Carey Young “The New Architecture” at Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas
“The show seems timely at this moment of intense political upheaval, in which the relations between the state, the rule of law and corporate influence are being reconfigured. The show’s focus on women, law and ideas of territory offers a reflective and oppositional sense of the future but also one which broadens these concerns into ideas of abstraction, the sublime and individual/collective agency.”
Dallas Museum of Art presents the world debut of Palais de Justice (2017), a new video work by London-based artist Carey Young, together with a selection of new and existing photographic and text-based works. The exhibition, entitled Carey Young: The New Architecture, is the artist’s first US museum show since 2009 and samples a decade of Young’s practice, offering a meditation on power—judicial, corporate—and artistic ideas of performance, space and the sublime.
Palais de Justice was filmed at the Palais de Justice in Brussels, an enormous, ornate 19th-century courthouse designed to depict law in terms of the sublime. Contradicting the familiar patriarchal culture of law, Young’s camera portrays female judges and lawyers at court. Sitting at trial, directing proceedings or delivering judgments, female judges are seen through a series of circular windows in courtroom doors. Palais de Justice subtly builds a counter-narrative: a legal system seemingly centered on, and perhaps controlled by, women, as if male presence may be optional or unnecessary in this particular future. Young’s camera becomes implicated, either caught within reflections, or through becoming noticed by some of her subjects. The windows and the camera’s lens are suggested as an interwoven series of oculi, in which we watch justice as performance and are ourselves implicated as witnesses and voyeurs. The piece considers the complex relations between lenses, surveillance and ideas of framing or being framed, which are at the core of the law-related work Young has been developing for more than a decade.
Black Square (Cell) (2016) is a new photographic work in which we see a small square window in a prison door through which we can make out the inky darkness of a prison cell. The darkness of the cell beckons to us, while slight touches of rust and scratches call to mind the many interned and accused who have undoubtedly occupied its space. The work offers an intentionally ambiguous reflection on the relations between confinement and creativity, or art and institution, as well as ideas of borders and thresholds onto the unknowable or unthinkable.
Obsidian Contract (2010) features a legal contract written backwards but legible as a reflection in a rectangular black mirror. Black, or “obsidian,” mirrors were used in witchcraft rituals, as well as by Romantic landscape painters, who used them as a viewing device. The reading of the text constitutes a kind of pact, opening up the exhibition space visible in the mirror as a new area of public space in which the visitor can indulge in activities considered illegal in public spaces at different times in history.
It’s for You (2009) is a large black wall text across the entrance to the gallery areas for Young’s exhibition: “friendly, honest, straightforward, refreshing, dynamic.” Young appropriated a corporate statement of “brand values” from a major international telecom corporation. Displacing the text to the walls of the Museum, Young offers the language of strategic optimism as the institution’s own friendly salutation.
Body Techniques (2007) is a series of eight photographs that consider the relationships between art and globalized commerce. Set in the vast building sites of Dubai’s and Sharjah’s futuristic corporate landscape, we see Carey Young alone and dressed in a suit, her actions reworking some of the classic performance-based works associated with conceptual art, including pieces by Richard Long, Dennis Oppenheim and Valie Export. In thus recasting earlier works centered on the physicality of the body in time and space, it is ambiguous whether the artist is molding herself to the landscape or exploring ways of resisting it. The locations for Young’s photographs are a series of empty, uninhabited “new build” developments reminiscent of Las Vegas, rising from the desert’s tabula rasa and intended for thousands of incoming Western corporate executives. The artist appears as one tiny individual, overwhelmed, dislocated from, or even belittled by the corporate surroundings, while dressed up to play a role within them.
at Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas
until 9 April 2017