Performing the Law by Carey Young UCL Laws 6 March 2018

In this UCL Laws talk for International Womens’ Day, Carey Young, visual artist, Lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL and Hon. Research Fellow at the School of Law, Birkbeck, will present and discuss her artistic work, which has addressed law for the last 15 years.

The talk will centre on a screening of her video artwork Palais de Justice (2017), recently exhibited in major solo exhibitions at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York and Dallas Museum of Art. The piece was shot at the Palais de Justice in Brussels, the main courthouse of Belgium. Contradicting the familiar patriarchal culture of law, Young’s camera depicts female judges and lawyers sitting at trial, directing proceedings and delivering judgments. The film subtly builds a counter-narrative: a legal system seemingly centred on, and perhaps controlled by women, as if male presence may be optional or unnecessary in this particular future. Young filmed through a series of circular windows in courtroom doors, always shooting without the knowledge or permission of her subjects or the court. The windows and the camera’s lens are portrayed as an interwoven series of oculi, in which we watch justice as performance, and are ourselves implicated as witnesses and voyeurs. The New York Times termed it ‘a distinctly feminist view of jurisprudence..sensitive and bleak’. Artforum reviewed the piece as ‘mesmerizing’ and ‘transfixing’, with Young’s cinematography ‘breathtaking’. 

Young will also discuss her related body of artistic work which explores the potential of law as an ‘artistic medium’. Young collaborates with a legal team to make artworks in installation, video, performance, print, sculpture and photography which also operate as bespoke and experimental legal instruments. These have taken such diverse forms as disclaimers, contracts, offers, licenses, cautionary statements and a will, addressing such disparate legal fields as human rights, inheritance law, intellectual property and ‘outer space’ law. These artworks explore law in relation to performance, visuality and language, and explore law as a separate kind of ‘reality’, one with its own inherent subjectivities and points of breakdown.

Chair: Prof Alison Diduck, (vice Dean – Staff, Professor of Law, UCL)

About the speaker:

Carey Young’s artistic work has been exhibited widely, including at Tate Britain, Whitechapel Gallery, Centre Pompidou, Dallas Museum of Art, MoMA/PS1 (New York), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), The Power Plant (Toronto) and the New Museum (New York), as well as the Venice, Taipei, Sharjah, Moscow and Tirana Biennials. Her work is included in the public collections of the Tate Gallery and the Centre Pompidou amongst others, and is represented by Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. She has given lectures on her artistic work in law conferences at Princeton, Harvard, Birkbeck and the École Nationale de la Magistrature, Paris, amongst othersA monograph on her work, Subject to Contract, was published by JRP Ringier in 2013.

UCL Jeremy Bentham Room, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT
Queries: Please email the UCL Laws events team at
Date & Time:
6 March, 6pm
Queries: Please email the UCL Laws events team at
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