Esther Shalev-Gerz, White Out – Between Telling and Listening, 2024 / Installation view
Esther Shalev-Gerz: White Out – Between Telling and Listening
Mar 5 – Aug 4, 2024
MCBA / Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts
Lausanne, Switzerland

MCBA is pleased to present White Out – Between Telling and Listening, an installation by Esther Shalev-Gerz, who offers us a portrait of a woman between two cultures, places, and timeframes. Acquired by MCBA for its collection following the 2012 retrospective devoted to Esther Shalev-Gerz (*1948, Vilnius, Lithuania; lives and works in Paris), White Out is a piece the artist created at the invitation of Stockholm’s Historiska Museet. Learning that in Sami, the language spoken by the Sami people, the word “war” does not exist, and that Sweden has not been in a war for 200 years, Esther Shalev-Gerz began research in the archives of the two cultures to explore the existence of a possible link between these two facts and, more broadly, to question what separate cultural heritages, languages, peoples and landscapes may have in common.

The video installation features two static shots of Åsa Simma, a woman of Sami origin living in Stockholm. The two shots are projected on facing screens, one filmed in the capital, and the other in Simma’s native landscape in the north of Sweden. In the former, Simma is seen reacting to various quotations that touch on Swedish and Sami cultures, while in the latter she is listening to her own words. The contrast between the two ‘egos’ is striking – on one screen, the animated city dweller, her hands and arms in motion and expressive as she shares her story; on the other, the calm reserved face of a woman listening. The piece divides the ego between the subject of the speech act and the subject taking in speech. The “in-between state” conjured up by the title is the space that is continuously crossed, from one of the contemporary identities to the other, the permanent oscillation from one outer position to the other. The photographs that round off the White Out installation picture objects from the collection of the Historiska Museet of Stockholm, an echo of the official history of the country, from which Sami culture has been largely excluded.

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