The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s popular Black Box series has brought a diverse range of international film and video works to Washington for more than five years. This season Black Box features the first U.S. exhibition of the work of Ali Kazma (Turkish, b. Istanbul, 1971), who is fascinated by the process of work, from the transfixing repetitive flow of automated mass manufacturing to the unique intricacies of artisanal hand labor. His artworks have studied subjects ranging from a blue jeans assembly line in a vast Turkish factory to the intimate benchwork of a wristwatch repairman and the intensity of brain surgery in an operating theater.
Black Box features Kazma’s most ambitious project to date, seven channels of synchronized video, all running on an endless loop. O.K. (2010) is a study of a notary stamping hundreds of documents at breakneck speed. The syncopation of the sound is paralleled by the artist’s quick-cut editing. As the images stretch across several screens, it is difficult to discern whether there are many clerks or a single adroit worker, and whether the hands depicted represent astounding manual mastery or belong to one or more actors the artist has enlisted and then digitally accelerated in post-production. In interviews, the artist has revealed the fact that the hands featured in O.K. belong to an actual notary public working in Istanbul, and the entire video is indeed actual speed. The artist conducted a casting call in order to find the notary with the extreme dexterity necessary for his bureaucratic ballet.
Kazma, who lives and works in Istanbul, has had works featured internationally in solo exhibitions and film festivals, as well as in biennials in Cuba, Greece and France. O.K.will remain on view at the Hirshhorn until May 13, 2012.