Shimon Atties exhibition MetroPAL.IS., a multiple-channel immersive HD video installation featuring members of the Israeli and Palestinian communities of New York City, is to debut at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
The Aldrich has supported the production and presentation of this major new video work, created by noted artist Shimon Attie with the assistance of his longtime production associate, Vale Bruck, which will be on view from January 30 through May 30, 2011.
The artists intention is for the artwork to re-imagine and re-configure the seemingly intractable Middle East conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, in part by engaging their shared secondary hybrid identitythat of being New Yorkers.
The artwork is as much about what it means to be a New Yorker, to live in the United States and to have a layered identity, as it is about the conflict in the Middle East. Rather than taking a frontal approach to the debate, Attie uses the language of contemporary art to create an exploration which he believes can oxygenate the narrow space between the narratives of these two communities.
The artist invited his subjects into the studio to be filmed one at a time, dressed as their New York selves, showing how their identity as either Palestinians or Israelis is manifested on the streets of New York. He chose members from each community, of various genders and occupations (such as subway workers, cooks, and businessmen). Each participant read a scripted part from a hybrid document in which Attie merged the surprisingly similar Israeli Declaration of Independence from 1948 with the Palestinian Declaration of Independence from 1988 (Algiers).
The running time for the work is approximately eleven minutes. The installation itself consists of eight 65-inch flat screens, mounted vertically in a freestanding circle so that the viewer is engulfed by life-size figures. The piece has been crafted and edited such that, akin to a Greek chorus, at times only one individual is speaking, or two, or eight, or none. Consequently viewers find themselves in a quasi endless hall of mirrors, of uncannily similar claims, assertions, and faces.
Exhibitions director Richard Klein notes, Reconciliation is at the heart of MetroPAL.IS., yet ultimately Attie wanted to create a layered artwork that resists easy interpretation and defies expectations or preconceived notions as to what it means to be an Israeli, a Palestinianand a New Yorker, or by extension, an American.