“Shimon Attie: Metro.PAL.IS.”
Pronounced “metro palace,” video and film artist Shimon Attie’s video installation’s title alludes to its subject: the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.
Attie’s family is from the Middle East, and although he has “deep connections” to that part of the world, even having lived there for some time as a teenager, Attie avoided the issue in his art.
“I never did a project on it, although, for 20 years people were telling me, ‘Why don’t you do a project in Israel,’” Attie said. “I finally did feel like it was the right time. I did so with great caution because who knows how much mediocre political art is done about the Middle East conflict. It is fraught with a lot of traps. That made me hesitant.”
In “Metro.PAL.IS.,” eight HD video screens are set up in a half circle. Each screen features a Palestinian and Israeli actor from New York. They are paired off into characters — the Palestinian businessman/ the Israeli businessman, the Palestinian “Jersey girl”/ Israeli “Jersey girl,” etc. The characters take turns reading a hybrid text Attie wrote of the Israeli Declaration (1948) and the Palestinian Declaration (1988).
Eventually the characters’ distinctions of being Israeli or Palestinian are less clear and the similarities in the peoples’ struggles are brought to the surface.
“It’s one of those pieces that’s incredibly complicated to explain but incredibly powerful to experience,” said Jennifer Lange, curator of the center’s Film/Video Studio Program, where Attie, as a visiting artist in 2010, worked meticulously on the project’s complicated, multi-layered sound composition.
“Sonically, it’s really beautiful,” she said. “It does become this musical thing; it’s almost harmonies that are created.”
Christopher Bedford, former chief curator of exhibitions at the Wex and current director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, curated this compilation of work by L.A.-based multi-media artist Paul Sietsema. Visitors can expect Bedford’s flair for putting together a tight but comprehensive show that spotlights a journey through a section of the artist’s career, which, for Sietsema, has included its own history travels.
Five films comprise the Wex roundup: “Figure 3,” a 16mm doozie where Sietsema took pre-colonial ethnographic tools and, incorporating plaster and printing ink, filmed sculptures he made from them; “Anticultural Positions,” a revelatory lecture of appropriated text and close-up shots of the artist’s working space; “Telegraph” and “Encre Chine,” two 2012 films that use found items (wood scraps from Hurricane Katrina wreckage and artists’ tools, respectively) to explore the dynamics of communication and deterioration of objects; and, finally, a new film created as part of Sietsema’s stay under the Wexner Center Artist’s Residency Award deftly employs repetition and cliché to meditate on subjects such as artists’ workspaces, media and time.