Review: Meg Turner at the New Orleans Community Printshop

Meg Turner, Chernobyl (Reactor #4), 2013. Tintype from film positive. Courtesy the artist.

Meg Turner
New Orleans Community Printshop
1201 Mazant Street
December 12, 2013–January 6, 2014

Abandoned since 1984, the Market Street Power Station sits at the edge of the Mississippi River in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District, two massive smokestacks jutting into the skyline. Although renovation proposals have floated around in recent years, the building is used mostly for movie productions. Across the globe, near the Ukrainian city of Pripyat is another, more infamous power plant: Chernobyl. Known for the 1986 explosion and nuclear radiation catastrophe, the locale is still monitored by scientists and has spurred an entire industry of disaster sightseeing (a Google search of “Chernobyl tours” brings up countless listings, most costing at least a couple hundred U.S. dollars).

The connection between such a notorious site and a wholly ignored structure an ocean away may seem tenuous at first, but Meg Turner’s collection of black-and-white photographs paints an eerily similar picture of the two industrial fossils—one of empty stairwells, overgrown weeds, and cracked and dirty windows. Tintypes, photogravures, and a selection of 3D stereoscopes encourage close looking, straddling the line between scrutiny and fetishization. As New Orleanians well know, tales of cataclysmic disaster only intensify the collective fascination with ruined and abandoned structures, and the exhibition seems to both align with and mock this romanticizing impulse. To this end, Turner’s photographs are complemented by Bricks #3, an immersive installation co-designed with Case Miller, which forces the participant to crouch down in a dimly lit underbelly like that found in one of these desolate structures. Huddled in darkness, touching the dusty bricks beneath, one can’t help but feel akin to the rats and other wildlife that must call these buildings home.

Installation view of Meg Turner's Bricks #3, designed and fabricated in collaboration with Case Miller, at the New Orleans Community Printshop.