Shimon Attie: The Crossing

The Crossing (2017) is a single channel art film made with 7 Syrian refugees who have recently arrived in Europe, many on rafts over the Mediterranean, some just weeks before the filming. The piece is filmed in a former casino (and present-day contemporary Kunsthalle).

The Crossing unfolds as a series of slow moving tableaux in which a group of young Syrian refugees act a metaphorical tale based on their individual experience of exile and flight. Engrossed in a game of roulette, the protagonists appear physically present but mentally absent: their deadpan expressions, slow movements and silence contrast with the brutality of their fate. No word is spoken while the soundtrack oscillates between impressions of stormy seas and the pounding of an anxious heart, between the ricocheting of the roulette ball and the gripping of nails onto the tablemat.

The participants hold static poses within 7 carefully crafted tableaux, with the only movement either being that of the camera, the spinning roulette wheel, or the participants themselves when one by one, they slowly, robotically “place their bets.”With each passing tableau, one person disappears from the game without a trace or explanation. As in Agatha Christie’s novel, And then there were none…, by piece’s end, there is only one participant left.

The last one standing might be seen as a living monument to the thousands who have been left behind, dead or alive. The Crossing uses the language of contemporary art to reflect on the extraordinary risks migrants are forced to take in times of crisis, literally gambling for their lives.

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