Artists’ Film International 2021

8 dec 2021 16 jan 2022

Artists’ Film International is a network of art institutions from around the world, first established in 2008 by the Whitechapel Gallery, London. From a selected theme, each participating institution chooses a film from an emerging artist. For this year's edition of the film program Bonniers Konsthall has invited Victoria Verseau to participate with her work Approaching a Ghost (2021).

The 2021 theme for Artists’ Film International is care, and the selected films reflect on today’s view of care. Together, they address everything from physical, mental and spiritual care to issues of healing, trauma and solidarity. The theme was chosen at the end of 2020 and is in many ways a reaction to the then prevailing time, with the pandemic lockdowns, an ongoing climate crisis and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement. This year, for the first time, Bonniers Konsthall shows all films in a joint exhibition where Victoria Verseau’s work is presented as a large-scale installation.

Victoria Verseau’s artistic practice is focused on examination of the body, identity and social structures. In her work there are points of contact with philosophy and spirituality. Her personal experiences of being a trans and new woman is often a starting point. Based on her own story, she strives to process existential issues; who we are, who we want to be and the meaning of life. Approaching a Ghost is Verseau’s attempt to capture and care for the memory of her late friend Meril. The artist and Meril met in Thailand when they were about to undergo a gender confirmation surgery. During a period marked by anxiety awaiting an uncertain future, they found important support in each other.

– Three years after the surgery, Meril chose to end her life and my world fell apart. She was my only trans friend and I mirrored myself in her. Working artistically with what we went through became a way of processing what had happened and a way of relating to life and its meaning. I want to tell my story and in doing so commemorate Meril and all of us transgender persons who didn’t have the energy, or were not allowed, to continue to live.

– Victoria Verseau

The film is projected on a latex casting that divides the room into two parts and choreographs the visitor’s movement patterns. The work depicts abandoned places such as the now worn-down hospital where the artist and Meril underwent their surgery, the quiet hotel where they afterwards recovered and the tidal lands on the outskirts of the city. A whispering voice tells of the places and the friends, of distant memories that are evoked like ghosts. The film interacts with a number of sculptural objects in the room, such as argon sculptures (neon), casts of dilation rods, metal shavings of spent hormone tablet strips – all of them objects that in different ways refer to the transition from boy to woman. Approaching a Ghost wants to portray a place beyond time, a suspended spatiality that hovers between life and death.

Victoria Verseau (born 1988) works in a variety of media ranging from moving image to sculpture, large-scale installation and performance. She lives and works in Stockholm where she graduated with an MFA from the Royal Institute of Art in 2020. Victoria Verseau has had several exhibitions in Sweden: Kulturhuset, Stockholm, (2021), Gislaveds konsthall (2021) and Uppsala konstmuseum (2021). Her films have also been shown internationally, most recently Exercise One (2016) and The Session (2015). In 2017, she was awarded the ANNA Prize for her work with film. Presently she is working on the feature film Meril.

Image: Victoria Verseau, Approaching a Ghost, 2021. Installation view, Bonniers Konsthall. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger