New Benton exhibit considered dark
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 00:11
Shimon Attie aims to heal the bleeding wound fueled by the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts with his exhibit “MetroPAL.IS.” at UConn’s Benton Museum.
The Evelyn Simon Gilman Gallery was dark, a startling contrast to the life-sized screens realistically displaying images of eight Americans. However, these aren’t average Americans. They are selected individuals from New York City’s Israeli and Palestinian communities.
Not one of them resembles any of the others. One man was dressed in a sloppy tie dyed t-shirt, another was dressed as a butcher. One woman was in a tight tank top and revealing skirt, another in a long-sleeved shirt with a long skirt. She was also wearing a burqa.
But despite their contrasting clothing, lifestyles and occupations, these individuals have one overlapping commonality: their national ideals and purposes.
Attie had each actor speak excerpts from their respective doctrine, either the Israeli Declaration of Independence from 1948 or the Palestinian Declaration of Independence from 1988. He surprised his actors and himself by discovering that these conflicting nations live under incredibly similar principles.
With “MetroPAL.IS.,” Attie’s goal was to resurrect an emotional and physical connection between the two incompatible nations by bringing forth a shared New Yorker identity. These eight individuals are in no way visibly identifiable as Israelis or Palestinians, but perhaps a bit more as New Yorkers, as Americans.
Besides the impeccable visual aspect, Attie additionally engages the exhibit in a very lyrical way. Similar to a classic Greek chorus ensemble, “MetroPAL.IS.” is split into a four-chapter spectacle, each complete with a corresponding rise and fall of relationships and dramatics. The exhibit is like a show in the sense that these chapters are composed in musical terms, with each individual’s voice and sentiments as the “score.”
According to the exhibit description, Attie created this rather controversial display with the strong belief that “political discourse is best carried out by personal voice of the individual, not by government or political identities.”
As a member of the Middle Eastern community himself, Attie urges his friends and foes alike to accept differences—especially since his exhibit proves there are only few—and learn to coexist. After all, New York City is one big melting pot where compatibility is mandatory for survival. MetroPAL.IS. can be seen as a peaceful protest of sorts.
Check out the exhibit at the Benton through Dec. 16, 2012. The gallery is open Tuesday to Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m., and on the weekends from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.