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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Visiting Artist: Shimon Attie


image from "The Writing on the Wall"

"Portraits of Exhile" installation



"An American in Aberfan," a clip from the making of "The Attraction of Onlookers"

We were first introduced to “The Writing on the Wall,” Attie’s post-grad work in Berlin, which projected slides of storefronts onto the facades of where they were taken several decades before. Sometimes, the original buildings were no longer in existence, in which case Attie would use one of similar structure, within close proximity. I had respect for the nature of his presentation with this work: he would stand alone with expensive projection equipment, and probably his camera for documenting. He would do this in different locations each night, lending a few hours for the residents and passer-bys to be aware of these ghostly environments. I saw it as a sort of treatment for the city, happening in process, but reliable and illuminating.

“Portraits of Exhile” caught my interest by the way he described water as a medium for memory. His underwater projections synthesized the unstable and intangible qualities of memory. This work represented a dichotomy of heroism and suffering. “The Attraction of Onlookers” was an interesting parallel to trauma. Holding a still pose is never easy, and I certainly acknowledged the connection it shared with the slow process of coping. Attie mentioned that through all the unwanted exposure brought on to the village from the Aberfan Avalanche, he strived to represent them in a way they’ve never seen before. His work was a marvel to see and learn about the process, but I felt that by casting those stereotypical roles of the village and presenting them as pristine figurines, however genuine the intention, he was encasing them and leaving them in a sort of graceful captivity, just as the media, completely vulnerable to the will of the public. Aber natürlich, who does not grow to love without the desire to posess it in the palm of your hand?

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