Esther-Shalev-Gerz_medium

Esther Shalev-Gerz

Esther Shalev-Gerz (b. 1948, Lithuania) lives and works in Paris and Gothenburg. Her artistic practice involves investigating the construction of knowledge, histories, and cultural identities through the potentialities of unexpurgated expression. Shalev-Gerz’s installations, photography, video, sound, and public sculpture are developed through active dialogue, consultation, and negotiation with people whose participation gives context to their individual and collective memories, accounts, opinions, and experiences, which then become both represented and considered. She will exhibit at Asia Time: 1st Asia Biennale/5th Guangzhou Triennial (2015). Recent solo exhibitions include: Galerie de l’UQAM, Montreal (2014); the Belkin Art Gallery, UBC (2013); and Describing Labor at the Wolfsonian-FIU, Miami; Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne (2012); and Jeu de Paume, Paris (2010).

 

 

Esther Shalev-Gerz
Describing Labor, 2012
Photography (8 photographs, natural pigment on archival paper), 130 x 100 cm; video, 60'; soundtrack, 40'; 17 glass objects, variable dimensions

Courtesy of the artist.

 

Describing Labor draws on artist Esther Shalev-Gerz’s research into depictions of the worker from the late-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century in the Wolfsonian-FIU and the Margulies collections. After selecting forty-one historic artworks that depict working figures, Shalev-Gerz invited twenty-four people related to art and its language to each choose one work and describe it while being filmed. Each participant then displaced the chosen artwork among other artifacts in the museum’s storage annex, where it was photographed. 

In reflecting upon this body of work, philosopher Jacques Jacques Rancière asserts that “Esther Shalev-Gerz shows us that things never speak for themselves. They speak to us, that is to say, they tell us about the community that is formed between us through them – provided we try to speak to them, albeit at the risk of approximation, to listen to their speech, to confront it with what our eyes see and with what our own words can say.” With this poetic impact Shalev-Gerz’s research-based approach challenges the notion and practice of portraiture and considers how its qualities may contribute to contemporary discourse about the politics of representation.

 

 

Photographs in clockwise order

 

Describing Labor – Work for America, 2012

Natural pigment on archival paper, 130 x 100 cm

Hasselblad Foundation Collection.

 

Describing Labor – Man with Drill, 2012

Natural pigment on archival paper, 130 x 100 cm

Courtesy of the artist.

 

Describing LaborUSSR in Construction and Photograph (Untitled), 2012

Natural pigment on archival paper, 130 x 100 cm

Hasselblad Foundation Collection.

 

Describing Labor – Learning a Trade in a Garment Factory, 2012

Natural pigment on archival paper, 130 x 100 cm

Hasselblad Foundation Collection.

 

Describing Labor – Grinding Metal Castings, 2012, 

Natural pigment on archival paper, 100 x 130 cm

Hasselblad Foundation Collection.

 

Describing Labor – Steel, 2012

Natural pigment on archival paper, 100 x 130 cm

Courtesy of the artist.

 

Describing LaborUSSR im Bau, 2012

Natural pigment on archival paper, 100 x 130 cm

Courtesy of the artist.

 

Describing Labor – Atheist at the Lathe and Drawing (Untitled), 2012

Natural pigment on archival paper, 100 x 130 cm

Courtesy of the artist.

 

 

 

 

 

Describing Labor (2012), Installation view Göteborg Konsthall, GIBCA 2015. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler