Facts on the Ground in Israel & Palestine

Facts on the Ground in Israel & Palestine

Photo from the work Fact on the Ground

Shimon Attie is an internationally known visual artist, whose work spans photography, video, site-specific installations, public projects, and new media. Attie’s projects allow us to reflect on the relationship between place, memory and identity.

Attie’s work has been exhibited and collected by numerous museums around the world, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Centre Pompidou, and the Miami Art Museum, among many others. In addition, he has received numerous fellowships and awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, and a Visual Artist Fellowship from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. Most recently, in 2013-14, Attie was awarded the Lee Krasner Lifetime Achievement Award in Art.

The project he writes about here is on exhibit at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City through June 4.

In the summer of 2013, I was a resident at Blue Mountain Center. I look back very fondly at that time, as I was at the very beginning of a project that I was to later realize in Israel and Palestine. During that summer, I did  technical and aesthetic testing and R&D for the project .

The project would later be titled Fact on the Ground. For this artwork, I created approximately 30 site-specific media installations across Israel and Palestine. I fashioned and installed custom-made light boxes featuring illuminated texts at each site, the works specifically staged in-order-to-be-photographed.

Short phrases were thus inserted into the city and landscape, resulting in photographs that are at once dramatic and enigmatic. Rich with ambiguity, the phrases were intended to resist interpretation, while pointing to some of the psychological, cultural, and political anxieties at stake in present day Israel and Palestine. By extension, the uncanny effect of the photographs mirror the conflict in the region.

Some phrases were culled from the history of Zionism, while others were artistic distillations. A typical installation and phrase was comprised of between 1 and 3 light box pieces. Each installation was set up in mid to late afternoon and lasted until darkness. I photographed the pieces interacting with their sites during these hours. While the emphasis was on photographing the works, the artwork also had an on-site installation component as members of the public interacted with and responded to the installations.

The installations and photographs were site-specific in every sense. The phrases and visual composition of the boxes were both carefully considered in light of the cultural, historical, socio-political and physical dimension of each site. The conceptual framing, formal composition and choreography were considered with the final art photographs in mind.

As with my earlier works, I sought to create content-driven pieces that are visually arresting, conceptually layered and that resist easy interpretation. My aim was to create works of art that raise as many questions as they answer.

It is this project, Facts on the Ground, that runs as a solo exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery  through June 4. The exhibition is timed to coincide with the release of a new art monograph on my work of the same title, from Nazraeli Press.

BMC fellow alum Maureen McLane wrote a poem for the book, with the introduction written by cultural theorist Mieke Bal and an essay co-written by Israeli art historian Gannit Ankori with Palestinian architect/artist Samir Srouji.