Starstruck: An American Tale maps the artist Shimon Attie’s newest project, a cut through the layers of America past and present at the site of the historic steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The monograph documents Attie’s multi-year project of excavating stories of the city by filming community members, clothed in contemporary and historical dress, transiting iconic local buildings and topography – and the resulting exhibition at the Lehigh University Art Galleries, anchored by a two-channel video and a modified scaled facsimile of Bethlehem’s 90-foot-tall lighted sculptural representation of the biblical Star of Bethlehem, a civic project from the 1930s that overlooks the city to this day. The book is published together with the Lehigh University Art Galleries.
From the city’s founding by Moravian Christian utopian settlers in 1741, through to its industrial heyday in the late 19th to 20th centuries as a capital of the American steel industry, to the collapse of its steel mill and manufacturing in the 1980s and 1990s, and subsequent post-industrial reincarnation with a new casino and gambling, Bethlehem is a microcosm of America’s hopes and dreams, failures and realities. Starstruck: An American Tale probes this uneasy, distinctly American blend of utopian aspirations, industrial capitalism and the dream of “making it big”, that has defined life in Bethlehem and other “rust belt” towns across the United States since the country’s founding.