Taryn Simon –
An American index

21.4.21 - 30.5.21

Uncovering places that are normally inaccessible, Taryn Simon's An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar stands as a unique and unsettling portrait of the US. Having acquired the complete series to its collection, Louisiana is now able to present the work in its entirety.

In her acclaimed artistic practice, American artist Taryn Simon seems to navigate somewhere between an undercover agent and a collector driven by the fascination with the rare and curious. Her seminal work An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar portrays American society – in photographs and texts – of places that are normally inaccessible to the general public.


After September 11th, when the American media and government were seeking hidden and unknown sites beyond its borders, most notably weapons of mass destruction, Simon chose to look inward at her own country, to confront the boundaries of the citizen, both self-imposed and real, and the divide between privileged and public access to knowledge.

Behind every single picture in An American Index lie years of research, culminating in one single photograph with accompanying text. Together, the texts and images uncover the hidden structures that are concealed beneath the surface in the national culture of the USA, and which encompass the foundation, mythology and everyday functioning of the country.

Hidden structures

Here are motifs that touch on science, religion, medicine, entertainment, nature, security and politics. Taryn Simon depicts subjects such as the art collection at CIA's headquarters and radioactive waste immersed in water – together with the cage in which a death-row prisoner can move around outdoors, an inbred albino tiger and a neo-Nazi youth office.


Taryn Simon (b. 1975) works in media such as photo, text, sculpture, and performance. A common feature of her different projects is the extensive research and a fundamental interest in categories and systems. She has exhibited in most parts of the world and her work is represented in many of the world's leading museums. Taryn Simon lives and works in New York.

Louisiana Channel is a non-profit website that provides culture to the Internet, extending beyond the museum’s own events. The Louisiana team produces videos about art and culture on an ongoing basis. New videos are posted at the site every week.

Videos on the arts, featuring the artists.

Since childhood, Taryn Simon has been fascinated by the world as it has been documented and archived in photography and text. Louisiana Channel met the artist in her New York studio in 2016. She talks about what drives her as an artist and about her research-based work method, where she gains access to and documents places that are normally inaccessible to American citizens.