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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shimon Attie's Ruin Projections

Now this is fascinating! Shimon Attie is a contemporary Jewish American artist who has done work with ruins and projections. Quoting from the Museum of Contemporary Photography:

"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. The Writing on the Wall project (1991-1993) took place in Berlin’s former Jewish quarter, the Scheunenviertel neighborhood. There Attie projected slides made from pre-Holocaust photographs of the neighborhood’s Jewish residents and shops in the same (or sometimes nearby) locations where the original images were taken. He then photographed the resulting scene..."

"Using modern Rome as his backdrop, in The History of Another (2001-2002), Attie projected fragments of historical photographs of Roman Jews onto the city’s ruins and excavation sites. The resulting pictures conflate three distinct historical moments, that of ancient Rome, Roman Jews at the turn of the century, and modern Rome with its new construction and continual efforts to conserve relics of the past. By projecting historical photographs onto ruins and also including in his frame elements of contemporary Rome, Attie creates an environment in which time becomes visible and compressed rather than invisible and expanding, like our normal perception of time. Dividing our attention carefully between three moments in the human history of this place, he implies that history might not have anything to do with time, but might be better thought of as a continuous, repetitious loop that contains both stone ruins and, less tangible, human presence."

What a wonderful way to use ruins! In theory, the ruins themselves should speak to us. It's hard to imagine that the relief in the Arch of Titus would not immediately call to mind the plight of the Jews. But juxtaposing it with projections of pre-Holocaust Roman Jewry certainly would heighten the feeling. Here are some pictures:

Hat tip to the always-insightful Ashira


  1. Hi,
    A very interesting place and subject.
    I just landed here after the clues of Attie's work.
    I allow myself to send you a link on "Runa" (Debris), a project we made in 2009 in Barcelona. It was about the record of the bombings over the city during Spanish Civil War:


  2. Beautiful and powerful images. I see the similarity with Attie's work. Thank you for sharing the images with us.