Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB) shows the exhibition Sans Histoire by artist Maya Schweizer since 05 May 2023. With the video installation Sans histoire, the artist Maya Schweizer won this year’s Dagesh Art Prize, jointly awarded by the Jewish Museum Berlin and “Dagesh – Jewish Art in Context”. In her presentation, the artist deals with the Jewish Museum Berlin as a place of ritualised memory. She continues to explore the question posed in the call for entries “What now? From dystopias to utopias” an open “Without history”.
Fig. above: Maya Schweizer, Sans histoire, 2023, Video still; VG- BildKunst, Bonn 2023
What happens when memory fades before historical upheavals, before the climate catastrophe or ultimately the finiteness of human existence?
In Sans histoire, the film produced especially for this project, Maya Schweizer brings her thought experiment of a consciousness “without history” to a head: What happens when memory fades before historical upheavals, before the climate catastrophe or ultimately the finiteness of human existence? Does the past still have an effect on the future? Is a communal onset of amnesia halted or encouraged by digital memorisation? In an alternation of dystopias and utopias, of threatening and liberating impulses, the artist explores trans- and posthuman scenarios.
The conceptual and artistic vision that Maya Schweizer unfolds in her work inspired the jury:
“In Maya Schweizer’s work, the question ‘What now?” is answered multidimensionally: instead of simple answers, Sans histoire invites us to question narratives of social realities and diversely composed utopias. It is precisely the tension between individual and collective action that is focused on in her work. Thus Maya Schweizer takes up a crucial question of our present, namely that of social and individual responsibility for our future.”
In addition to the award-winning video installation, the exhibition shows three other experimental filmic works from 2012 to 2020. Schweizer weaves fragments of memory and traces of forgetting into the four works. In this way, moving streams of thoughts emerge from texts, sounds and images, but they do not coalesce into narratives.
Maya Schweizer was born in Paris in 1976 and studied art and art history in Aix-en-Provence, at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts and at the Berlin University of the Arts, where she graduated in 2007 as a master student under Lothar Baumgarten. Her works have already been shown in numerous international solo and group exhibitions.
The Dagesh Art Prize and the exhibition at the Jewish Museum Berlin are made possible by a grant from the FREUNDE des JMB.
The exhibited works
HD / 28:30′ / colour and black and white / sound, 2023
Maya Schweizer answers the question posed by the Dagesh Art Prize “What Now? – From dystopias to utopias” with her epic flow of thoughts Sans histoire. “Without history” confronts the artist with a current fear of the end of civilisation. Apocalyptic-looking night shots of animals, technicised visions of the future, images of people dancing excessively or fleeing create an end-time mood. What at first seems dystopian harbours the utopian potential of a new beginning: Schweizer repeatedly uses images of waves, sea and water that sweep away, wash away and bind to what is shown. The Jewish Museum Berlin is a place of remembrance. It is a museum institution dedicated to the history of Jews in Germany. In addition, remembrance in Jewish tradition is a ritualised act that plays a major role in every festival. Maya Schweizer, on the other hand, directs attention to forgetting as a reality conditioned by human beings. In this paradox also lies her proposal for dealing with the existential anxieties of our time: Sans histoire is a memorial to memory and a memorial to forgetting.
Voices and Shells
HD / 18′ / colour and black and white / sound, co-production with Museum Villa Stuck, 2020
The camera leads from Munich’s sewers, the dark, flowing underground, to the daylit, built-up surface of the city. There it scans parts of the façade and uncovers traces of the city’s National Socialist history. Voices are audible, alternating with self-produced and found visual material. The motif of the spiral is repeated as a symbol of a temporal vortex and a return that transports memories but also conceals them. The film seems to follow its own sense of direction and navigation. Voices and Shells, made in connection with Maya Schweizer’s exhibition at the Villa Stuck in Munich, is exemplary for her exploration of concrete sites of memory. In her works, these appear like organisms with a memory and the ability to repress.
L’étoile de mer
HD / 11′ / colour and black and white / sound, co-production with the Historisches Museum Frankfurt, 2019
The Starfish introduces Maya Schweizer’s experimental cinematic method. The artist dives into a sea of memory, which she assembles as an associative montage of film clips from her own archive and from film history with superimposed texts and sound collages. These found images, reimagined from their previous contexts, enable forgetting through their multiplicity. Schweizer walks on the sea as a dream world in which what has fallen away becomes just as tangible as memory.
Manou, La Seyne sur Mer, 2011
HD / 9:30′ / colour and black and white / without sound, 2012
Maya Schweizer asks her grandmother about her everyday life in the nursing home – a conversation that is to be followed like an archived documentation via filmed typewriter script. The conversation does not take place in the home, but one afternoon with relatives. The recorded stream of consciousness is interrupted by photos from the grandmother’s room in the home. Like still lifes, they direct the viewer’s gaze to the interior furnishings, which often go unnoticed. The artist traces an individual experience, shows how thoughts formulate and lose themselves again.
Libeskind-Bau EG, Eric F. Ross Galerie
Friday, 05 May – Sunday, 27 August 2023
Online tickets for a specific time slot can be purchased before your visit in the ticket shop or directly at the box office.