New York: Carey Young “Palais de Justice” and Franz Kafka ‘Before the Law’ 1915 parable at Paula Cooper gallery

by Venetia Kapernekas

SEPTEMBER 7 – OCTOBER 14, 2017 at Paula Cooper gallery, 21st street, Chelsea
published:(VK)  October 8th, 2017, Berlin

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice,2017,single-channel HD video (from 4K); 16:9, color, quadrophonic sound;17 mins 58 sec,Photo: Steven Probert  © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

Carey Young presents a  challenging,  quitely stunning 18 minute video, and  poetic exhibition at Paula Cooper’s space on 21st street.  The piece, a new video  ‘Palais de Justice’ develops Young’s interest in law, gender and performance, and considers the complex relations between lenses, surveillance and ideas of framing or being framed.

Carey Young (London-based British -American visual artist,b.1970, Lusaka, Zambia) takes her inspiration in part  from “Before the Law” by Franz Kafka (1915) parable Focusing on “gateways” to the law, both architectural and human, Young’s work here—a quietly stunning 18-minute video shot in the Brussels court building in which the protagonist is continuously denied access to ‘the law,’ the series depicts these doorways as metaphors for the legal system itself.

Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment.  The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on.  “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.” At the moment the gater to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gater into the inside. When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try it in spite of my prohibition. But take note: I am  powerful.  And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each  more powerful than the other. I can’t endure even one glimpse of the third.” (exerpt “Before the Law” (1915) by Franz Kafka, transl.by Ian Johnston)

 

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice, 2017,single-channel HD video (from 4K); 16:9, color, quadrophonic sound;
17 mins 58 secs,Paula Cooper Gallery, New York  © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

Palais de Justice was filmed surreptitiously at the Palais de Justice in Brussels, a vast 19th century courthouse designed in an ornate late Neo-Baroque style. Contradicting the familiar patriarchal culture of law, Young’s concealed camera depicts female judges and lawyers at court. Sitting at trial, directing proceedings or delivering judgments, female judges are spied through a series of circular windows in courtroom doors.(gallery’s press release).

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice, 2017,single-channel HD video (from 4K); 16:9, color, quadrophonic sound;
17 mins 58 secs, Paula Cooper Gallery  © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

“…..Examined through the lens of contemporary politics, both within the United States and abroad, the film acts as a critical counterpoint to regressive trends towards autocratic government and limited civil rights, particularly those belonging to women….”

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (9/7 – 10/14/17) © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

The exhibition includes a series of photographs, images  of courthouse doorways….Carey Young in continuous analysis based on Before the Law, after Franz Kafka’s 1915 parable, which the protagonist is continuously denied access to ‘the law,’ depicts these doorways as metaphors for the legal system itself.

As Carey Young  told Elephant in an interview earlier this year, the law “beckoned as an institution that had been little explored by artists, and one which had such a relevant philosophical literature in terms of art—Derrida, Agamben, Deleuze, Foucault, Butler etc. … In so many ways, mainly to do with its lack of visuality and lack of understanding of creativity, law is an “other” to art, and yet when one takes an artistic subject—ideas of site, space or landscape, for example—law offers me a way to reframe it in a playful and unfamiliar way, in which I can also conflate it with ideas of control, rhetoric, power and neoliberalism.”(Jeffrey Kastner, on Vice, sept 28th, 2017) 
“…. Courtrooms are glimpsed in various ways – a red glow emanating from one entices us with its surprising warmth and seductiveness; a red velvet curtain in another calls to mind law’s reliance on aspects of theatre; in a third, a courtroom visible through a frosted glass window glows like an abstract painting, as if law’s abstractions may connect with artistic thinking in ways which have not yet been fully considered…..”

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice, 2017  single-channel HD video (from 4K); 16:9, color, quadrophonic sound;
17 mins 58 secs,Paula Cooper Gallery, New York  © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

Few days after the opening of the exhibition, September 8th, Anthony Allen,  director of Paula Cooper gallery organized a challenging and intellectual  panel discussion with Carey Young, Colby Chamberlain and Joan Kee , where many questions were raised on law, patriarchal society and barriers…

Carey Young (b. 1970) is a British-American artist based in London, England. Her work has been exhibited in prominent national and international exhibitions and has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions including at the Dallas Museum of Art, curated by Gavin Delahunty (2017); the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, curated by Raphael Gygax (2013); Eastside Projects, Birmingham, England (2010), which traveled to Cornerhouse, Manchester and MiMA, Middlesborough; Le Quartier, Quimper, France (2013); The Power Plant, Toronto (2009); and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2009). Young’s work has also been presented at the Taipei Biennial (2010), Tate Britain (2009), Moscow Biennale (2007), Modern Art Oxford (2007), Performa 05 and the Venice Biennale (2003).
Colby Chamberlain is Lecturer in Discipline in Modern Art and Theory at Columbia University and is a founding editor of Triple Canopy. His scholarship and criticism focuses on intersections of art and other fields of professional practice, in particular the law.
Joan Kee is Associate Professor in the History of Art at the University of Michigan. A contributing editor for Artforum, she received a J.D. from Harvard Law School and has recently completed a book on the relationship between contemporary art and law in post-sixties America. In 2016, she guest edited a section of the Brooklyn Rail on art and the law whose contributors included Carey Young.

 

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