Mary Ellen Carroll ME LIKE BLACK curated by Peter Fleissig
February 3 – March 31, 2007
POWER HOUSE 45 G.E. Patterson Memphis, Tennessee 901.578.5545 hours: Thursday-Friday, 3-8 p.m., Saturday 12-5 p.m.
"There is nothing that man fears more than the touch of the unknown"
is the first line of the writer, traveler, mystic and thinker Elias Canetti's seminal work, Crowds and Power. This tome on the social aspects of human nature posits that those who are not seeking power are wearing perplexing disguises.
Carroll's new body of work makes use of the city of Memphis not only as a physical original but also a cultural, social-political and economic original as well—a site of authenticity. The city is known to the rest of the world as the home
of Elvis, the civil rights movement and FedEx; but these institutions
have become so globally ubiquitous that they are disassociated from the
city of Memphis itself. This 'invisibility' expands physically into
the marketplace and generates the copy, the fake, the imitation, the
impersonation—all of which duplications can also be considered
originals unto themselves.
Nothing truly exists until it is written about or photographed;
hence, in Carroll's view, our symbiotic relationship to the media. This
relationship is something that everyone from Yves Klein to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
has understood. Using duplication as a process and as a number game,
Carroll's work will make a link to the power relationship that Elias
Canetti pointed out between the individual and the crowd, one will
utilize disguise and limit the effects of touch.
All of the works in the exhibition have the subject of impersonation
as their conceptual and philosophical basis. Included in the exhibition
will be ME LIKE BLACK, two neon signs that are inverted mistakes that reference the 1960s book Black Like Me by white journalist John Howard Griffin,
a civil-rights activist and friend of Dr. King who disguised himself as
a black man and chronicled the experience. (This book had a particular
effect on Carroll when she read it as an eleven year-old, taken from
her sister's college bookshelf, inspiring her to darken her skin in a
similar manner.) Four new silkscreen paintings produced with Brand X
Editions will be shown from Carroll's One Star Press publication and
the larger body of work All of the Men Who Think They Can Be Me, titled Three's a Crowd. A double self-portrait from the series You and Me is based on the difference between how we see ourselves and how we are seen by others. A photograph titled Crowds and Power uses Canetti's book and the title as both its subject and object.
During the week before the exhibition's opening, the performance Whatever It Takes,
an impersonation of the escaped Haley, the female polar bear that FedEx
relocated from Chicago to the Memphis Zoo, will take place at the Power
House. On the opening night Carroll will become the subject and object
of the artwork during a special performance.