NIGHT WATCH by Shimon Attie
In the Fall of 2018, Artist Shimon Attie in collaboration with More Art, a leading presenter of public art, staged a multimedia project that brings to light the experiences of refugee and asylum seekers in New York City, under the current Administration.
Blending film with community engagement, the artist created a floating multi-media installation. The installation, titled Night Watch, featured large scale video portraits displayed on a high resolution LED screen, The installation travelled the city’s waterways aboard a large, slow-moving barge. The barge was towed by a tugboat as it moved into view and docked at several ports along its route up and down the coast of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The screen was approximately 20 feet across, and featured silent close-up, moving, video portraits of new New Yorkers. Given the history of New York City as the American hub for newcomers, the artwork has special resonance as it highlighted these very same waterways that serve as an integral passageway to the American dream of freedom and the pursuit of happiness. The work of art highlighted the beauty of important sites and symbols like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Freedom Tower.
The screen, barge and tug boat created a synergistic whole, combining high tech contemporary media display with historically dated modes of transportation.
The installation was on view for eight consecutive evenings, September 20-28, and was viewable from key points. Residents and tourists alike were able to experience the illuminated artwork as it travelled past, from scheduled and publicized points of public viewing.
Over the course of his career Shimon Attie has been in deep dialogue with traumatized communities, particularly immigrants. Night Watch, his newest work will highlight refugee experiences by gathering a largely LGBTQ+ and youth cast of asylum-seekers and asylees together, in one space where geographic and cultural barriers would have otherwise kept them separate—a truly New York story.
In producing this project, More Art and Attie have built partnerships with a base of legal advocacy organizations that aide youth refugees and queer asylum seekers and asylees. These partnering organizations include Immigration Equality, Village2Village United and Safe Passage Project, and the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration (ORAM).
About the Artist
Shimon Attie is a visual artist making evocative work using photographs, video installations, new media, and works on paper. 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. Sites Unseen included life-sized slide projections in the former Jewish quarter of Berlin, underwater light boxes in Copenhagen, and laser projections of handwritten memories on the facades of tenements in New York.
Attie was born in Los Angeles in 1957, received his B.A. from the University of California in 1980, his M.A from Antioch University in 1982 and an M.F.A from San Francisco State. Attie currently lives and works in New York. He has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2008-2009) and the Pollack-Krasner Foundation (2006, 1998), a Cultural Lifetime Achievement Award in Visual Arts from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (2005) and the Prix de Rome (2001-2002). In 2013 Attie was awarded the Lee Krasner Lifetime Achievement Award in Art.
About More Art
More Art is a nonprofit organization that supports collaborations between professional artists and New York City communities to create thought-provoking public art commissions, fellowships, and arts education programs that address pressing social issues. Since 2004, More Art has worked with some of the world’s most celebrated artists, including Joan Jonas, Pablo Helguera, Dread Scott, Ernesto Pujol, and Andres Serrano, reaching tens of thousands of New Yorkers each year. moreart.org