Every Friday, Jspace News partners with the America Israel Cultural Foundation to bring you an interview with one of the many Israeli artists they support throughout the world.
Shimon Attie is an internationally renowned visual artist. Attie's artistic practice includes creating multiple-channel HD video installations, photographs, large and small-scale site-specific installations in public places, and new media works. For two decades, Shimon has made art that allows us to reflect on the relationship between place, memory and identity. In many of his projects, he engages local communities in finding new ways of representing their history, memory and potential futures, and explores how contemporary media may be used to re-imagine new relationships between space, time, place and identity. He is particularly concerned with issues of loss, communal trauma and the potential for regeneration.
AICF: What or who inspired you to want to be an artist?
Shimon Attie: I think that I believe in the old adage: “Art chose me, I did not choose Art.” This expresses for me how being an artist is in many ways an expression of one’s temperament. I probably didn’t have a choice to do otherwise. I always felt from a young age that a life lived well is a life dedicated to articulating meaning and creative self-expression. In my case, this meant through an artistic language and sensibility. If there were anything else that I would rather do than being an artist, I would do it a heartbeat. But so far, I simply haven’t found anything else that I would rather do.
What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are in your career today?
In art school I focused on photography, but in my training, there was always a very porous boundary between a 2-dimensional photograph on a wall and 3-dimensional site-specific installations. So in my early years as an artist, basically in the 90’s, I created a number of large-scale site-specific installations that also had photographic elements. Many of these projects involved animating public sites with images of their lost histories. Most of these were sited across Europe and also along the East coast of the United States. And then in more recent years, I have worked increasingly with the moving image and have created a number of immersive, multiple-channel video pieces for museums and galleries. While the medium and forms that I employ vary according to a given project, the ideas, concerns and strategies that underlie my work have remained the same. In much of my work, I engage local communities in finding new ways of representing their history and memory, and have explored how contemporary media may be used to re-imagine new relationships between space, time, place and identity.
What do you need as an artist today?
I need continued institutional and private support to continue making my work.
What creative project are you working on now?
I am in the early stages of conceiving a couple of new bodies of work that build upon and further develop the work I currently have on exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery in NY. Those works deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but through the triangulating lens of New York City.
The newer works that I am contemplating will likely deal more broadly with the ways in which ideology often works at cross purposes to one’s commitment to our shared, common humanity. One piece that I am envisioning will likely be an immersive video installation, while others will be works-on-paper, as with my current exhibition at Jack Shainman.
In addition, I recently won a major international completion to design and create a permanent Memorial artwork for the city of San Francisco. The memorial will be for San Francisco police officers that were killed in the line of duty.
Where do you see yourself and your career in 10 years?
I am not really one for envisioning or articulating in a very concrete way where I would like my life to be in five or 10 years down the road. Maybe that’s a problem. In general terms, what I hope is that I will continue to receive support for the work that I do so that I can keep making it. Many of my larger pieces are large productions that require a good deal of institutional and private support. That has slowed quite a bit since the financial collapse of 2008, but I hope that in the years ahead it will pick up again. My main goal for down the road is to continue to make work that I feel passionate about and that hopefully moves others. I tend to aim for the 50 yard line between form and content, and hope to continue creating work that both provides a sense of wonderment and aesthetic beauty while simultaneously addressing content and experiences that I feel are deeply important. This includes an engagement with history, memory, politics, justice, and our fellow man and woman.
What does it mean to you to have an organization like AICF available in the art world?
It is impossible to overstate the absolute importance of an organization like AICF, which gives crucial support to young artists in Israel at the time that they need it most. Being able to enable and encourage a young artist’s development in their formative years can change their entire life. As an artist myself, apart from the basic sustenance needed for daily life, I can think of few things more important, more lasting, or fundamental than the type of support that AICF gives to our artists of today and tomorrow.
.ORG-Connection: The America-Israel Cultural Foundation supports artistic life in Israel. By encouraging Israeli artists and supporting institutions and programs, AICF makes a vital contribution to the cultural foundation of Israel and strengthens her relationship with America. To stay up to date with the AICF and all its events, check out its page on Jspace.