Shimon Attie’s MetroPAL.IS. is an eight-channel immersive HD video installation that features members of the Israeli and Palestinian communities of New York City. Attie’s intention is for the artwork, created with the assistance of his longtime production associate, Vale Bruck, to re-imagine and re-configure the seemingly intractable Middle East conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, in part by engaging their shared secondary hybrid identity—that of being New Yorkers.
Attie has filmed members of each community one at a time in a darkened studio, performing from a seamless document created by the artist that combines the Israeli and Palestinian Declarations of Independence. The performances have been edited so that, like a Greek chorus, at times only one individual speaks, at others two, or eight, or none. Although there are great similarities in the two declarations, Attie decided that Israeli participants would only speak words from the Israeli declaration and Palestinian participants would only speak words from the Palestinian declaration, with both groups speaking words and phrases common to both. This not only reinforced each group’s identity, but also set the stage for confrontation and introduced the potential of reconciliation.
There are twelve New York/Middle Eastern characters in MetroPAL.IS., each conceived as a pair, including falafel cooks, businessmen, subway workers, and pregnant women. As the range of characters attests, MetroPAL.IS. is as much about what it means to be a New Yorker as it is to be either Palestinian or Israeli, a reflection on Attie’s interest in cultural displacement and the way that identity is mediated by place.
Ultimately, MetroPAL.IS. is a layered artwork that resists easy interpretation and defies preconceived notions of what it means to be an Israeli, a Palestinian, and a New Yorker—or by extension, an American.
Richard Klein, Co-Interim Director.