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Manchester lifestyle reviews

Memento ParkCarey Young: Memento Park

Reviewed by Dave Porter February 2011

Cornerhouse presents a major touring solo show by artist Carey Young. Young, who grew up in Manchester and also studied here, is best known for her witty explorations of corporate and legal culture. Using a variety of media including video, photography, text and telephonic systems, Young examines these worlds, altering their language and tools to create fictional and absurd scenarios, which operate midway between performance and installation.


The main piece in this rich offering of Carey Young’s work at the Cornerhouse centres on an elephants’ graveyard of Soviet-era statues now huddled forlornly in a park in Budapest. The serenity of the setting and the suburban backdrop provide a jagged relief for Lenin and his comrades whose heroic poses and animated call to arms for the revolution go unnoticed by their verdant surroundings.  They look less like they’re directing a revolution than directing traffic and in one video clip a kitten resting on the giant foot of a Stakhanovite soldier silkily makes her way round to the back of the statue to seek shade, a poignant usage for a now redundant image.

Despite the title of the park, these figures are truly forgotten and Young’s shooting of them at dawn and dusk, with just the low whistle of the wind to remind us that we are looking not at a photograph but a moving image, illustrate vividly the fact that these eerie statues are as lifeless as the ideology which brought them into being.

Carey Young: Memento ParkIn one shot, taken from outside the park, we see only a hand protruding from above a wall, so that what was once a proud call to revolution has become a metaphor for the disappearance of socialism and its replacement by a hard-faced capitalism in Eastern Europe.  To reinforce this, in another shot haulage traffic speeding goods to newfound consumers hurtles past the park: the revolution has literally been overtaken.

Elsewhere in the gallery, we witness Young’s fascination with corporate culture and the way it has created its own lexicon of legal-bureaucratic neologisms to threaten and cajole the population. In Terms and Conditions, Young – dressed soberly in a business suit – stands in the middle of a country lane and in lays down the T&Cs but leaves the viewer unclear to what they apply. The field? The lane? Our existence?

Product Recall continues the motif, with Young reclining on an analyst’s couch and trying to match slogans to the companies associated with them. The banality of the exercise in which our psychological worries are replaced by the cosy epithets of industry also points to the collusion of psychiatry to advertising and commerce. The psychoanalyst as Freudster.

And in a corporate environment in which human worth is determined by a returns, Young – in Inventory – calculates how much her body mass is worth in terms of its constituent chemical elements. £25,000 as it turns out.

Young has created an arresting series of images in Body Techniques in which she is placed alone among a behemoth of concrete building sites in Dubai and Sharjah, adopting a variety of positions to locate herself in a dystopian landscape. In one shot, she is pictured with a mop bucket trying to clean huge concrete steps, humour springing from the absurdity of a domestic chore in such an industrial setting.

The video Everything You’ve Heard Is Wrong is set in Speakers’ Corner, but instead of delivering a panegyric on the evils of capitalism or the comforts of religion, Young instructs bemused passersby on strategies for good corporate communication.

This myriad collection of Young’s work over the past couple of years reveals a playful earnestness to confront the alien language and culture which tries to smother our lives and break down corporate into the comic and grotesque.

Co-commission with Cornerhouse, Eastside Projects and mima

Exhibition open:
Sat 5 February - Sun 20 March 2011
Galleries 2 & 3
Opening Times:
Mon: Closed
Tue - Sat: 12.00 - 20.00
Sun: 12.00 - 18.00
Cornerhouse, 70 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5NH. Information: 0161 200 1500

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