1972, Jerusalem. Lives in Jerusalem.
A large-scale light box presents The Village, a photograph of an army-training village that was built by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in order to prepare soldiers to fight in Palestinian villages. To reproduce this panorama, Leshem took 50 images with a medium format camera and collaged them together, the result of which is a print depicting, in intense detail, every element of this uncanny construction.
The village is built true to scale and simulates visually and physically a standard Arab village with a sampling of building types. Yet, it is a prototype, without function or identity and hence, to an extent, it is a figment of the IDFs imagination down to the trompe loeil wall paintings of a nargile-smoking grandfather and a young man with a back-pack running through a narrow street. Leshems image captures the physical reality of this village, but within a frame of interrogation that repositions it as a backdrop for its own raison dêtre and the larger history of Israeli occupation it represents.
Exhibited with The Village is Leshems CNN Project, a series of mock television reports made from Iraq during the second Gulf War. Leshem imitates the look of an embedded reporter, supposedly reporting live while working together with the allied forces. In one report, the fake streets and houses shown in The Village appear as the scene of a massacre. Leshem, in his role as reporter, describes the village as deserted, absolutely empty, adding another layering of reality and fiction that again questions media interpretation and audience reception.