Taryn Simon’s Paperwork And The Will of Capital opened at the Gagosian Gallery in February of 2016 and consisted of 36 editioned photographs and 12 sculptures based on flowers from recreated centrepieces found on the tables at various diplomatic treaty signings from 1968 to 2014. Simon’s project exemplifies what is expected of a leading edge contemporary engaged artist in today’s marketplace. She ticks all the necessary prerequisites through her use of extensive research, which of course has become a de rigueur requirement of MFA graduates. She uses art historical references pointing to Dutch floral painting in order to display the spectre of globalization, capitalism, and to reveal how rich and powerful nations and corporations exploit the more marginalized through diplomatic treaties. In addition, there is a nod to the latest trend of materialism with the flowers in the photographs being infused with a vitalism by acting as “silent witnesses” to the exploitative treaties. All of this necessitates a comprehensive textual explanation of what would otherwise be just beautifully designed and lavishly framed flower photographs, and it is precisely this that is the gist of the problem. A cynic may claim that the extensive research and its ensuing critique are merely a way to justify making beautiful flower photographs. At best, the photographs become an addendum to the text and the “silent witnesses” are truly silent in that they have nothing to add to the text except their spectacular beauty to increase the value of the work and to let their potential purchasers have it both ways – a work of critique and of beauty. If the photographs do not add anything to the critique, then why have the photographs in the first place? Why not just write a text on exploitative treaties? Defenders of the exhibition will say that the point of the flower photographs is to start a conversation about the exploitative treaties and thus bring attention to them. However, I wonder how many people attending the opening at the Gagosian spent more than a minute thinking about the treaties? Furthermore, there is a certain intellectual naiveté to this type of socially engaged work in that by concentrating on only the deleterious effects of bad treaties it ignores the fact that there are also good treaties and that the only alternative to diplomacy is usually war. Thus, what is the message of the exhibition? To inform us that bad treaties exist (who would have thought)? To do away with diplomacy? In my books a bad treaty that avoids war is almost always preferable to war itself. In the end, it is a shame that Simon, who has done excellent work in the past, has succumbed to the market by turning critique into selling feature rather than a tool for enlightenment.