was so eager to revive this anachronistic symbol: though Barack Obama accused Clinton of exploiting ‘the politics of fear’, Clinton had in fact tapped into a deep-seated American fantasy about the backstage operations of the United States government and its national security apparatus, at a time when that backstage is probably more expansive and dimly lit than ever. Americans, apparently, are still intrigued by the ‘red phone’ as a potent symbol of national secrets and the intricate bureaucracy hidden behind them. The country operates not only on freedom and transparency, but also on things that are unseen and unknown to most of us. Perhaps that’s what makes Taryn Simon’s 2007 publication of her photographic series ‘An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar’ so timely and appealing.


No comments: