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Mary Ellen Carroll, Federal

Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street, 212-431-5795
June 29 - August 6, 2005
Reception: Wednesday, June 29, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

A new series of photographs by New York-based artist Mary Ellen Carroll, and the New York premiere of her 24-hour movie by the same title on Thursday, July 28 at Cinema Village.

The title for the project is derived from the name of a building, The Federal Building, located at 11000 Wilshire in Los Angeles, designed in 1969 by the architect Charles Luckman. Luckman returned to architecture following his successful business career as the CEO of Lever Brothers where he was inspired by commissioning SOM to build Lever House. The Federal Building has been referred to in architectural guidebooks as the “embodiment of bureaucracy.” This work acknowledges both Andy Warhol’s Empire and Toni Negri’s popular book Empire, genuinely, yet ironically; but it is not a film about the building as celebrated icon, nor is it an interpretation of an au courant political theory. Federal is the articulation of an image of what is presently legally, socially and politically non-representable.

United States national security in the post-World Trade Center socio-political landscape focuses on surveillance and counter-surveillance, observing the need to protect these symbols of the Federal government’s authority and the public’s access to them. Over a period of several months Carroll accumulated a labyrinth of bureaucratic paperwork and media attention in order to gain permission to document the structure in this prolonged manner.

The movie will be shown the same day the footage was shot in Los Angeles in 2003, opening at 9 am on July 28th and ending at 9 am on July 29th. Screening simultaneously in two theatres over 24 consecutive hours, Federal evokes minimalism’s reductive qualities, stripping away the affect of bureaucratic authority through the insistence of repetition, and exposing the process of its realization through the accompanying unedited ambient soundtrack. On one screen, the north facade is viewed from the LA National Cemetery and on the other, the south fa ade is viewed from the rear of the building’s parking lot. At various points in the screening the viewer’s perception of the building and its surroundings morphs into differing typologies, upending the conceptual trope that has been exhausted by the now overly-familiar legacy of the school of “German photography.” Given a chance to watch the movie from either of the two halves gives the appearance of a freedom of choice, yet in the end mirrors the same set of restrictions that go unnoticed in the public domain.

The screening is FREE and open to the public, with a $10 suggested donation to benefit the Storefront. To make a reservation, please send an email to and indicate the hours during which you would like to attend the screening.

Storefront’s presentation of Federal is generously supported by the Strypemonde Foundation.

Mary Ellen Carroll was born in Danville, Illinois in 1961 and lives and works in New York City. The notion of representation and identification has always been at the core of Carroll’s oeuvre and her dedication to a political and social critique that is consciously developed without a signature style. The unifying conceptual premise is self-consciousness or physical mirroring and the copy. Her work is in numerous public and private collections throughout Europe and the United States. Federal was created with the support of a Guggenheim Fellowship that Carroll received in 2003 and with technical and material contributions by the Panasonic Corporation and Outpost Digital. She spent 2004 at the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy, working on the project “OFPC ‘99,” a large-scale aggregate land art piece that will be physically realized in Houston, Texas. In addition to a number of upcoming exhibitions and publications including a monograph to be published in 2007 by Mack/Steidl, she will have work in a forthcoming exhibition on architecture at MoMUK in Vienna, curated by Edelbert Kob.
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