Critics’ Picks

Carey Young, Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 17 minutes 58 seconds.

Carey Young, Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 17 minutes 58 seconds.


Carey Young

Dallas Museum of Art
1717 North Harwood
February 2–April 2, 2017

We are all painfully aware of the mechanisms, duplicities, and abuses of power omnipresent in our current political climate. Carey Young’s prescient exhibition “The New Architecture” focuses squarely on how human agency directs or is harmed by power. The title is meant to suggest a speculative model of authority, yet much of her intention is tied to actual architectural edifices. In the photographs gathered within the series “Body Techniques,” 2007, we see the artist in a business suit among expansionist construction in Dubai and Sharjah. One photo shows her prone in a concave pile of desert rubble, with an encroaching city in the background. Another displays Young senselessly taking a sledgehammer to a barren plain as a formulaic housing development looms in the near distance. Each image suggests individual weakness against the intrusion of industry and unchecked growth.

In the video Palais de Justice, 2017, Young films the setting and proceedings of numerous trials within a nineteenth-century courthouse in Brussels. Architecture again stands as a symbol of imposing power. Inside, however, she focuses on women judges and advocates. An occasional man is present, but only in a minor or hierarchically weaker position. We see judges through small porthole windows embedded in large wooden doors. A muffled sound track of voices is heard as if we were under water. We become voyeurs, held distant to the implementation of matriarchal judicial power. Ironically, the camera brings us slowly closer to a kind of unearned intimacy as we watch the nuance of each individual’s facial expressions and hand gestures. In a mesmerizing display of shifting power, we are simultaneously at the mercy of this system and observers of something that we perhaps should not be watching.