Under the title ‘Neutrality as an agent’ Denise Bertschi explores the role of Switzerland in foreign affairs and how the concept of neutrality might be understood as a tactic of concealing and repressing uncomfortable histories and realities. Her project poses essential questions about the narrative of Swiss neutrality, as refracted through the history of Swiss-South African relations during the apartheid period.
September 5 - October 13
CNR Pop up space
Corner De Korte and Reserve Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Bertschi engages with her country of origin, Switzerland, and its political and economic radiation into the world, exploring a network of Swiss entanglement in South Africa during the apartheid era and its traces in the present. Her work explores ways in which the much venerated concept of neutrality may be understood in the context of a larger and largely obscured “colonialism without colonies” in Switzerland’s international footprint.
The body of work is informed by material drawn from the South African National Archives in Pretoria and the State Library in Cape Town, during the course of research conducted in the context of a Pro Helvetia studio residency in 2017/8. Bertschi has been concerned with the ways in which seemingly benign ‘leisure time activities’ can serve as an expression of ideology – how political questions are woven into seemingly private and banal matters.
Through the juxtaposition and connection of different narratives, she seeks to make visible otherwise forgotten histories, revisiting architectural sites in the city of Johannesburg. Denise Bertschi works with video installation, photography and the format of publications.
The Johannesburg edition of the project runs in parallel to a joint show with Palestinian artist Inas Halabi, with the title ‘Forever or in a Hundred years’, curated by Josiane Imhasly at *AlteFabrik (Gebert Stiftung) in Rapperswil, Switzerland, opening on 15 September 2018.