Castaing-Taylor's work seeks to conjugate art's negative capability with an ethnographic attachment to the flux of life. His work is in the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art and the British Museum, has been exhibited at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Centre Pompidou, MoMA PS1, the Berlin Kunsthalle, the Whitechapel Gallery, Marian Goodman Gallery, the X-Initiative, and elsewhere, and has formed the subject of symposia at the Smithsonian Institution, the Musée du quai Branly, and the British Museum. His films and videos have screened at Berlin, Locarno, New York, Toronto and other film festivals. Recent awards include the Alpert Award in the Arts (2013), and, with Véréna Paravel, the True Vision Award (2013), Guggenheim fellowship (2012), Los Angeles Film Critics' Circle Douglas Edwards Independent and Experimental Film Award (2012), and FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) Award (2012).
Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel have recently finished Leviathan, a film about humanity and the sea, which has been released theatrically in the United States, Mexico, Canada, France, Germany, and Austria. They are currently at work on various installations of still and moving images set in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, as well a new project on the body. Castaing-Taylor is also completing a series of audio-video installations and photographic Westerns that variously evoke the allure and ambivalence of the pastoral, including Coom Biddy (2012), Bedding Down (2012), Hell Roaring Creek (2010) and The High Trail (2010). In 2010, he was commissioned to make a four-channel video installation by the Kino Arsenal to commemorate the four decades of the Berlinale Forum, The Quick and the Dead / Moutons de Panurge (2010). In 2009, he and Ilisa Barbash completed Sweetgrass, an unsentimental elegy at once to the American West and to the 10,000 years of uneasy accommodation between post-Paleolithic humans and animals, that was released theatrically in the United States, Canada, Latin America, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In 1995, he collaborated with Isaac Julien and Mark Nash on their film Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask. Earlier works (with Barbash) include In and Out of Africa (1992), an ethnographic video about authenticity, taste, and racial politics in the transnational African art market, which won eight international awards, and Made in USA (1990), a film about sweatshops and child labor in the Los Angeles garment industry. Written publications include Visualizing Theory (ed., Routledge, 1994), Cross-Cultural Filmmaking (with Barbash, University of California Press, 1997), Transcultural Cinema, a collection of essays by ethnographic filmmaker David MacDougall (ed., Princeton University Press, 1998), and The Cinema of Robert Gardner (coed., with Barbash, Berg, 2008). He was the founding editor of the American Anthropological Association's journal Visual Anthropology Review(1991-94). Castaing-Taylor is Director of Harvard's new Sensory Ethnography Lab as well as the Film Study Center.