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Taryn Simon in Conversation with Teju Cole

Lambert Family Lecture


On the left a photo of Teju Cole standing in front of a stairwell, he is wearing eyeglasses and a black jacket. On the right a photo of Taryn Simon standing in front of a blank wall. She is wearing a black shirt.

Join multidisciplinary artist Taryn Simon and writer/photographer Teju Cole as they reflect on Simon's artistic practice and the creative process. A live Q&A follows the talk; RSVP to participate via Zoom. The event also streams on this page.

An award-winning novelist, Cole encountered Simon’s exhibition Paperwork and the Will of Capital in a Brussels gallery on the eve of the 2016 US presidential election. When the results of that election left him shocked and in despair, Cole found himself temporarily unable to write. Simon’s art, however, continued to inform his thinking and writing process. He revisited her work with the essay “Capital, Diplomacy and Carnations” for New York Times Magazine—a look at Simon’s masterful take on “powerful forces in the world that shape our day-to-day realities.”

Simon’s sound installation Assembled Audience, comprised of audio captured at Columbus concerts, rallies, and sporting events, was featured at the Wex in fall 2020 during the run-up to another presidential election. This year’s virtual Lambert Family Lecture brings these two figures together for a fascinating and deeply personal dialogue about artistic practice and the critical act of making.

More about the series
Established in 2004 through the generosity of Bill and Sheila Lambert, the Lambert Family Lecture Series invites experts to explore global issues in art and contemporary culture with the region's diverse audiences, often to illuminate the works on view in our galleries. To date the series has featured art historians, critics, and curators T. J. Clark, Douglas Crimp, Arthur Danto, Greil Marcus, Lynne Tillman, Diana Widmaier Picasso, and Robert Storr; filmmakers Julia Reichert and John Waters; and visual artists LaToya Ruby Frazier, Carroll Dunham, Christian Marclay, Josiah McElheny, and Luc Tuymans.

Photo of Teju Cole standing in front of a stairwell, he is wearing eyeglasses and a black jacket

Teju Cole | Photo: Maggie Janik

Photo of Taryn Simon in a black shirt standing in front of a blank wall.


Taryn Simon | © Taryn Simon. Image courtesy of the artist.

More about the speakers

Taryn Simon chevron-down chevron-up

Taryn Simon makes visible the contours of power and authority hidden within familiar systems of organization—bloodlines, picture collections, mourning rituals, and ceremonial flower arrangements, among others. Incorporating mediums ranging from photography and sculpture to language, sound, and performance, her works are informed by research on institutions including the US Department of Homeland Security, the Central Zionist Archives, and the International Commission on Missing Persons. Her recent books and projects include The Picture Collection (2013–20), A Cold Hole (2018–19), and Assembled Audience (2018–19), and her work is in the collections of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and Guggenheim Museum; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Museum für Monderne Kunst, Frankfurt. Simon’s work was also included in the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). Read more at the artist’s website.

Teju Cole chevron-down chevron-up

Born in the US and raised in Nigeria, Teju Cole is the author of the novels Open City (2012), which won the PEN/Hemingway Award, and Every Day Is for the Thief (2015), which was named a New York Times Book of the Year. His 2016 essay collection Known and Strange Things spans art, literature, and politics with topics ranging from the White Savior Industrial Complex and Black Lives Matter to Snapchat and Shakespeare. In 2017, Cole produced Blind Spot—a synthesis of written observations and travel photography. Formerly the photography critic for New York Times Magazine (2015–19), Cole is currently the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard. In 2019 he was invited by Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography to curate Go Down Moses, which explores themes of freedom, suffering, the environment, and the future; the exhibition marked Cole’s major curatorial debut. Read more at Cole’s website.

The Lambert Family Lecture is made possible by generous support from the Lambert Family Lecture Series Endowment Fund, which promotes dialogue about global issues in art and contemporary culture.

American Electric Power Foundation

Ingram-White Castle Foundation
Ohio Arts Council
Martha Holden Jennings Foundation
PNC Foundation
State Farm
Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center
Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation

Greater Columbus Arts Council
Mary and C. Robert Kidder
L Brands Foundation
American Electric Power Foundation
The Columbus Foundation
Ohio Arts Council
Bill and Sheila Lambert
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Nationwide Foundation
Adam R. Flatto
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease
Arlene and Michael Weiss



Past Talks & More

Taryn Simon in Conversation with Teju Cole