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Indepth Arts News:

"Esra Ersen"
2001-11-16 until 2002-01-13
Modern Museum
Stockholm, , SE

The Turkish artist, Esra Ersen's Moderna Museet Projekt, If You Could Speak Swedish... is about language and social boundaries. For this project, the artist has enlisted the cooperation of a number of foreigners and refugees in one of the suburbs south of Stockholm who study Swedish at InfoKomp, Huddinge. Also attending the course during the beginning of the autumn, Esra Ersen asked the students to write down, in their mother language, What they would like to say if they could speak Swedish?

The students were free to choose whatever subject they wanted, and the answers vary between personal, emotional comments and political statements. Their answers have been translated into Swedish from amongst other languages Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and Bengali. In front of the camera the student try, with the help of a teacher, to correctly pronounce their sentences in Swedish. Facial expressions, gestures and intonation add to and modify the meaning conveyed by the spoken word. The ease and fluency of the students' comments in their native language contrast with the difficulties of using a new language.

“If You Could Speak Swedish…” is being shown at the legendary kebab restaurant, Jerusalem’s Grill House on Södermalm in Stockholm, and at Moderna Museet. For many immigrants kebab restaurants are important meeting places and information centres, where they can get information about the city, work, housing, etc. They are also places where immigrants may have a chance to speak their native languages.

Esra Ersen is interested in how identities are formed and re-formed, and much of her work is anchored in her own Turkish background. She does not shrink from social, political or private elements when investigating how meaning is created and (mis)understood. Her work is materialised in many ways, from photography and videos to installations and dramatised situations. One common denominator, however, is that she is often influenced by the site or location of her work. In I am Turkish. I am honest. I am diligent (1998) she worked together with a group of pupils at a school outside Munster in Germany. Twenty-four of these pupils wore Turkish school uniforms for a week and during the time wrote down their experiences of this. Their impressions and reflections were then printed directly on the uniforms, which were exhibited in the school for a month. From being a part of a strictly controlled and consciously politicised context, the uniforms became part of a more neutral situation in a German school.

Esra Ersen was born in 1970 in Ankara. She lives and works in Istanbul. A recipient of an IASPIS stipend in September-November 2001, she is also currently represented in different exhibitions: Turkish Contemporary Art, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Becoming a Place, Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul, Dare to be different organized by Cultural Center Linda Art, Fier, Albanian

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