First published in 'Permanent Mimesis', exhibition catalogue published by Galeria civica d'arte moderna e contemporanea, Turin and Electa Mondadori, Turin,
Carey Young uses video, photographs, texts and performance projects to explore legal and corporate culture and reflect on the implications of the global market and business for the lives of individuals. Drawing on the conceptual tradition of the use of language and the document as artistic media in her works, as in the diptychCounter Offer (2008), Young uses contractual and administrative codes as linguistic readymades. Though impersonal and abstract, they are capable of generating and conveying emotions and moods, as the artist herself says: “I use contracts as an artistic medium to create imaginary structures for possible relationships between people, spaces, objects and periods of time. Contracts can be laden with emotion and action; they imply promises, offers, agreements, obligations, good faith; they necessitate performance and invite consent.” For example, in the video Uncertain Contract (2008) an actor “recites” a number of legal terms, provoking different reactions depending on variations in the intonation, thus demonstrating the arbitrariness of the perception of those same terms and the arbitrary significance of their definition and application.
In her exhibitions Carey Young often involves viewers in humorous or provocative activities, recreating situations related to the conditions of alienated labor today, as in the case of call centers. In some works-midway between installations and performances-the artist invites viewers to enter into contracts or issue paradoxical permits, requiring their complicity in a form of play with erotic undertones, in which relations between institutions and citizens are assimilated to sadomasochistic sex play. For the Mutual Release project (2008), the artist offered visitors a contract that would become a work of art when it was signed. The expiration of the contract and the validity of the work would take place on the death of the artist or the new owner, hence linking art closely to life and death.
More than performance art, Carey Young’s projects are studies on the performative dimension of the utterance, hearing and internalization of the message through specific codes which, though valid and functional in their respective fields of legitimacy, are staged as representations of the absurd.