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The Daily Star

Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck

UNstabile-Mobile (detail), 2006

From the series Modern Entanglements, U.S. Interventions

An uncharacteristic chill yanks at the evening air of the United Arab Emirates’ coastal cities. Outdoors at nighttime, Emiratis and resident foreigners - coached in local knowledge of long scorching summers and brief mild winters - huddle into themselves, burrowing into their clothes.

As you wander through “Crude,” Jameel Arts Centre’s debut show, rumors of climate change slap at the back of your brainpan like a rebuke.


Among archival works addressing the West’s early history of political engagement with petroleum, few will be as revelatory to a 21st-century public as “Chronoscope, 1951, 11pm,” Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck’s 2009-2011 collaboration with Media Farzin.

This single-channel video samples the eponymous three-times-weekly CBS news digest, in which a pair of journalists interviewed a single guest. “Chronoscope” broadcast live in the early ’50s, when the innocence and indifference of U.S. audiences was assured.

The 25-minute work is enclosed within a room containing only a comfortable living room couch, replicating the conditions of the program’s original reception.

The artistry of Farzin and Balteo-Yazbeck’s piece lies in what they chose to select from the “Chronoscope” archives. They interweave comments from six guests from six episodes, orchestrating a fictive conversation about and around the 1951 Iranian oil crisis - caused when then-Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalized Iran’s oil industry.

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