London-based artist Carey Young investigates the corporate and legal worlds from an insider perspective. Her multidisciplinary work has included photography, video, text, and performance, and has taken the form of legal contracts, negotiation-skills training for museum staff, and performed speeches. Young takes a particular interest in the call center industry, which allows firms to offer sales and customer service by telephone. Whether routed to a twenty-four hour live agent, or an automated voice offering infinite menu options, consumers are conditioned to such spaces of routine communication, wherein branded and scripted exchange endures over personal contact.
For her first solo exhibition in an American museum, Young transforms the Contemporary’s interstitial spaces—its front entrance, public spaces and boardroom—into a place where the notion of “customer service” assumes a conspicuous, inverted, and unexpected presence. Collaborating with a communications company headquartered in St. Louis, Young presents a series of telephone call center works. The museum visitor, upon picking up each phone, becomes both a listener and a performer, in dialogue with live agents scripted and trained by the artist. Suggestive of the corporatization of the art world, and drawing on the legacies of Conceptual Art and institutional critique, Young’s project blends the commercial and technocratic with the fictional, the political, and the absurd. At its core, Speech Acts contemplates the conditions of site-specificity, language, and our own capacity to communicate in the world.