Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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3 / History and Memory

Racing Clocks Run Slow: Archaeology of a Racetrack
Racing Clocks Run Slow: Archaeology of a Racetrack
Artist / Origin Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Region: North America
Date 2007
Material (Still from) Three-channel high-definition video installation
Credit Image courtesy of the artist

expert perspective

Shimon AttieArtist

Additional Resources

Saltzman, Lisa. Making Memory Matter: Strategies of Remembrance in Contemporary Art. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2006.

“Shimon Gallery.” In Artists. Jack Shainman Gallery Web site. http://www.jackshainman.com.

“Time After Time.” Artist’s Statement. NY Arts Magazine, September–October 2008. Web site. http://www.nyartsmagazine.com.

Racing Clocks Run Slow: Archaeology of a Racetrack

» Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)

Throughout his career, Shimon Attie has used a variety of photographic and video media to engage the present in a dialogue with the past.

In The Writing on the Wall, onto the walls of a Berlin neighborhood he projected images of Jewish residents who had lived there before the Holocaust. In another project, he created a video installation featuring members of the Welsh town of Aberfan, which had lost a large number of its small population, including a school full of children, during a devastating mining accident in the 1960s. Attie’s work was intended as a way of helping the community escape the hold of this tragic past and move forward. His treatment of these poignant historical events is elegiac and emotional.

Racing Clocks Run Slow concerns a less tragic subject, but Attie still approaches it with sensitivity and respect for the history of an institution that remains quite meaningful to its community many years after its closing.

The Bridgehampton Auto Racetrack on Long Island, which shut its doors in 1994, had a national profile in the world of racing and was beloved by the many people who worked and spent time there. Racing Clocks Run Slow was commissioned for the fiftieth anniversary of the track’s opening by the owner of land it once occupied. Attie found seventy people with a connection to the racetrack and filmed them in re-creations of their former roles. His subjects included drivers, members of pit crews, flaggers, and even spectators. Attie had each person involved in the project pose as still as possible on an unseen moving platform. He filmed them against a black background under dramatic lighting.

Like other of his works, Racing Clocks Run Slow is part documentary and part dream-like evocation. The sound component of the artwork consists of archival sound recordings of speeding cars at the track from the 1960s. The subjects of Attie’s work are not actors, but rather actual people with relationships to the track, some of whom hold props that are authentic items recovered from the period of its activity. Attie brings these historical people and pieces together in a way that hints both at their place in the past and the timelessness of their memory. The title of the work refers to the idea from physics that time seems to slow down for objects moving at very high speeds.

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