Magazine article Art Monthly

Carey Young: Memento Park

Magazine article Art Monthly

Carey Young: Memento Park

Article excerpt

Carey Young: Memento Park

Eastside Projects Birmingham 27 November to 29 January

'Memento Park' is a touring show surveying a decade of Carey Young's practice and presenting an eponymous new video work, shot in a 'statue park' near Budapest. The well-chosen pieces represent the central themes from a period that has seen Young establish herself among the most acute artistic commentators upon the mores of late capitalism and the 'society of the secretariat'. At the heart of that concern has been firstly capital's reification of certain of the tropes of modernist art and its utopian historical aspirations, and secondly the question of performance--not in terms of measurable output but rather the performance of identity. What was, perhaps, most compelling about Young's early work was the degree to which it reflected the commoditisation of subjectivity through the harnessing of speech and gesture.

Where once those characteristics had marked the supposedly autonomous human subject of western culture in the public sphere, now the figuring of the self that speech and gesture enacted is yoked to the projects of capital. The western public sphere exists now principally as a market place, and its novel, 'free' formulations are either already the calculated contrivances of capital or else quickly colonised by new forms of marketing. The truly intractable sites of discourse, such as WikiLeaks, may simply be isolated by financial and legal technicalities. Young provided an index for politicians' conscious manipulation of the language of politics and capital's invasion of the everyday. But what she most closely addressed was the metamorphosis of quotidian language into discourses of exception articulated in the exercise of power--something made brutally clear in Uncertain Contract, 2008, which reduces words to corporeal and vocal elements, without content in themselves, and only granted meaning by rhetorical devices.

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What I Am a Revolutionary, 2001, told us was that the subject's declaration to history of its imagined historical capacity was now stripped of both purpose and romance. To be a revolutionary in 2001 was not to risk sudden death at the barricades but perhaps to introduce to the market a new flavour of carbonated, caffeinated drink. After all, enterprises selling intangibles had become the new Avant Garde: to be a revolutionary was not to interrupt history but to temporarily tip the balance between brands. The more recent Product Recall, 2007, spoke eloquently of a world in which even the constituent cells of its beings were copyrighted, stamped with the legally protected marks of global corporations, and where often the marketing signs of those corporations were what once had been proclamations for human freedom or the 'liberty' of nature. …

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