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by Shimon Attie

Download Sites Unseen eBook
Shimon Attie
Photography & Video
Verve Editions; 1 edition (October 15, 1998)
120 pages
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Publisher's Description. By projecting historical images of the Holocaust's decimated Jewish communities onto their now redeveloped sites, Attie creates an compromising dialogue about memory, loss, and guilt

Publisher's Description. By projecting historical images of the Holocaust's decimated Jewish communities onto their now redeveloped sites, Attie creates an compromising dialogue about memory, loss, and guilt. This retrospective monograph presents many different projects by the American-born photographer.

Attie has published three books: Shimon Attie: Finstere Medine (Disreputable Quarter) (1992), The Writing on the Wall: Projections in Berlin's Jewish Quarter (1993), and Sites Unseen: Shimon Attie-European Projects (1998)

Attie has published three books: Shimon Attie: Finstere Medine (Disreputable Quarter) (1992), The Writing on the Wall: Projections in Berlin's Jewish Quarter (1993), and Sites Unseen: Shimon Attie-European Projects (1998) ), are rooted, like his previous ones, in the recovery of memory and its incorporation into the present.

1992 Shimon Attie: Finstere Medine, Galerie im Scheunenviertel, Berlin, Germany, exhibition catalogue. Selected Group Exhibition Catalogues.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography described about Attie's work, Concerned with questions of memory, place, and identity, Shimon Attie gives visual form to both personal and collective memories by introducing histories of marginalized and forgotten communities into the physical landscape of the present. Attie’s earlier work incorporated site-specific projects in an aim to reanimate the lost history of public spaces.

Shimon Attie: "Sites Unseen". Mississippi River Culture and Social Conflict Come Together in Lost in Space (After Huck). The Photographic Universe: Umbrico and Goodyear Parsons The New School for Design. He was born in 1957 and received an MFA in 1991. In 1991 he moved to Germany from his previous home in Northern California, and began to make work initially about Jewish identity and the history of the second world war. His work later evolved to engage broader issues of memory, place and identity more generally. Shimon Attie moved to New York City in 1997.

Shimon Attie is an internationally renowned visual artist, whose work spans photography, video . CommunitySee all. 177 people like this. 178 people follow this. AboutSee all. ww. himonattie.

Sites Unseen is a collection of six moving photography and public art projects from different European cities merging images of the Holocaust with present-day scenes and places by well-known photographer and installation artist Shimon Attie. The work documents, in photographs, Attie's series of installation art projects which were done in Europe from 1991-1996. Using a variety of media, from on-location slide projection in Berlin's former Jewish quarter to underwater light boxes in a Copenhagen canal, his hauntingly beautiful installations reanimate sites with images of their own lost histories of the Holocaust and World War II.
  • Agalas
Shimon Attie uses ethereal-seeming projections of photo slides onto surfaces of water and buildings to give us a ghostly view of faces and facades now vanquished by history's most demonic event: the Holocaust. Althouh depicting the dead, the photographs in the book evoke immortality and force us once again to ask the question to which there is no answer. The effect these images have on me is at once shattering, the sense of loss being overwhelming, and reaffirming because they also pay such beautiful yet unsentimental homage to what is noble and good in us. In both design and execution, the book is truly formidable.
March 27, 2001 This is a review I wrote of Attie's Berlin photo project for New York Jewish Week in 1996. I thought his work was so wonderful when I saw it in a Manhattan gallery. I can't say it any better now than I did then. The new book contains examples from a few additional projects, which also are very moving. My review contains interview with the photographer. -- Toby Axelrod
Time Exposures Resurrecting Berlin's Jews, in photographs.
If Berliners in the 1930s and '40s could have seen the future of the Jews projected on their streets, would they have stopped to look, to listen? Would more of them have resisted? The question is not a futile one in response to the remarkable work of photographer Shimon Attie, who projects images of Berlin's Jewish past onto the present void. One would have to be as unfeeling as Berlin's old stone walls not to see his images as warnings -- or, as the 37-year-old Californian puts it, "opportunities for reflection."
The project -- "Writing on the Wall: Projections in Berlin's Jewish Quarter" -- was born of Attie's own reflections. Attie, whose mother's family comes from Germany and father's from Syria, moved to Berlin in 1991. "It had to do with tracing my own roots somehow."
He found himself "walking the streets, looking everywhere and urgently asking myself, `Where are the missing people? What happened to them? Where did they go?' ''
Knowing the fate of European Jewry was not enough. In Germany, Attie "felt this presence but I couldn't see it. There was a discrepancy between what I felt and what I did not see."
That presence inspired him to create "Writing on the Wall," which appeared last fall at the Museum of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum; the title itself is a pointing finger. For a year, starting in September 1991, he projected slides of photographs of Jews in the 1920s and '30s onto buildings in East Berlin's Jewish quarter -- the "Scheunenviertel," or barn district -- matching as many as possible to their original sites (about 25 percent). He then photographed these projections, at night, exposing the film for three or four minutes, achieving an eerie glow.
The results are jarring: An elderly, bearded Jew of the 1930s looks out of a doorway in the '90s, as if startled by the photographer. A man in a hat stands looking into a Jewish bookstore, the black-and-white image rippling over a pocked stone facade. Jews long since turned to ashes stand again, their backs against a wall during a Gestapo roundup. A green beer bottle perches on the black-and-white windowsill of a Jewish-owned bird shop, its cages lining the sidewalk, standing out from the flat, dark surroundings. Projected onto a corner, Jewish newspapers on a stand announce the events of a day in 1935.
Witnesses of those days might pass have passed silently before such scenes and moved on. But today, one can look long and hard at frozen images of everyday life or of suffering that might have caused one to hurry past not so many years ago.
The photographs carry a message and they work as art, too: Attie's eye for composition and color is evident.
But powerful as his images are on the walls of a gallery, they are intended for the streets. It is unusual, Attie says, for his work to end up like this one has, as "a body of photos that stand on their own afterward." "The point was to intervene in a public space and project right onto those spaces," he says. "One can always overlay images in a darkroom or with a computer. But I wanted to touch those spaces."
And through them, to touch onlookers.
That contact is essential for Attie. With "Trains," a two-week installation on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1993, Attie, collaborating with Mathias Maile, projected prewar portraits of Dresden Jews onto the trains, tracks and walls of that city's main train station.
People passing through were not left to guess whose faces these were or why they were here. Posters explained: "They are here to remind us of their fate, and to ask us to reflect on the current wave of hate sweeping Germany today."
Usually, Attie tries "to stay clear of having a very didactic position." But he admits that "those posters were hard-hitting and direct because I have learned from doing public projects in Germany that if you don't have a frontal, informative aspect, particularly on this topic, people will choose not to get it."
For example, passers-by asked if the faces were those of "pioneers who built the German railway in the 19th century. So that rather clear message [on the posters] in Dresden was simply because I felt I had no other choice."
Some Germans are uncomfortable with such reminders, notes Attie, who did receive some community support while working on the Berlin project. One "middle-aged fellow reacted emotionally, almost crying. He told me he had a Jewish grandfather who was deported to Auschwitz whom he had never known."
But another man poured water on Attie and his equipment from above. And "when I was projecting the image of the Hebraische Buchhandlung onto the original site, a 50-year-old man came running out ... shouting at me, `My father bought this house fair and square from Mr. Jacob in 1938.'
"I was stunned," says Attie, adding that TV cameras had been filming his work that evening and broadcast the confrontation nationwide.
"I pulled myself together and asked him, `Do you know what happened to this Mr. Jacob after 1938?' He said, `Why of course, he was a multi-millionaire and moved to New York.' As if that's what happened to them all as a matter of course.
"Another time somebody called the police when I was projecting an image on their building. They were afraid their neighbors would think they were Jewish."
Attie is disturbed by such "passive anti-Semitism" and by complaints he hears about the "flood of immigrants" coming into Germany: "They use that word `flood' a lot, when only 3 percent of Germany is foreign. "It is scary, yes of course. I have a lot of problems with being here. But I listen to the rhetoric of [the right wing in America] and get scared by this, too," he says, noting attacks on "the academic left" and the National Endowment for the Arts, which helped fund his Berlin and Dresden projects.
Ironically, Berlin has a seemingly insatiable appetite for exotic culture, even while refugees from other lands are not welcomed with open arms. For example, the current German craze over everything Jewish is "dead weird," Attie exclaims. "It's similar to Native Americans in the U.S. -- first you commit genocide and then the few survivors become exotic and trendy."
Standing under that Judeophilic spotlight, and turning his own beam on Germany's dark side, Attie says he nevertheless doesn't want to be "ghettoized" as a Holocaust artist. He's planning a project on the skies of Berlin and San Francisco: "They are radically different." And he hopes to do a project in New York on "untold histories" of immigration.
But his current focus, Europe of the 1940s, will take him to, among other places, Copenhagen, for an underwater installation on the rescue of Danish Jews; and to Amsterdam, for an installation on that city's hidden Jews, its resisters and collaborators.
There, Attie will project images onto the streets "from windows where Jews were hiding ... and the images will be moving across the street like a wandering gaze.
"There is another layer," notes Attie. "There are thousands of illegal immigrants in Amsterdam today who are hiding, afraid of being caught and deported. My project would include that aspect."
One can only hope that Attie's enlightening work will inspire witnesses to do more than simply cast a shadow in passing. ###