conceptual art, contemporary art, installation art

Carey Young, Follow the Protest, 2009

February 19, 2011

Good news comes by phone, as the old adage goes. It has even been said more recently that it’s good to talk. So visitors to Carey Young’s show may already be keen to pick up this phone.

In a gallery context it promises even more excitement. As Alex Farquharson points out in a highly informative essay about the artist, such a device recalls a well-known moment in conceptual art.

(The 1969 landmark exhibition When Attitudes Become Form, which included a telephone on the floor. Artist Walter de Maria would occasionally call.)

In this case we make the call, and after a brief ringtone the line goes through to an automated call centre system. And no matter how much enjoy art, it is hard not to hang up.

The impersonal voice offers multiple options which let you access field recordings from the 2009 G20 protests in London. You can hear a range of chants, interviews, ambient noises and a speech.

In one clip a passerby states that the atmosphere on the demo is “imbued with love”. But all of the fervour and the spirit of the event has been put at a safe distance by the hated interface.

But then again, most mediation of the anti-globalisation movement is to some extent corporate. We are free to hop channels, switch papers, etc, but is it not all programmed?

In the context of this somewhat kitsch office set, that may seem funny. Perhaps the best we can do is laugh at our predicament.

Carey Young: Momento Park is showing at Cornerhouse, Manchester until 20 March. See gallery website for more details and check out the artist’s website here.

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