Diaspora Letters by Ricard Estay and Nicolás Wormull is something as straightforward as an exchange of photographs by two artists. The images are sent between the two photographers, one based in Sweden and one in Chile, during the course of one year. The images are charged with sentiments such as sorrow and violence but also curiosity and consolation. As none of the images are signed or have a title, the authorship of each image is unclear. But is it even necessary to know who did what? Or to know which images portray Chile and which ones Sweden? Maybe the playful or at times moody relationship to site, situations and even violence is more relevant? Diaspora Letters comes about at a time when Södertälje konsthall was showing the exhibition The International Museum of Resistance 1978-2020. In this exhibition Ricard Estay participated with a video installation that became one of the crucial keys in understanding the themes of the exhibition as well as the underlying questions it addressed. The International Museum of Resistance was a remake of an exhibition produced by Moderna museet in Stockholm in 1978 and was an act of solidarity in the making of an art collection by Swedish artists for a future museum of solidarity with the people of Chile. The action was a reaction to the coup that terminated the era of the democratically elected president Salvador Allende in 1973, an event that sent Chile into a turmoil of atrocities and violence against its own people. The exhibition in Södertälje konsthall presented artists from three different generations into the same space and time, addressing questions such as: who am I when the country of my birth has undergone such crucial change during my absence? And why is memory so central in the question around identity regained and in the healing of trauma?
In Estay’s work for The International Museum of Resistance 1978-2020 we see an eleven year old girl with a Chilean background find her way through Allende’s last speech to the nation without understanding the language, Spanish, that she is speaking. Her reading is juxtaposed with the authentic voice of Allende during the chilling last minutes of his speech as bombs fall over Santiago de Chile. Estay’s work of art premiered at the very same time that new turmoil and unrest occurred in Chile. This time mainly young students were targeted and hurt. The violence in its old and new forms took place in front of an international audience through media, and many across the globe experienced huge difficulty in understanding what was real and what was propaganda. The ongoing exhibition at Södertälje konsthall became a safe space where the visitor could access unfiltered witness accounts through the contacts between artists in Sweden and artists and activists in Chile. Dispora Letters is created during the same winter in a similar dialogue, this time between two artists, their cameras and the images that they have produced.
Joanna Sandell, director Södertälje konsthall