moderna museet

Elaine Sturtevant's repetition of Gonzalez-Torres' untitled light display at the Moderna Museet.

I’ve been thinking about an exhibition I saw recently at the Moderna Museet or Modern Museum here in Stockholm. Called Parallella världar or parallel worlds, the exhibition has a myriad of video displays by Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila. There is an amazing video installation where you sit in the middle of a round room on a chair that spins in any direction you want so that you can see the scenes that are taking place all around you. Where is Where is an amazing and often overwhelming installation that depicts how history affects our perception of reality. Two worlds are shown together, including one where the war 50 years ago in Algeria brings two Arab boys to kill their French friend. This storyline is contrasted with one where a European poet tries to make sense of this event in her writing with the help of the character Death. It’s powerful stuff.

Somehow this show got me thinking in another direction as well, in terms of how when you live as an expat, you also live in parallel worlds. You live in your adopted homeland and try to figure out the nuances of a new culture and language. But you also live in the world where you are from, the world that has shaped and made you who you are. Somehow, you try to make sense of these two worlds and meld them together to become the you that is shaped and changed by both worlds. As a result of this experience, you no longer really fit in with either world.

There are so many things about Sweden that I love, respect, admire and have adopted, but there are also a lot of things I don’t understand and that I don’t like. And what’s more, I don’t think I want to change that thinking too much. I want to keep the American in me, too. It’s not always easy to live abroad, but I like to think that I have been changed for the better as a result of it.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lou Lou April 12, 2012 at 22:47

I totally agree. You captured life as an expat in an illuminating way… beautiful thoughts and post…

2 Sandra April 12, 2012 at 23:19

Why thanks Lou Lou. Living as an expat has been on my mind a lot lately. I am just finishing reading a book about an Aussie in Paris called Almost French. Have you read it? It’s not bad.

3 Sandra April 13, 2012 at 09:21

I thought these comments on the post from Facebook were worth sharing too:
Sharon: Exactly! We don’t totally belong in either world; I try to take the best of both worlds and pass them on to my kids. There are definitely things that rub me the wrong way in Sweden, but then, there are in the US, too. And I definitely think that anyone who has lived abroad is a better person for it.
Carmen: I think we are very lucky to have the chance to experience 2 different worlds.
Marilyn: Thanks for your thoughts and observations Sandra – ‘klokt som alltid’. As much as I identify with and cherish my American base, I have a strong Swedish side as well. What I realize when I visit the States is that I can’t ‘go back’ to the country and time I left. It’s moved on, as I have, and we haven’t moved parallel to one another. Imagine being able to combine the best of both countries and shuck the rest…
Sofie: I agree with all the thoughts expressed..it is challenging to be an ex-pat but it’s also rewarding..it’s to have and to have not at the same time.

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