Birds of the West Indies (Taryn Simon)
In the 2013 art project and book Birds of the West Indies, a meticulous and comprehensive dissection of the Bond films, artist Taryn Simon inventories women, weapons and vehicles, constant elements in the films between 1962 and 2012.
This photography art project features photos of every actress who appeared as a Bond Girl, starting with Ursula Andress of Dr. No. In October 2013 the project Birds of the West Indies was displayed at Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA.
The contents of these categories function as essential accessories to the narrative’s myth of the seductive, powerful and invincible western male. Maintaining the illusion the narrative relies upon - an ageless Bond, state-of-the-art weaponry, herculean vehicles and desirable women - requires constant replacements, and a contract exists between Bond and the viewer, which binds the narrative to that set of expectations. Continually satisfying those obligations allowed Bond to become a ubiquitous brand, a signifier to be activated with each subsequent novel and film.
The name of the art project and book is taken from the book written by an ornithologist called James Bond, who released the definitive taxonomy of birds found in the Caribbean, titled Birds of the West Indies in 1936. Ian Fleming, an active bird watcher living in GoldenEye, Jamaica, famoulsy used the name of the ornithologist for his spy novel’s main character. Fleming found the name "flat and colourless", a fitting choice for a character intended to be "anonymous ... a blunt instrument in the hands of the government." A Birds of the West Indies book can briefly be seen in Die Another Day, as a nod to this trivia fact.
About the author
Taryn Simon was born in New York in 1975. She is a graduate of Brown University and a Guggenheim Fellow. Her photographs and writing have been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012); Tate Modern, London (2011); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2011); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2007) and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2003). In 2011 her work was included in the 54th Venice Biennale.
Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies
In 2015, Taryn Simon worked on a new art project called Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies, in which she meticulously recorded every bird that ever flew in a James Bond film, read more here.