On a recent road trip, we broke up hundreds of miles of driving by stopping at a few museums (including the admission-free/don't-miss-it-next-time-you're-there Cleveland Museum of Art) and visiting a few campuses we'd never seen before, namely University of Kentucky, Berea College, and "The" Ohio State University.
OSU has a little gem of a gallery in the Wex Center for the Arts. We didn't take to the current exhibit but the gallery itself is cleverly designed with skinnny hallways, short staircases that go somewhere and sometimes nowhere, and, in the vestibule, theatre/video/politics in the round so moving, so pertinent, and so poignant that I'm posting an abbreviated version of artist Shimon Attie's MetroPAL.IS., which is nothing like the experience of standing, turning, and turning again in the middle of this immersive performance to see who just said what. Everyone sitting at the Peace Talks Table (beginning tomorrow) should be required to see this piece.
What makes MetroPAL.IS. so remarkable? Simplicity and synchronicity. Attie takes two seminal documents, each belonging to the other's enemy in the form of its country's Declaration of Independence, and has them read by New Yorkers from "the Palestinian and Israeli communities." The eight characters read separately when the words are different and together when they're the same. The inevitable conclusion? The two independence declarations of mortal next-door-neighbor-enemies are pretty much identical.
I don't think I've ever before recommended that anyone drive to Columbus, Ohio, to see a video. But now I am. If you're within a few hundred miles of this gallery, go. You will embed an unshakable idea in your consciousness: a work of art stitched with a conundrum and you may even become like me, wondering why can't we just get along again if our fundamental beliefs are identical, I mean, so similar.
Here's a description from the gallery's website:
Shimon Attie’s MetroPAL.IS., an immersive, multiple-channel video installation, dramatically tackles the complex and intensely problematic Arab-Israeli conflict with characters cast from the Palestinian and Israeli communities in New York City. Dressed in outfits that reflect their varied lifestyles and professions, each of the performers reads from a document created by Attie that combines sections of the Israeli Declaration of Independence (1948) and the Palestinian Declaration of Independence (1988). This hybrid document reveals a surprisingly significant overlap between the two original texts.
Eight 65-inch (vertical) monitors encircle viewers with one larger-than-life-size character on each screen. The characters appear in poses reminiscent of classical sculpture or baroque painting, with an almost orchestral flow of sound and text among them, enhancing the dramatic impact of the work. The complex editing and post-production work integral to creating this symphony of voices and the interaction among the individual monitors was completed during Attie’s residency as a visiting artist in the Wex’s Film/Video Studio Program in 2010.
[And from the artist himself] Attie notes that video, as a time-based format, “lends itself to the kinds of conflation of past and present which is central to my work. In addition, creating multiple-channel, immersive works allow me to activate a given space, which is also something central to my artistic sensibility.”
MetroPAL.IS., a video installation by Shimon Attie, with Vale Bruck, was commissioned by The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.