New York Times

Art in Review
May 18th, 2007
CRG Gallery



In “Circle of Confusion,” the Beirut artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige demonstrate the difficulties of making art in an environment that is often in a state of emergency. Using an assortment of photographic techniques they present their war-torn city as a space of missing persons and places.

Ghosts haunt “180 Seconds of Lasting Images,” a large white grid of overexposed images shot by a man just minutes before his 1985 abduction. “Latent Images” is printed to look like a contact sheet, with each frame emblazoned by text that reveals a troubling story about people you cannot see, so may only imagine.

A here-today, gone-tomorrow ennui filters through other representations. The “Wonder Beirut” series is made up of tourist photos shot in 1968 (when the city was still known as the Paris of the East), but they have been manipulated so the buildings look bombed.

The artists have also cut a mural-sized aerial view of Beirut into small rectangles and glued each to a mirror. Viewers are invited to take one as a memento, so over the show’s run, the city will disappear.

It’s hard to tell what these artists are trying to make visible in “Distracted Bullets,” a five-part video shot at night from a single hillside during a holiday or political event. An accompanying text explains that the sounds are from both firearms and fireworks, suggesting that in a city worn thin by violence the gap between misery and festivity is slim.