Denise Bertschi

Neutrality as an Agent – Please ensure the gate is properly closed.

Neutrality as an Agent – Please ensure the gate is properly closed.

Neutrality as an Agent – Please ensure the gate is properly closed.

Neutrality as an Agent – Please ensure the gate is properly closed.

Neutrality as an Agent – Please ensure the gate is properly closed.

Exhibitions: *ALTEFABRIK, Gebert Stiftung für Kultur Rapperswil
ARTIVIST, Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, South Africa

While Bertschi works with material from the 1980s in her zine We say, we are fine. They say, we are not., she addresses the present day Swiss Social & Sports Club in Please ensure the gate is properly closed (2018). A video portrait of John, the club’s caretaker, is contrasted with photographs of the Swiss Club house in Cape Town.

The club’s somewhat dusty and folkloric interior serves clichés about a supposedly traditional identity of Switzerland. Anyone seeking current references to the country in the photographs will almost only find the smiling sun of SVP (Swiss People’s Party, populist right wing) election advertising. The fact that a portrait of Nelson Mandela can be seen in the same photograph anticipates some of the tensions that John is exposed to. John has been tending and maintaining the club for 30 years with great commitment and also lives on the grounds. He joined the South African navy at the age of 18, where ships had separate sections for the «blacks» and the «whites».Deeply influenced and hurt by apartheid, John ex-plains how in gardening he finds peace from bad memories, speaks of his dreams and his deceased wife, and talks about businesses done in the club and the racism he experiences from time to time. John gives a differentiated picture of his relationship with the Swiss, and their presumed connections with South Africa. Although he sees himself as part of the «family», he does not have his own key to the clubhouse.Since he was accused of theft, the keys were taken away from him and he has not wanted it back since.

Year: 2018, 9 analogue photography with interiors of the Swiss Club in Cape Towns; 50 x 80 cm / 80 x 120 cm; video portrait, single-channel, 30 min