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Carey Young
Carey Young

Press Release

NEW YORK—Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to present If/Then, an exhibition of new work by London-based artist Carey Young, which will run from December 1, 2007 through January 19, 2008.

Young’s work employs a variety of media such as video, installation, photography and text, and often takes the form of a performative system or process involving tools and language appropriated from the sphere of global business.

The exhibition includes works that develop Young’s interest in corporate and legal languages and their effects on human agency. For example, Cautionary Statement is a text based on corporate disclaimers published in annual reports that function as legal devices allowing a company to make “forward-looking” statements (statements about the future), while protecting it if those statements don’t come to pass. The placement of the piece above the receptionist’s desk highlights the context of the gallery as a space in which such forward-looking statements may or may not be uttered.

Body Techniques (2007) is a new series of photographs that considers the interrelationships between art and globalized commerce. The title of the series refers to a phrase originally coined by Marcel Mauss and developed by Pierre Bourdieu as habitus, which describes how an operational context or behavior can be affected by institutions or ideologies. Set in the vast building sites of Dubai and Sharjah’s futuristic corporate landscape, we see 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, Bruce Nauman, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Dennis Oppenheim and Valie Export. In thus recasting earlier works centered around 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 aimed at bombastic luxury and spectacle and intended for thousands of incoming Western corporate executives. The architectural style is consummate ‘global village’—a business theme park composed of swathes of multinational HQs and Italianate McVillas. These non-places could eventually compose an entire world-view: a hyperreal, corporate vision of utopia. Half-constructed backdrops are used as a ‘stage’ for the action, with the artist appearing as one tiny individual, overwhelmed, dislocated from, or even belittled by the corporate surroundings, while dressed up to play a role within it.

The exhibition also includes Product Recall, a new video in which the artist is asked to match from memory a series of advertising slogans with their corresponding brand. The slogans belong to global companies (many of which are active as art sponsors) that brand themselves around “imagination” or “inspiration.” It is unclear whether the artist is attempting to remember the slogans, or to forget them.

For Inventory, the artist weighed herself and used scientific calculations of the mass and current market value of each chemical element in her body to determine her “total market value.” This amount is expressed in Pounds Sterling on the wall and is accompanied by a print of the calculation data. Since the physique of the artist and the market value of her constituent chemical elements may fluctuate over time, future versions of this work may display a different value.

The text for Subroutine is based on a 1935 poem by the Czech lyric poet Frantisek Halas translated in Perl, a universally popular computer language used to write applications for desktop computers. A subroutine is an executable set of instructions which can be called upon within a larger program. The original poem, a lyrical declaration of love from the speaker to “you” can now be copied and inserted into any perl-based computer program.

Carey Young was born in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1970, and earned a Masters in Photography from the Royal College of Art, London, in 1997. Her work has been presented at Secession, Vienna (2001), Kunstverein Munich (2002), the Whitechapel Gallery, London (2003), Sharjah Biennial 7 (2005), ZKM, Karlsruhe (2005), Vancouver Art Gallery (2005), the Hayward Gallery, London (2006) and the Moscow Biennale (2007). Her work is in several major public collections, including the Tate Modern, Arts Council England and the Centre Pompidou. This will be the artist’s first one-person exhibition at the gallery, after Consideration (2005), a project included in the Performa05 Biennial, in which the artist investigated the connections between legal contracts and performance by inviting the viewer to enter a series of contractual relationships with her.

The artist would like to thank the Sharjah Biennial Artist-in-Residence Program and London College of Communication/University of the Arts London for their support of this project.

For more information, please contact the gallery: (212) 255-1105 or