|This article may rely excessively on sources too closely associated with the subject, preventing the article from being verifiable and neutral. (November 2013)|
Esther Shalev-Gerz (born Gilinsky) is a contemporary artist. She lives and works in Paris, France.
In 1983 she produced her first work in public space: Oil on Stone, a permanent installation in Tel Hai, Israel, for the Tel Hai Contemporary Art Meeting.
In 1984 the artist moved to Paris and started working through Europe and Canada.
In 1990 she got an artistic residency from the German Academic Exchange Service and moved to Berlin for one year.
From February to June 2010 she had a major exhibition at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris. In this show entitled Ton Image Me Regarde?! ten of her installations were displayed. The same year she got a three-years grant from the Swedish Research Council for an Artistic Research called Trust and the Unfolding Dialogue.
On March 24, 2012 she will open an exhibition displaying her work White Out at the Kamloops Art Gallery, Canada. She is now preparing a new survey exhibition entitled Between Telling and Listening that will take place at the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland. This show will open on September 21, 2012.
Esther Shalev-Gerz questions the perpetual construction of the relationship between an experience and the telling one gives of it. She analyses portraiture, which she understands as the reflection of a person, place or event. Her work invites the spectator to an opening to the ambiguities and multiplicities acting in the collective memory. Her installations, photography, video and public sculpture are developed through dialogue, consultation and negotiation with people whose participation provides an emphasis to their individual and collective memories, accounts, opinions and experiences. Constantly inquiring into transitional qualities of time and space and the correlative transformation of identities, locales and (hi)stories Esther Shalev-Gerz has produced a body of work that simultaneously records, critiques, and contributes to the understandings of the societal roles and value of artistic practice.
In her text entitled The Perpetual Movement of Memory, Shalev-Gerz describes her practice: “In my works in the public realm, a space is constructed for memories activated by participation, that is to say, the moment when the supposed spectator becomes a participant by writing his name, using his voice or sending in his photo. Thanks to the traces left during this acts, these participants keep the memory of their own participation in the work’s procedure, which also bears witness to their responsibility to their own times.”
In an interview with Marta Gili, director of the Jeu de Paume, Shalev-Gerz adds: “I try to enter the space that opens between listening and telling in order to get away from the logic of discourse, that is to say, to accede to another kind of space and consider it artistically. It’s a kind of “reveal” of the intelligibility of the sensible/sensitive or of a memory that differs from the one constructed by words, akin to concepts that traverse the body, able to be picked up by the gaze.”
And also: “As an artist, it is very important for me to trust the participants – whom I approach (right away) as equals, and whose contributions are an element of the project. I think that this is what makes it possible to produce the work: trust in the other person’s intelligence.”
In his text entitled The Image of the Other, in the catalogue of the exhibition Does Your Image Reflect Me? Ulrich Krempel provides his understanding of Shalev-Gerz’ work: “One thing is certain: only by talking and listening, passing on first-hand experience, images, emotional glances and moments, can we bring ourselves to the point where remembrance is converted into action”.
Jacques Rancière in his text The Work of the Image, for the catalogue of MenschenDinge/The Human Aspect of Objects, republished in the catalogue of the Jeu de Paume show, described the artist’s work in these words: “Esther Shalev-Gerz does not give voice to the witnesses of the past or of elsewhere, but to researchers that are at work in the here and now. She makes the ones who come from elsewhere speak of the present as they do of the past, of here as of there. She makes them speak about the way they have thought and arrange the relationship between one place and another, one time and another. But also the dispositifs that she constructs are themselves dispositifs that distend their words, and subject them to representation of the conditions governing their listening and uttering.”
Some projects and exhibitions
- Monument Against fascism, Hamburg, Germany, 1986. Esther Shalev-Gerz developed with Jochen Gerz this permanent installation via an international competition organized by the city. They erected in a public square a column clad in lead beside which they provided a metal pencil and a panel with the following text translated in seven languages (English, French, German, Russian, Turk, Arabic and Hebrew):
“We invite the citizens of Harburg, and visitors to the town, to add their names here to ours. In doing so we commit ourselves to remain vigilant. As more and more names cover this 12 metre-high lead column, it will gradually be lowered into the ground. One day it will have disappeared completely and the site of the Harburg monument against fascism will be empty. In the long run, it is only we ourselves who can stand up against injustice."
The column was sunk into the ground seven times from 1986 to 1993. All that remains visible are a lead plaque on the ground, the text panel and photos of the different stages.
- Erase the Past, Berlin, Germany, 1991. In 1990, during her residency in Berlin and just after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Shalev-Gerz received as a present a portrait of Honecker sold off the street. She realized then this work as a slide series and a book both inspired by the flipbook. In the same room, one can see a portrait of Honecker or a portrait of Brecht. By flipping the images, one realizes that the portrait resists a zoom movement as it keeps the same size when the walls and furnitures shrink or enlarge.
- Irreparable, Musée de La Roche-sur-Yon, France, 1996. In her first solo show in France, Shalev-Gerz presented her photographic series Irreparable as well as 15 other slideshows such as Just One Sky, Homage to Lucy Schwob or Sea of Stones.
- The Berlin Inquiry, Berlin, Germany, 1998. She created with Jochen Gerz this interpretation of Peter Weiss’ play Die Ermittlung, 1965. Weiss’ play is composed with testimonies of victims, perpetrators, judges and witnesses in the Auschwitz trials. The artists’ interpretation undermined the conventional distinctions between witnesses and actors by having the work performed by the audience. Over the five sold-out performances held in three theatres, Hebbel Theatre Berlin, Berliner Ensemble, Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz, the course of each evening was determined by co-participation. Serving only as moderators, each theatre’s company of actors would invite attendees (individually, as a group, a musical choir or as a crowd) to recite passages from the text, so that every spectator became an actor. Not simply a recalling, the collective participatory qualities of The Berlin Inquiry rendered passive witnessing impossible and in permanently lit auditoria new forms of memory and remembrance were authored.
- The Portraits of Stories, 1998 to 2008. Esther Shalev-Gerz developed for this project a video and photo series. In Aubervilliers, north of Paris, in Belzunce, a neighbourhood of Marseille, in Skoghall, Sweden and in Sandwell, United Kingdom, she asked the participants in her project “What story must be told today?” Then they would decide where and how they wanted to be filmed and they would tell the story of their choice. More than 200 people answered this question. Each installation was shown in the city where it was conceived. In 2008 an exhibition displaying all the interviews was held in England.
- Inseparable Angels: The Imaginary House of Walter Benjamin, 2000. This installation comprises a video of the artist’s taxi ride between Weimar and Buchenwald, a series of photographs and two objects: a double-chair and a clock that has two faces – one showing time going forwards, the other backwards.
- White Out: Between Telling and Listening, Stockholm, 2002. During her researches Shalev-Gerz found out that there was no word war in the Sami language and that in parallel to that fact, Sweden had not participated in any war for over 200 years. Two screens facing each other show the same person. On one screen Asa Simma, a woman of dual culture, Sami and Swedish, speaks in her Stockholm apartment. On another video facing this one, she is in the landscape where she was born, in the North of Sweden, listening to her own words recorded in Stockholm.
- Does Your Image Reflect Me? 2002, Sprengel Museum, Hanover. In this work the artist created an encounter between two women who were not far away from each other during World War II. One is German and was living in Hanover, 40 km away from the Bergen-Belsen camp. The other is born in Poland and survived her internment in this very camp. On a photographic series and four screens, one can see each woman twice. As she is telling her story and as she is listening to the story of the other. It is only during the opening of the exhibition that they did really meet.
- First Generation, 2004, Sweden. For this permanent installation, Shalev-Gerz filmed in extreme close-ups the face of each of the 34 people from the first generation of immigrants as she/he listens to her/his answers to the questions: when arriving here, what did you lose? What did you find? What did you get? What did you give? This silent film is visible on the glass façade of the Multicultural Center Botkyrka. One can here their voice by entering the building.
- Between Listening and Telling: Last Witnesses, Auschwitz 1945-2005. In 2005 in commemoration of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, Shalev-Gerz designed this project for the Hôtel de Ville, Paris. In the great Hall of the Hotel de Ville 60 little DVD players arranged on big tables would allow the visitors to watch the testimonies of 60 survivors collected on this occasion. In parallel to these a large silent video triptych was installed on the wall at the end of the hall. On each screen the same video with a 7 seconds lap: a slow motion edition of the moments of silence in the testimonies of the survivors, between the question and the answer, between a memory and a telling.
- A Thread, permanent installation, Castlemilk, south of Glasgow. From 2003 to 2006 Esther Shalev-Gerz developed a project in which ten groups of participants were invited to choose their favourite view in the former park of a castle near their new housing. At each point of view a circular bench was installed thus creating a path through the park.
- Menschendinge/The Human Aspect of Objects, 2006, The Buchenwald Memorial, Germany. For this project the artist invited 5 persons working in the Memorial to talk about different objects created or adapted by the prisoners. The archaeologist, the historian, the conservator, the director and the photograph tell the reconstructed or imagined stories of these objects in 5 videos and 25 photographs.
- Daedal(us), 2006, Dublin, Ireland. 24 photographs of façades were projected on other buildings of the same neighbourhood after the owners of these buildings agreed for this as well as those who accepted to host a projector during the month the project lasted. Photos of these projections were printed and exhibited.
- The Place of Art, 2006, Sweden. “How would you define art?” and “Where does it take place?” Shalev-Gerz collected the answers to these two questions from 38 artists living in the suburb of Gothenburg. A video was displayed in a shopping centre and four other in the Konsthalle, 7 km away from the mall.
- Echoes in Memory, 2007, The Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. A project inspired by the rumours collected from the employees in the museum, especially about a now missing painting by Gentileschi. 2 HD videos, 24 3D digital images on aluminium, diasec-mounted, 1 soundtrack.
- Sound Machine, 2008, Sweden. An acoustic experimentation with 5 women who were pregnant while working in a factory and their now grown daughters. 2 synchronised HD projections. 6 texts on canvas.
- Still Film, Vilnius, 2009. A research by the artist of her mother’s house in Lithuania. 11 photographs, a text, a video.
- Open Book, Canada, 2009. A photo series that captures the moment when employees from the Vancouver Public Library present the book they chose in the collection of rare publications, consultable only with authorization.
- On Two, Paris, 2010. The video encounter of two philosophers living in Paris. Rola Younes, the Lebanese who learns the languages of her neighbours in order to read their histories through them and the telling of a founding moment in the thinking and researches of Jacques Rancière. 2 HD projections, 12 photographs, a soundtrack.
- Last Click, 2010, Müseum für Photographie, Brunswick. A photo series following the wanderings of a camera in the emptying Rollei factory before its closure. In a video people who want to get rid of their analogic camera are telling the stories they lived together.
Books, catalogues and monographs
- Esther Shalev-Gerz, Der letzte Klick, Bulletin n°17, Museum für Photographie, Brunswick, Germany, 2010
- Esther Shalev-Gerz, Jeu de Paume and Fage Editions, France, 2010
- Still/Film, Vilnius Academy of Art, Lithuania, 2009
- The Place of Art, Art monitor, Göteborg University, Sweden, 2008
- The Thread, Aje Aje, in collaboration with CCA, Glasgow, U.K., 2008
- MenschenDinge, (The Human Aspect of Objects), Gedenkstätte Buchenwald, Germany, 2006
- First Generation, Multiculturel Center, Fitja, Sweden, 2006
- Die Berliner Ermittlung von Jochen Gerz und Esther Shalev-Gerz in Theater als Öffentlicher “Raum”, Christel Weiler, “Spielen in Auschwitz”, in Theater der Zeit, Germany, 2005
- Daedal(us), Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin, Ireland, 2005
- Två installationer/Two Installations, History Museum, Stockholm, Sweden, 2002
- Geht dein Bild mich an? / Does Your Image Reflect Me?, Sprengel-Museum, Hannover, Germany, 2002
- Les Portraits des Histoires – Aubervilliers, Editions ENSBA, France, 2000
- Les Portraits des Histoires – Belsunce, Editions Images en Manoeuvres, Marseille, France, 2000
- Die Berliner Ermittlung, Hebbel-Theater, Berlin, Germany, 1998 (with Jochen Gerz)
- Raisons de sourire, Actes Sud, Arles, France, 1997 (with J.G.)
- Irréparable, Musée de la Roche-sur-Yon, France, 1996
- Das 20. Jahrhundert, Klartext Verlag, Essen, Germany, 1996 (with J.G.)
- Mahnmal gegen Faschismus”, Cantz/Hatje Verlag Stuttgart, Germany, 1993 (with J.G.)
- Erase the Past, DAAD, Berlin, Germany, 1991
- COPAN, Gallery Giovanna Minelli, Paris, France, 1990
Works in public collections
- Fond Regional d’Art Contemporain de Bretagne (France)
- Skissernas Museum Lund (Sweden)
- Sprengel Museum Hannover (Germany)
- MacVal Vitry-sur-Seine (France)
- Kulturbehörde Hamburg (Germany)
- The National Public Art Council (Sweden)
- UNO Park Geneva (Switzerland)
- City of Marl (Germany)
- Wanas Foundation (Sweden)
- Collection d’art contemporain de la Ville de Marseille (France)
- Musée Henry Martin, Cahors (France)
- Musée Municipale de La Roche-sur-Yon (France)
- Manufacture des Gobelins, Paris (France)
- Buchenwald Memorial (Germany)
- Fondation Cartier (France)
- Environment Trust Glasgow (UK)
- Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris (France)
- Collection de la Fondation Hippocrene, Paris (France)
- Shalev-Gerz's biography on her website
- Esther Shalev-Gerz, catalogue of the exhibition Ton image me regarde?!, Jeu de Paume and Fage Editions, ISBN 978-2-84975-187-9
- Jeu de Paume website
- Ronald Jones, I Saw It, frieze, UK, March, 2010
- Elizabeth Matheson, “Esther Shalev-Gerz Ton image me regarde!?”, Ciel Variable n°86, Canada, September, 2010
- Valand website, Artistic Research page
- KAG website, exhibitions page
- MCBA Lausanne website, page of Shalev-Gerz's coming exhibition
- Esther Shalev-Gerz, Listening Voices: On Actualizing Memories in Cultures and Globalization: Heritage, Memory and Identity by Helmut Anheir and Raj Isar, SAGE publications Ltd, London, United Kingdom, 2011
- in Geht dein Bild mich an?/Does Your Image Reflect Me?, Sprengel-Museum, Hannover, Germany, 2002, p.87
- in Esther Shalev-Gerz, catalogue of the exhibition Ton image me regarde?!, Jeu de Paume and Fage Editions, p.155
- in Esther Shalev-Gerz, catalogue of the exhibition Ton image me regarde?!, Jeu de Paume and Fage Editions, p.157
- in Geht dein Bild mich an?/Does Your Image Reflect Me?, Sprengel-Museum, Hannover, Germany, 2002, p.85
- in Esther Shalev-Gerz, catalogue of the exhibition Ton image me regarde?!, Jeu de Paume and Fage Editions, p.139
- James E. Young, The Counter-Monument: Memory against Itself in Germany Today, in Critical Inquiry, Vol. 18, No. 2. (Winter, 1992), pp. 267-296
- Justin Branch, The Historiography of the Harburg Monument, University Thesis, Eton College, Windsor, United Kingdom, 1996
- Publication by Esther Shalev-Gerz and Jochen Gerz: Mahnmal gegen Faschismus, Cantz/Hatje Verlag Stuttgart, Germany, 1993
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Monument Against Fascism
- Catalogue: Erase the Past, DAAD editions, Berlin, Germany, 1991
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Erase The Past
- Catalogue by Esther Shalev-Gerz: Irréparable, Musée de la Roche-sur-Yon, France, 1996
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Irreparable
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Just One Sky
- Publication by Esther Shalev-Gerz and Jochen Gerz: Die Berliner Ermittlung, Hebbel-Theater, Berlin, Germany, 1998
- Die Berliner Ermittlung von Jochen Gerz und Esther Shalev-Gerz in Theater als Öffentlicher Raum, Christel Weiler, Spielen in Auschwitz, in Theater der Zeit, Germany, 2005
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Berlin Inquiry
- Publication by Esther Shalev-Gerz: Les Portraits des Histoires – Aubervilliers, Editions ENSBA, France, 2000
- Publication by Esther Shalev-Gerz: Les Portraits des Histoires – Belsunce, Editions Images en Manoeuvres, Marseille, France, 2000
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Portraits of Stories, Aubervilliers
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Portraits of Stories, Marseille
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Portraits of Stories, Skoghall
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Portraits of Stories, Sandwell
- Catalogue: Två installationer/Two Installations, History Museum, Stockholm, Sweden, 2002
- Stefanie Heckmann, Spurensuche mit Engel, in Berliner Zeitung, Germany n¡44, February 21st, 2001
- Katrin Bettina Müller, Engel im Gepäck, in Der Tagesspiegel, Germany, n°17, February 24th, 2001
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Inseparable Angels
- Catalogue: Två installationer/Two Installations, History Museum, Stockholm, Sweden, 2002
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of White Out
- Catalogue: Geht dein Bild mich an? / Does Your Image Reflect Me?, Sprengel-Museum, Hannover, Germany, 2002
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Does Your Image Reflect Me?
- Catalogue: First Generation, Multiculturel Center, Fitja, Sweden, 2006
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of First Generation
- Carole Boulbès, Entre l’écoute et la parole, derniers témoins, in Art Press, France, n°312, May, 2005
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Between Listening and Telling
- Publication: The Thread, Aje Aje, in collaboration with CCA, Glasgow, U.K., 2008
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Thread
- Catalogue: MenschenDinge, (The Human Aspect of Objects), Gedenkstätte Buchenwald, Germany, 2006
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Menschendinge
- Wall to wall and off the beaten track, in The Irish Times, Wednesday, p. 14, Ireland, February 8th, 2006
- Catalogue: Daedal(us), Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin, Ireland, 2005
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Daedal(us)
- Catalogue: The Place of Art, Art monitor, Göteborg University, Sweden, 2008
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Place of Art
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Echoes in Memory
- Jessica Kempe, Hurl lät Norrköping?, in Dagens Nyheter, Sweden, May 17th, 2008
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Sound Machine
- Catalogue: Still/Film, Vilnius Academy of Art, Lithuania, 2009
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of Still/Film
- Robin Laurence, Esther Shalev-Gerz: Rare Books, and Rarer Insights, Canadienart, Canada, September 17th, 2009
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Open Book
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of On Two
- A description of the project Last Click in Valand website
- Shalev-Gerz's Website, page of the Last Click
- A description of the project Last Click in the Museum für Photographie website