Mary Ellen Carroll / Lecture

Image Above – Photo I took in the lecture of a handwritten note about Policy



This week brought an additional Transmission lecture, the final one for this year.  The lecture began with a man named Professor Kernick, where he read out a continuous monologue, he mentioned an artist, spoke about them and then related them to another artist so it became a following train of thought, where he related artists to other artists. He then presented the actual guest speaker, Mary Ellen Carroll.  This was a very different way to present the artist, it kind of threw me off slightly, as I thought he was the artist but he was just setting out the lecture as this kind of following on/continuous linking of information was how Carroll proceeded to present her works.

Carroll is a conceptual artist, whose artwork surrounds public policy, performance, architecture, law and intellectual property.  Language is also a big aspect of her work, explaining that she always starts artwork with an essay/lecture, like a research stage.

The whole lecture became a blur as it went on, it was set at a very fast pace and each separate artwork/artist that she spoke about merged and became one.  It was quite difficult to keep up but on reflection it was also a great way to present her practice and interests as it became a timeline of her development.

One piece of work of Carrroll’s that caught my interest was a video piece but unfortunately I have been unable to find the video or title to show, but it was an interview type situation where a famous drag artist; Lady Bunny who discussed her history and her father who wanted peace not politics, which lead into discussing politics then onto a discussion on peace, where the video then muted.  It was a really impactful film that made politics audible and liberating but also amplified her when she was mute which was a really strange contrast.

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Photo I took in the lecture of the ‘Artist Contract’ mentioned below.

Throughout the lecture Carroll read out quotes that empowered and added clarity to her artwork:

  • The past is never dead, it’s not even past – Barack Obama speech
  • You need to be an anarchist to be a good artist, from her ‘Artist Contract’ how to be an artist
  • The outside can never reveal what is happening inside
  • What you pay for isn’t visible

I really liked how Carroll placed these quotes next to her artworks to intensify the meaning of something, I now want to use this element and develop it into my practice.


The final piece of work she presented was an artwork in Dubai, where there were two LED signs, one on an entrance of a building reading, “When did you arrive” and one at the exit reading, “When will you return”.  As a striving text artist myself, I was really drawn to these, I loved how they respond to their surroundings as they are questions you ask at an entrance/exit.  I now have an idea in mind responding to surroundings/placing work that intensifies the meaning and I feel truly inspired by this piece.

This has been a really fantastic lecture, so different to the others, so interesting and inspiring and Carroll’s work really related to mine which I haven’t found in any other lecture this year, so all in all a brilliant final lecture.


Mary Ellen Carroll –


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