Damascus Steel – Shimon Attie
During his residency in Belval, Attie embarked on a human adventure with a group of young and determined Syrian refugees recently arrived in Luxembourg. As a result of this short and intense journey, in which the young Syrians recalled the terrifying crossing of seas in life-threatening conditions, Shimon Attie created L’Acier de Damas, a moving tableau casting seven of them. Filmed in the premises of the former club for Luxembourg’s political and economical elite, today a publicly-funded contemporary art centre called Casino Luxembourg, L’Acier de Damas reflects on the interplay of chance, loss, resilience and hope in the fate of those who left their home and loved ones behind.
The seven Syrians refugees are shown playing a game of roulette, as it transpires that their own presence at the table is at the mercy of the bet they have placed. One by one, as in Agatha Christie’s novel, And then there were none… they disappear from the frame as the plot progresses. The film soundtrack oscillates between sounds of the sea and the wind, which at points resemble the sounds of a pounding heart, the noises produced by the white ball hitting the side of the turning roulette and by the placing of the tokens on the playing mat.
L’Acier de Damas draws on references ranging from the Western history of painting and the Eastern art of making blades, to the representation of the roulette game in film, and presents the seven Syrians engaged in a game that they did not choose to play. The film pays tribute to the courage and resilience of those who left their war-torn homeland in hope of finding peace and normality in Luxembourg whilst pointing to the volatile nature of their situation and to their vulnerability.
Shimon Attie’s artistic practice includes creating site-specific installations in public places and immersive multiple channel video installations for museums and galleries. His artworks allow 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.
Attie’s work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world, including at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and The Miami Art Museum. A mid-career retrospective was organized by Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art. Four books have been published on Attie’s work: The Attraction of Onlookers: Aberfan – An Anatomy of a Welsh Village; The Writing on the Wall: Projections in Berlin’s Jewish Quarter; Sites Unseen: Shimon Attie’s European Projects; and The History of Another. In addition, several films have been made on Attie’s work, that have aired on PBS, the BBC, and ARD.
Attie has received visual artist fellowships from the John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Academy in Rome (The Rome Prize), The National Endowment for the Arts, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and Kunstfonds. In 2013, Attie was awarded the Lee Krasner Lifetime Achievement Award in Art.
Attie was born in Los Angeles, California in 1957 and lives presently in New York.