London-based artist Carey Young spent three weeks in Brussels, Belgium, lugging around heavy camera equipment eight hours a day, to and from her hotel and the Palais de Justice, the largest courthouse in the world. What came from the exertion were moving and still images of the powerful women of law and order, which she titled Palais de Justice.
“We’re watching, not male lawyers or male judges, but women this time,” Young says. “And that’s what I wanted to particularly focus on, and reverse the real situation of law.”
Part of her current installation also includes a photographic display titled The New Architecture, a decadelong project which showcases a meditation on power — judicial, corporate — and artistic ideas of performance, space and the sublime, according to the Dallas Museum of Art’s website. It’s also Young’s first solo U.S. show since 2009.
Young held a discussion, alongside Dr. Michael Corris, Professor of Art at Southern Methodist University, Thursday night at the Dallas Museum of Art. It was the debut of her work in Belgium, a 17-minute video filmed at the 19th century courthouse that follows the goings on of only female lawyers and officials.
According to Young’s website, the project blurs boundaries between business, politics and culture. And she says law in itself is a variation of theatrical performance.
“We’re seeing law as a performance. It’s a very theatrical process where the costume, the pomp, the language, the rhetoric ... it’s all intensely about performance and a sense of theater. We have to enter that fantasy in order to accept the judge as powerful, and the law as rigorous,” Young says.
The law may seem ho-hum and dry to some. But Young’s work takes this often disregarded subject and maximizes its beauty. “If that’s not such an old fashioned idea. I know it is. I’m vastly old fashioned,” she says.
Young says she wants to bring her audience to a place they might otherwise find repellent. “There’s an element of surprise. And maybe you’d want to stay in there. I think that’s unexpected, maybe,” she says.
She believes the subjects in this project were also unaware of her presence. Since she used a 1,100mm lens, she says any eye contact is likely coincidental.
“It occurred to me as I was making the piece that these portholes are kind of a lens,” Young says. “These lenses, or these portholes, are kind of ocular devices through which we’re watching justices’ performance and we become witnesses.”
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Young’s project explores what a society would be like under the exclusive rule of women, and if it would be a better one. “That’s one of the questions within the piece, which is not answered, but suggested,” she says. “I couldn’t say it’s a matriarchy. I couldn’t say it’s a utopia. But it does seem to be a system dominated by women.”
“I think law has a choreographic tempo. I find it exciting. I think there’s a beauty to that,” Young says.
See Palais de Justice at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St., through April 2. Admission is free.