Speech Acts

solo show - Contemporary Art Museum St Louis

May 8 –August 2, 2009

In May 2009, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis presents Speech Acts, British-based artist Carey Young’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States. Foregrounding her performative and participative practice, Young launches a series of “call center art works,” in which visitors connect with live
operators through a series of specially-adapted telephone services.

To prepare her exhibition, Young worked with a communications company headquartered in Saint Louis. Employing its tools, software, and its agents—Young presents a new installation at the museum: a series of ready-to-use telephones which greet us in a setting that is both theatrical and administrative. The museum
visitor, upon picking up the telephone receiver, instantly becomes both listener and performer, in dialogue with live agents scripted and trained by the artist. Navigating a labyrinth of call menus transformed into spliced narratives and directives, visitors are drawn into Young’s telephonic worlds, and are invited to dialogue live with operators on the other end of the line.

Call centers have becomean increasingly ubiquitous interface between businesses and the public, whether callers are routed to a live agent or to an automated voice offering endless menu options. As consumers, we are now conditioned to such spaces of communication, wherein scripted information exchange endures over personal contact. For her presentation at the Contemporary, Young intends to juxtapose the physical space of the museum’s architecture with what she imagines as the museum’s “negative space,” or, the telephonic, hypertextual labyrinths we can explore by phone. Suggestiveof the corporatizationof the art world, and the implication of how the business-client relationship infects our daily lives, Young’s project blends the commercial and technocratic with the fictional, the political, and the absurd. At its core, Speech Acts contemplates the conditions of site-specificity, language, and our own capacity to communicate in the world.

In recent years, Carey Young has gained international recognition for her multidisciplinary work—including photography, video, text and performance—which investigates the languages of business and law, and the increasing incorporation of the personal and public domains into the commercial realm. In today’s socio-political climate, images of radicality and revolution are marshaled by global brands and marketed to us as exchangeable commodities. In response, and throughout her practice, Young often takes an ambiguous political stance: from legal contracts presented as art works, to corporate-training sessions, to her performed speeches that blend political and corporate language, Young deliberately and provocatively blurs distinctions between critique and complicity.In past projects, she has hired specialists in fields ranging from conflict negotiators to lawyers and venture capitalists, as she appropriates corporate and legal systems and rhetoric for her elaborate, often participatory, projects. For her exhibition in SaintLouis, Young will transform the Contemporary’s interstices—from its front entrance, to its education resource center, to its boardroom—into a space where the notion of “customer service”assumes a conspicuous, inverted, and unexpected presence.

Speech Acts is organized by Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis Assistant Curator Laura Fried.

Support for Carey Young: Speech Acts is generously provided by Charter Communications, Catharine and Jeffrey Soros, and Irene and Grier Merwin. Special thanks to Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

General support for the Contemporary’s exhibitions program is generously provided by the Whitaker Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; William E. Weiss Foundation; Nancy Reynolds and Dwyer Brown; Regional Arts Commission; Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; Arts and Education Council; and members of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

Carey Young has exhibited widely in the United Kingdom and internationally, and herwork has been featured in solo exhibitions at The Power Plant, Toronto (2009); Performa 05 Biennial (2005); the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2004); Index, Stockholm (2004); the Kunstverein München(2003-4) and John Hansard Gallery, Southampton & tour (2001). Her work has appeared in numerous group shows including The Space of the Work and the Place of the Object, Sculpture Center, New York (2008); Objects of Value, Miami Art Museum (2008); Islands and Ghettoes, Heidelberger Kunstverein (2008), Business as Usual, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (2008), the performance series Hey Hey Glossolalia, Creative Time, New York (2008); Moscow Biennale 2, Moscow (2007); Global Feminisms, Brooklyn Museum (2007); Howto Improve the World, Hayward Gallery, London (2006); British Art Show 6, BALTIC, Newcastle
(touring 2005–6); Sharjah Biennial 7, Sharjah (2005); and A Short History of Performance Part II, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2003). Young is represented by Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

With a vision of presenting the most relevant and experimental developments in contemporary art and developing successful community partnerships, education programs and outreach initiatives, the Contemporary makes the arts available to wide and diverse audiences throughout the Saint Louis metropolitan
area. Founded as the Forum for Contemporary Art in 1980, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis re-opened with a new 25,000 square foot building in 2003.