HALE TENGER, Beirut, 2005-07, video still. Courtesy the artist.

Double Crescent

C24 Gallery
Turkey USA

Guest curator Dan Cameron brings together five Istanbul- and five New Orleans-based artists for C24 Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, “Double Crescent.” The gallery—which opened September 8 in a 9,000-square-foot space on West 24th Street, backed by a group of Turkish art collectors—promises to bring a new mix of contemporary art that reaches beyond typical cities of the US and Europe. For “Double Crescent,” Cameron displays art from two cities that he says are “exotic relics of a colonial past,” which have been transformed in the past 100 years from “marginal positions to centrality in world culture, with completely new identities shaped by the global economy.” The artists from the distant port cities depict shared concerns of globalization that stretch across the Atlantic, dealing with fear, commerce, destruction and bureaucratic failings. 

With an undertone of rejecting colonial rule, Hale Tenger’s video Beirut (2005-07) shows that spaces of conflict retain a peaceful, habitable existence during the day, while the cover of night allows the battles between defiant subjects and would-be colonial forces to wage on. The artist filmed Beirut’s once glamorous Hotel St. George, awaiting repairs at the time. The windows are open, allowing a soft breeze to glide through the curtains during the day. This dream-like image is then sharply juxtaposed to the same scene in the evening, filmed with the eerie glow of night-vision. The curtains now twist in a howling wind pierced by an audio recording of bombing attacks during the 2007 Israeli invasion. Sirens are heard, then a gunshot, and abruptly the screen goes blank, giving the viewer the chilled feeling of having witnessed a death. 

Switching to the bureaucratic sphere, Ali Kazma investigates the effects of government labor upon workers’ bodies in the seven-channel video installation O.K. (2010). Kazma displays various vantage points of a clerk’s figure as he stamps stacks of papers for governmental approval at lightening speed, completing up to 100 pages an hour. The close-ups of his hands juxtaposed to the wide shots of his entire body emphasize the disjunction between the mechanized role of stamping and a full comprehension of the content that is being legalized. The clerk is simply part of a state machine that focuses more on refining its production process rather than bringing about meaningful change.

Tying in another major theme of globalization, Gülsun Karamüstafa deals with new worldwide commercial trends. Shrine Online (2011) displays various porcelain birds on brightly colored pedestals. For this work, Karamustafa ordered 15 figurines on the internet, which she then painted in the gallery, creating a shrine to this new way of consuming goods. Each pedestal and bird is sold separately, devaluing the shrine as a whole entity and emphasizing the easy interchangeability of these mass-produced products. 

“Double Crescent” contained some politically charged works, but others such as Bruce Davenport Jr’s marching band drawings and Skylar Fein’s silkscreen of a cartoon penguin, lacked the confrontational energy to incite further discussion. Furthermore, while the successful works reacted broadly to themes of globalization, one left “Double Crescent” hoping for a more meaningful dialogue between the two port cities. Nonetheless, the exhibition was a promising first step by a gallery whose mission is to introduce lesser-known artists working outside of New York.