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Verein Shedhalle

Rote Fabrik
Seestrasse 395
CH-8038 Zürich

Tel + 41 44 4815950
Fax +41 44 4815951





Memory loss and the politics of history: Artistic strategies

June 12, 2015 - September 20, 2015

Summer break: August 10 to 31, 2015

Opening: June 11, 2015, 7 p.m.

The exhibition “...THE OTHERS HAVE ARRIVED SAFELY” casts a glance at artistic strategies for dealing with the politics of borders and the construction of history.

The image of the “others”, who “have arrived safely”, addresses in multiple ways the precarious conclusion of a journey: to the uncertainty of whether it is at all possible to arrive safely. Yet the title also refers to mechanisms of decision-making about which people or goods cross borders, with permission, or not. The border itself, so the thesis goes, organizes inclusions as well as exclusions, not only geographically, but also with regard to political and social rights. Borders thus have a retroactive effect on lived realities, even years and decades later.
Against the backdrop of debates in 2015 surrounding the politics of history/memory in Switzerland, the exhibition shows artistic works that deal critically with the politics of memory, especially with regard to national politics, and border and immigration policies. They reflect on the economical, social and technological power mechanisms that first enable a “knowledge” of the border and its mediation in (history political) imagineering.
In doing so, they touch upon interests and conflicts that are part of every negotiation about history, and some actively engage in those politics of history.

Participants: Artefakte//anti-humboldt (Brigitta Kuster, Regina Sarreiter, Dierk Schmidt) and AFROTAK TV cyberNomads (Adetoun and Michael Küppers-Adebisi), Mirkan Deniz, Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani, Das Gedächtnis der Geflüchteten (Mirkan Deniz, Catalina Gutiérrez, Onur Karakoyun, Felipe Polanía), Sally Schonfeldt

Sally Schonfeldt’s Essay film Plattenstrasse 10 takes us to a site of Zurich’s colonial past. It shows a site-specific performance at one of the spaces in the city where the first “ethnological exhibitions,” also known as “human zoos,” took place. With the help of an archeological approach and by connecting narration, archival research, and critical reflection on the representation of history, the film urgently points out a neglected trauma in Swiss history.

In the framework of a Shedhalle project, a group of artists who have experience migration, have worked for more than one year on an archive of escape, asylum, and the politics of memory in Switzerland. In doing so, the group “Das Gedächtnis der Geflüchteten“ (Mirkan Deniz, Catalina Gutiérrez, Onur Karakoyun, Felipe Polanìa), dealt with personal stories, as well as political events. From that, the group developed a display dealing with the representation of policies of asylum and refuge in Switzerland during World War II. In addition, several artistic works arose in this context on the theme of escape and memory.

In 2008, Turkey received a gift from Switzerland: a delegation under the aegis of Switzerland’s federal president at the time, Pascal Couchepin, delivered the table on which the Treaty of Lausanne had been signed in 1923. At the “Lausanne peace negotiations” a new organization of the Middle East was negotiated. After World War I, the Kurdish people were, indeed, promised their own state, but in Lausanne these hopes were dashed. The peace treaty signed there established that Kurdistan would be divided between Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. The treaty was equivalent to a disenfranchisement of Armenians, Kurds, and Georgians. The table was the possession of the Lausanne administration until 2008, and is now found in a historical museum in Ankara. The artist Mirkan Deniz reconstructed this table and allows the object to haunt the present as an uncomfortable piece of history.

Reconstruction of the so-called “city palace” in the center of Berlin turned into a concrete affair. Destroyed, demolished, and replaced by the Palace of the Republic during the time of the German Democratic Republic, the Prussian palace is now being rebuilt on the vacant site left behind by the dismantled palace of the people. The reconstructed city palace, known as the “Humboldt-Forum,” should once again mediate the ideas of a German empire and house the city’s ethnological collections.
The Anti-Humboldt Box is loosely based on Marcel Duchamp’s “Boîte-en-valise” (box in a suitcase), which is based on the concept of an “exhibition in a suitcase.” Artefakte//anti-humboldt and AFROTAK TV cyberNomads take up this idea to transport the idea of the critique of Berlin’s Humboldt Forum to various sites and gradually add new elements to it. In this way, the Anti-Humboldt Box works as a manifesto against structural developments and represents arguments from post-colonial, African-diaspora, and artistic perspectives, but also incorporates urbanist readings of this reactionary and questionable cultural project. The Anti-Humboldt Box is a project by Artefakte//anti-humboldt and AFROTAK TV cyberNomads in cooperation with Andreas Siekmann.

The film Liquid Traces (2014) by Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani reconstructs the events around the story of a ship that became known as the “left-to-die-boat case.” In 2011 (during the height of the war on Libya), seventy-two migrants left the Libyan coast on a small rubber boat headed for the island of Lampedusa. After sending several distress signals, they were left to drift for fourteen days at sea without support in NATO-controlled waters. During this time, several interactions took place including contact with at least one helicopter and a military ship. Nine people survived. The initial report on the “left-to-die-boat” has been the base for several legal cases against the states involved in the military operations.