Photographs by Mary Ellen Carroll.
Distributed Art Publishers, 2008. 360 pp., 400 color and black & white illustrations., 6¾x9½".
Despite an oeuvre spanning more than twenty years and a disavowal of any signature style, Mary Ellen Carroll has throughout her career been investigating a single, fundamental question: what is a work of art? The resulting multifarious, provocative and often wry outpouring in architecture, writing, performance, photography, filmmaking, printmaking, sculpture and painting has been collected into this book, the conceptual artist’s long-awaited first monograph. Carroll’s work interrogates the relationship between subjectivity, language, and power; at its core is a dedication to political and social critique. The touchstones of her practice are the double, the imitation, and the copy, and these motifs are applied to a range of ends, from conjuring the unheimlich to probing the means of distribution and interpretation of the work of art. A Carroll piece may involve something as seemingly effortless as trademarking an idea by another artist, or as complex and bold as walking out the door penniless with only her passport and the clothes on her back to spend six weeks in a foreign country. Carroll imbues all her work with a strong performative element; even a new opus, eight years in the making in Houston, Texas, and involving the rotation of a tract home on its foundation, is conceived as a way of making architecture perform. The book itself resembles a work of conceptual art and its organization reflects Carroll’s method of working, with subject categories (Mistakes, Boredom, Lies, Resemblance, Pleasure, Temporality, Affect, etc.) providing a system by which her art may be organized. The majority of her works are represented here, precisely illustrated and often reappearing multiple times, in numerous categories, in different guises.
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