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Denise Bertschi

Switzerland | Fine Arts

September - December 2017 | Johannesburg — Fine Arts

Denise Bertschi,  will be in South Africa to develop a second edition of the project ‘State Fiction’, during the course of her residency between mid-September and mid-December 2017.  In her project, Bertschi explores “the notion of neutrality, as an impossible, fictional thought and the silence that the “neutral moment” produces; a nothingness in which I want to find a voice”.

The first edition of the project was realised at the geopolitical border zone between South and North Korea in 2015. Bertschi researched the Swiss “mediator” role in the conflict between the two countries in the Korean DMZ (demilitarized zone), from 1954 until the present. She worked with found text as well as photographic material from the Swiss military archive of mostly self-representations of the leisure-time activities of Swiss soldiers.

For her residency, she will examine some of these same questions in the very different context of the long history of extensive relationship between Switzerland and South Africa during the apartheid period, and the complex interweaving of the personal and the political in these relations.

Bertschi s interested in the notion of neutrality as a balancing act of the impossible, and the role that this concept plays in the construction of (Swiss) identity: “Neutrality as a cover: how can the unseen, the hidden, the secret take on an aesthetic form?” Bertschi works with installation formats, including text works in combination with architectural structures, photography, and various appropriated media.

Her first engagement with the South African context was through the Poetics of Relation project co-facilitated by Bettina Malcomess and Uriel Orlow in 2015, with postgraduate students form WITS (Johannesburg) and HEAD (Geneva). Bertschi has exhibited work in a variety of project spaces and institutional contexts in Switzerland and elsewhere, including Corner College (Zurich), Die Diele (Zurich), Schwarzwaldallee (Basel) and Rosabrux (Brussels).

She is currently working with the researcher, critic and exhibition-maker, Marcelo Rezende, on the project Kaffee aus Helvécia. Commissioned by the Johann Jakobs Museum in Zurich, the project explores the place of Helvécia/Leopoldina, the first German-Swiss settlement in Brazil, in the history of slavery in the nineteenth century.

The project opens at the Johann Jakobs Museum on the 29th of August 2017.