Evaders (2009)

The long panoramic images in Evaders were photographed in the Pyrenees along the Lister Route, on the border between France and Spain. This route is symbolic as a place of transition, suspended between past and future. It has a long history of smuggling, economically motivated migration and the search for refuge from political or religious persecution. During World War II many used this route to escape Nazi occupied France. One of these was the critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin, who committed suicide after he found the border closed on the day he attempted to cross it in September 1940. Benjamin’s failed escape has become tagged with a prophetic forecast of the impending cataclysm in Europe.

 

The clear visual references to German Romanticism in Gersht’s photographs, particularly to the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, are suggestive of a fatal attachment to German culture that prevented Benjamin, like many others, from grasping the horrific scope of the Nazi agenda until it was too late to escape its consequences. Since the introduction of the Single European Act the physical borders are no longer there, but Gersht’s work raises questions about the continued existence of cultural and psychological borders.

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